Leverage your story to create a winning content marketing strategy

When I first started working as a content marketer, for a while, all I did was learn about methods and techniques revealed by the latest marketing trends.

The content marketing world was a buzzy arena, and it’s becoming buzzier with every new day.

You know why? 

Because – content works.

Content marketing has an incredible ROI. It’s predicted to be an industry worth $412.88 billion by 2021.

But not every piece of content brings in the big bucks.

The difference between useful content marketing and the not-so-useful is in the fine details we dismissed somewhere along the way.

And even though we like to strategise over it (myself included), we still miss out on the essential part of the content.

The story.

THE STORY IS WHAT MATTERS

Did you ever get the chance to observe how people connect?

Have you noticed what inspires individuals to reach out, engage and create a new bond?

Any connection starts with a story.

Think about it.

Connection, engagement and new relationships happen when we share a common story or get inspired by it.

Story quote

Why am I telling you this?

Because, stories hypnotise and influence us on a deeper, subconscious level.

Because, in a content-stuffed world, a story comes in like medicine.

Because you too, need to find your story.

Even if you sell a complex database hosting service, you must have a story that your customers can connect to.

7 easy steps to developing a content marketing strategy based on a story

STEP ONE: Discover your story

Image of goggles. Finding the story.

In a B2B content marketing world, which is governed by facts, many stories get left out.

It is unfortunate, because the true power is in the story. 

Stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone.

To rephrase, when using facts alone, your companies’ valuable experience and accumulated knowledge, go to waste. 

Even if the customer, for some reason, stops to read the raw facts on the company’s website, he will not retain them.

Because there is no connection to the story, the facts will vanish from the customer’s memory in record speed.

The story is what will make the customer remember, connect and come back for more.

So buckle up and let the juices flow.

Uncover your company’s story by following this simple 3-step process.

1. Gather everything your company knows

Your company contains a lot of knowledge.

Just as an example; in a “software as a service” business, the leadership will know every possible way the company product solves the customers’ challenges.

This problem-solving knowledge should be the jewel of the company story.

Another example of valuable knowledge is your unique industry insight inspired by the best practices within that industry.

Make a note of that uniqueness.

2. Gather everything your company has experienced

The company story covers everything from the initial idea of starting the business (including the story of the founder) to the core reason why you are still in business today. 

Of course, often, business stories begin even before the business idea is born.

Make sure to include customer’s stories, business challenges, celebratory occasions and the people behind the curtains.

Don’t be afraid to showcase the hurdles that the company went through.

Keep in mind; the best stories include struggles that inspired the particular service or product launch.

3. Combine the company knowledge with the company experience

By combining business knowledge with the business experience, you uncover something unique to your company.

The result is your brand story. 

It’s what makes you special.

And the good news is; just like an inspiring book or a movie, your ideal customers will connect, relate and remember you.

All that is left to do is to stitch the story into the content strategy!

Joining the strategy and the story is straightforward if your strategy is planned out and ready to rock. 

If you don’t have your content strategy prepared, read on to find out how to make one from scratch.

STEP TWO: Align content goals with business goals

flag on a mountain

Understanding business requirements is essential.

The business should be clear on what content it’s trying to create and why. 

To start with, ask the following questions:

  • What is our company mission?
  • What makes our company different in the market?
  • Why do we do what you do?
  • Who does the company serve?
  • Who do we want to serve in 2, 5 or 10 years?
  • What are we trying to achieve?
  • What ideas would we like to try out?

The answers to the above questions are what your content marketing strategy should reflect.

Gathering the requirements in this process helps define the challenges you will solve with your content.

Also, it’s crucial to question business requirement so you wouldn’t limit your content needs. 

If the content needs to help your customer support department – use it! 

It’s cheaper to create an in-depth FAQ page on your website than to hire extra customer support agents.

STEP THREE: Get familiar with your target customer

Two people shaking hands

For the content marketing strategy to succeed, content needs to resonate with your target customer.

Having to familiarise the marketing department with the customer (as if you were best friends) is the first task in any marketing undertaking.

This process is called creating the ideal customer persona. 

An ideal customer persona (also known as an ideal customer, buyer persona or target customer) is a customer profile a company creates to understand better who their customer is.

To create the ideal customer profile, you can use the tools of modern marketing, such as demographic and behavioural data.

Furthermore, composing in-depth research, surveys or interviews with your current customers can help to understand them better as well.

The aim is to uncover what customers think, feel and do when interacting with your company.

Best practice preaches coming up with maybe one or two target profiles at the start of the process, knowing you can always build more profiles in the future.

The truth is – the customer persona will change as your company changes.

To help uncover the nitty-gritty details of your ideal customer profile, ask the following questions:

Who is my ideal customer?

Gather information such as age groups, gender, industry, title and geographic locations.

What was the primary pain point your business solves for the customer?

In the B2B world, you should include all decision-makers that are involved in the purchase. Each persona has a different challenge they are trying to solve. List all of their pain-points.

How did the target customer buy from you?

What was the buying process like? How long did it take? Were there any barriers to purchase that the sales reps had to overcome?

What was your ideal customer trying to achieve?

List the goals and motivations of all the decision-makers. Remember – you are selling a better version of your customers, not the actual product or service.

