In Part I of our series on good listening for great marketing, we opened with what makes for poor listening and, thus, less effective marketing. We noted that less than sensitive listening is also bad for interpersonal relationships.
Here in Part II, we’ll focus on how good listening leads to good storytelling and, therefore, great marketing. Because, after all, everyone loves a story and people buy a story, not a brand.
Many businesses and companies retain marketing/PR agencies on whom they rely to capture and share their unique stories. If these agencies are doing their jobs well, they employ a team of curious, thoughtful writers, designers and media specialists who know the right questions to ask, with their clients’ audiences in mind, and can cull a great story that resonates with them.
Even small firms with small budgets, or no budget at all for marketing and PR, can benefit from employing the listening skills that lead to standout stories. But it’s not easy. So much goes into the storytelling process, long before the first word is said. In fact, though skilled writing and graphic rendering is essential, it’s the groundwork that determines the quality of the finished product.
Let’s explore something we at IVY call CLIQUE, the basic elements behind a great story:
At its core, content marketing is storytelling. Still, some companies and organizations are unconvinced that blogs, social media, press releases, feature articles, email campaigns, white papers, case studies, newsletters, direct mail, and other manifestations of a story are as critical to successful marketing as they really are.
The belief still lingers that the mere existence of a product or service, along with traditional advertising and a website, is sufficient. “We’re here; they’ll come to us,” is sometimes the mentality. But, more often than not, that statement becomes a question: “We’re here; why aren’t they coming to us?”
In this age of content marketing, consumers are “prosumers,” active and reactive participants in the buyer journey, and only content that is personally meaningful will inspire them.
And the only way to motivate consumers is to commit to a robust content marketing strategy. Modern marketing requires a change in paradigm and a resolve to reach ears and eyeballs through the hard work of creating content into which audiences choose to insert themselves.
Imagine you are tasked with telling someone what someone else said. What’s needed to do that? Active listening. As we noted in Part I, listening is a skill, not a physical ability. It requires rapt attention without agenda, pre-occupation, judgment, insincerity, impatience, trivializing, or interruption.
Only by truly absorbing what is being expressed can it be accurately and effectively conveyed. This is where a marketing and PR team is key. Professional writers, designers and media specialists are trained listeners whose keen attention to detail and ability to discern what is pertinent, central and unique to your story is invaluable.
Between listening and questioning is introspection – that period, however brief, during which skilled listeners internalize what’s being conveyed to them and mentally prepare for the next phase of outgoing questions that will further shape a story. Among many, some of the questions they will ask themselves are: What is the heart of this story? What is special about this person or enterprise? What information is critical, and what is less relevant? How can I share this story in a way that will move audiences?
The process of introspection is extemporaneous, yet highly acute. No matter how much preparation is devoted to an interview or session with someone whose story will be told, conversations can go in any number of directions, and trained listeners must have the ability to think, guide and digest information on their feet.
While experienced storytellers can make it appear that their questions are off the cuff, they’re anything but. Their inquiries are made only after they’ve listened attentively to their subject(s) and practiced the introspection discussed above. People are endlessly busy, and time is of the essence. Trained listeners do not waste precious face or phone time by asking questions that a) can be answered by a Google search; or b) will not benefit the story in a meaningful, purposeful way.
Asking the right questions is a crucial part of the storytelling process, and questions cannot be squandered. Knowing which ones to ask is the art of a great listener – and a great storyteller.
Great listening leads to real understanding. In fact, “I understand” are some of the most affirming words. A gifted storyteller has not simply heard, but deeply grasped, the details, nuances and significance of the story he or she will craft. They “get it.” It is only with genuine understanding that the heart of a story can emerge.
The final phase of storytelling is the actual telling of it. Today, there are more channels through which to tell a story than ever before, and to have real impact, marketers need to leverage them all. This takes time, talent and a constant finger on the trends and changes not only in the marketing industry, but in one’s own vertical as well.
Beginning with a commitment to employ a content marketing strategy that enables the immeasurable power of storytelling, today’s businesses and organizations can begin a new and very exciting chapter in return on investment.
Let our team of skilled listeners and experienced storytellers share your great story with the world.
