You’ve heard it before: great content is a smart way to market your brand. Why? Because it does most of the heavy lifting for you. Content marketing, brand journalism- whatever you want to call it really comes into its own when it allows a marketer to focus on other aspects of the funnel.
Doing so you can focus on optimization and customer retention while the content drives thousands of visitors to your site. In this blog we’re going to focus almost exclusively on the creative part, the right brain of content marketing that works to humanize your digital presence.
“Our brains create stories to make sense of complexity, and we are bombarded daily with data and personal experiences of escalating complexity. Our stories help us weight data as important (or not) as well as judge the data as a good or bad according to our point of view "- Anne E. Simmons "Whoever Tells The Best Story Wins"
What’s most exciting about content marketing is when executed with real conviction it becomes more than a cheap and fast way to acquire customers- it humanizes your digital presence.
At its core content marketing is all about effective communication and storytelling which are both fundamental parts of who we are as humans. We love stories- it’s part of our DNA.
Without stories we wouldn’t be able to function as a modern society - our ancestors would have clubbed each other to death in caves over simple misunderstandings.
For a forward-thinking company to not have a serious content initiative is the greatest form of self-sabotage. How will anyone begin to understand the problems your company solves? How will they begin to understand the technology behind it? Why should they care?
In order for thousands, or millions, of people to connect with your idea, they need to begin to understand your company first. Generally the more groundbreaking a company the harder it has to work to create the kind of messaging that generates massive awareness and growth.
What everyone seems to gloss over when reciting the gospel of the great Hotmail, Dropbox, and Air BnB growth hacks is that they solved incredibly easy to understand problems- email, unlimited storage, and trustworthy vacation rentals/couch surfing. Simply put, everyone of their respective early users had already experienced the fairly common problem the companies solved.
If your company solves more complicated problems, then your biggest challenge is an educational one. In which case no amount of clever tricks will help customers to understand what their problems are, and how your company solves them.
The book "Thinking Fast & Slow" by Nobel Prize winning author Daniel Kahneman does a fantastic job of explaining the complex processes underlying human decision making, and information processing. Kahneman cites many studies that illustrate how the human mind is more intricate, but at the same time, simpler, than we think.
He splits the mind into two parts- system 1 that focuses on automatic operations (your inner caveman), and system 2 which focuses on controlled operations (your inner voice that speaks with a British accent).
Essentially "Thinking Fast & Slow" explains how system 1 impacts the controlled decisions made by system 2. In short, your inner caveman has a lot more say over how you communicate with others, and what you buy than you think. It also explains why things like poor UX design, outdated urban planning, and traditional advertising are so painful.
In theory, if we were as super smart as we all like to think we are, we’d be able to understand anything thrown our way. Instantly. Every single time. But that’s not how our brains work.
Kahneman's summarizes it this way:
"System 1 continually constructs a coherent interpretation of what’s going in our world at any instant. I attempt to give a sense of the complexity and richness of automatic and often unconscious processes that underlie intuitive thinking, and how these automatic processes explain the heuristics of judgement...Part 2 updates the study of judgment heuristics and explores a major puzzle: why is it difficult for us to think statistically? We easily think associatively, we think metaphorically, we think casually, but statistics requires thinking about many things at once, which is something that system 1 is not designed to do.”
Content marketing assumes that your prospective customers are not always logical- they are not robots. Why? Because stories are never 100% logical, they engage the parts of the brain that think associatively, and metaphorically.
By producing stories around your brand you engage your customers through associative thought first, and then present logical facts later in an article, or further down the marketing funnel.
Your customers, while totally capable of connecting the dots, may need months to reach the “aha moment where they realize your groundbreaking product, or service is exactly what they need. In the meantime content helps them connect, and understand the problems present in their own lives. Through that association your brand remains top of mind, and when it finally clicks (and there is a real need) they immediately think of your company first, and not an established competitor.
In that way content marketing is the ultimate growth hack, because content marketing never stops- it allows you to reach potential customers over and over again for a fraction of what it would cost through traditional advertising, or digital ads.