 

Now that you got familiar with that persona, you can map the journey they take when interacting with your company.

STEP FOUR: Map the customer journey

customer journey mapping

Firstly, list all the touch points your customer can use to connect with your company.

For instance:

  • Website
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Email
  • Twitter
  • Video call/Webinar/Demo
  • Phone call
  • Conferences/Events

Next, add the touch points to the different stages of the customer journey.

A typical buying process is divided into three stages:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Decision

Depending on the product or service your business sells, you can add more stages in between or after the purchase decision, for instance, advocacy.

For a typical SaaS business, customer journey map may look something like this:

saas customer journey visual representation

The point is to visualise the journey your customer might take.

For instance;

Let’s say your ideal customer finds you through your website. 

Since he landed on the company website, it means the customer was already in the awareness stage of the journey.

Awareness stage means that the customer knew about his need or a problem, which is why he was looking for a solution.

From there they will be jumping onto your blog to read on about your services or products more in-depth.

From there they might reach out via a website contact form. 

Now, the customer has reached the consideration stage.

In the consideration stage, the customer might engage with the company sales rep, ask for a brochure or request a demo.

If this stage goes as planned, it’s followed by the purchase stage.

Here, the customer is looking for testimonials or social proof.

Also, success stories or case studies shine brightest in the purchase stage of the B2B buyer’s journey.

Now that you have the customer journey ready, you need the content.

STEP FIVE: Define the content needs

Hands writing on a paper, defining content needs

 

The customer journey map is the underlying necessity before we start tying it up with the content.

To unite a customer journey map with the necessary content, follow the steps below:

 

  1. Choose the customer journey stage
  2. Choose a customer profile that is going through the stages (if you have more than one)
  3. List down the touch points by taking the journey yourself
  4. List the type of content you need to create to support that path

 

So, for example, a template that most companies follow looks like this:

Planning content needs template

 

There are many types of content you could explore. The most important thing to remember is to personalise it to your brand and message.

Below are the types of content you could use to build your content marketing strategy:

  • Video tutorials
  • Webinars
  • Product demos
  • Podcast
  • Ebooks 
  • Guides 
  • Tutorials
  • Blog posts 
  • Press releases 
  • News
  • Courses
  • Case studies
  • Infographics 
  • Photos
  • Emails sequences
  • Industry reports 
  • Surveys

STEP SIX: Define the tone of voice and channels of promotions

speaker and transmitter

Tone of voice

The tone of voice represents the character of your business that reveals itself through the written word. 

The best way to illustrate is:

 

“It’s not about what you say; it’s how you say it.”

 

Defining the tone of voice also means setting your business story. 

Consider the difference:

Are you a corporate machine, standing like a stable giant in the sea of newcomers?

OR

Are you a hip startup that understands the modern business structure and needs?

To create a genuinely memorable tone of voice use:

  • Internal and friendly vocabulary 
  • Conversational writing style
  • Humour (it builds trust)
  • Your story (your business case and experience)

Channels of promotion and type of content

You don’t have to be everywhere.

You only have to be where your customers are.

Many brands, when starting, try to be everywhere, which only dilutes their presence.

Moreover, we have all been tempted to publish the same piece of content to every channel. 

Yet, not every channel is the same; therefore, the content shouldn’t be either.

Define the content channels and the types of content that compliment that channel.

Most successful content marketing strategies rely on having the core of content published on the website, which can later be repurposed and shared on other channels such as Facebook or LinkedIn.

When it comes to building your central content core – I always recommend starting with pillar content. 

Pillar content is quality foundational content that you create to represent your brand.

It can be product tutorials, ebooks, case studies or some other content pieces that provide value to your customers.

Once you have the pillar content, you can repurpose it to complement any channel of distribution you choose.

Do you want to post to Facebook? Repurpose it into an infographic.

LinkedIn? Create a short post highlighting stats and results.

STEP SEVEN: Document and analyse

two executives working together

 

Every strategy needs an execution plan.

To avoid additional challenges, plan the requirements to execute the strategy.

In particular, the execution plan should include:

 

Workflow for creating content

 

  • Decide if you will have a content person in-house or will you outsource the task
  • Determine who is going to edit the content
  • Create a content calendar (excel sheet is good enough) for scheduling and planning the content

 

Publishing and promotion workflow

 

  • Determine the publishing process and the promotion of the content (when, where, how & what)
  • Decide on the channels of promotion

 

Analytics 

 

  • Determine content success metrics. What will you track?
  • Create the process of check-back analysis and reviews

Conclusion

As previously stated, content marketing has an incredible ROI.

But the ROI comes from the well-crafted stories that make the customers connect.

After all, no matter how rational we may think we are, humans are still predominantly emotional beings. 

Even in the B2B world, decision-makers will often make an emotional decision in the buying process. 

The only difference between B2B and B2C buyers is that the B2B buyer will find more rational reasons to justify their emotional purchase.

In this window of rational thinking of B2B customers, we unleash the power of our story and the content strategy that fuels it.

Do you need help with your content marketing strategy?

Would you like to uncover your company story?

No problem! Simply reach out by following the link below and schedule a FREE content mastermind session. 

Ana Colak writing

UNFOLD your story, build your content strategy and invite the customers in.