People buy a story, not a brand. In the current age of content marketing, this has never been more true, yet so many tasked with hearing their audiences fail to truly connect with them. Why? Because they fail to listen, and no matter how much time and money is spent in the effort, meaningful consumer engagement is compromised. There can be no good storytelling without good listening.
Effective listening applies to everything from big business to private conversations. Hearing is a physical ability; listening is a skill.
While Marketing 101 traditionally dictates a focus on the positive, sometimes we understand better what to do when we know what not to do, especially if we recognize the undesirable behavior in ourselves. (What’s more, neuroscience suggests that humans are more influenced by bad than good.) Therefore, let’s outline some qualities of poor listening that can also translate into poor marketing.
How to Lose an Audience in 10 Seconds
- Push your own agenda. Angling for your own motive or gain, whether you’re embarking upon a widespread campaign or simply chatting with your neighbor, is not listening. It conveys that you’re not really interested in the needs, desires or concerns of whomever you’re communicating with; you’re mainly in it for yourself.
- Steal the thunder. We all know that person who barely lets you get a word out before they jump into their own experience. Marketing efforts can have the same self-preoccupied effect. Brands that boast about the sales they’ve made or lists they’ve topped demonstrate that they’re more interested in touting their own accomplishments than knowing and meeting consumers’ needs.
- Preach/judge/mock. Few people share a story or experience with someone so that person can shame them or tell them what they should have done instead. Yet, some folks take that opportunity to chide, advise or even ridicule, rather than to simply listen, sympathize or offer real solutions. That mentality has infiltrated more than a few marketing campaigns, too, particularly those that showcase clueless fools whom others can laugh at or feel superior to. Intelligent, thoughtful consumers are turned off by these cheap shots that appeal to the lowest common denominator.
- Be ingenuine. Consider the many ads featuring actors saying things no one would really say, least of all consumers. Contrived, out-of-touch messaging does not resonate with real audiences. It is insincere, ineffective and shows that you have little grasp on your target market. Perhaps this is why campaigns that humorize true self (think Progressive’s “we can’t save you from becoming your parents” and CitiBank’s voice-throwing identity theft campaigns) are so well-received.
- Rush things along. Has anyone ever checked their watch or a text while you were talking? Likely, you were less apt to continue at all than to continue more quickly. Marketing and sales efforts that push people to act before they’re ready have the same dissociating effect. Issuing a call-to-action is an important feature of a solid campaign, but it must be done with a keen sensitivity to where people are on the customer journey. That can only be accomplished by listening to what they’re saying – and sometimes what they’re not. For those with the opportunity to meet prospects in person, body language says a lot.
- Trivialize. Just as it’s rarely wise to tell someone “it’s not that bad,” or “you’re making too much of this,” it’s equally isolating to make light of consumers’ needs and concerns. Consumers respond to brands that acknowledge the gravity of a pain point and don’t try to pretty it up, as if all is right with the world. Any brand that promises they hold the key to eternal happiness will likely be met with great skepticism. As prescription drug campaigns have increased dramatically, it’s hard not to notice the litany of side effects, some arguably worse than the original condition, juxtaposed against all those “shiny, happy people.”
- Interrupt. Cutting in on someone who’s talking implies many things, first of which is, “what you’re saying is so unimportant, I’m just going to rail right over you.” Indeed, modern consumers can feel railroaded by the barrage of sponsored content, particularly online, that yanks them away from their train of thought. A much more effective approach is to create content that is intrinsically meaningful, customer-centric and organically share-worthy.
In Part II of this blog, our team of experts will share how to employ the good listening tactics that define not only healthy personal connections, but also outstanding storytelling and successful consumer relationships.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
Consider these compelling facts and figures about the power of video marketing:
- There are over 73 million video viewers every year
- 50% of online traffic comes from video viewing
- 92% of video viewers share videos with others
- Consumers are at least 64% more likely to purchase a product or service with video representation
- 75% of business professionals watch promotional videos of relevant products and services at least once a week
- Videos bring a clearer understanding of product and service benefits
- Facebook’s algorithm is said to favor videos over other content marketing
- Videos offer an immediate association to and connection with products and services
- Visual media gives consumers greater confidence in their purchases
- Videos lend trust and credibility to the companies and organizations that display them
- Video content increases sales conversion rates
IVY’s team of experts can create live-action or animated videos like the one here to tell your unique story and bring more traffic to, and engagement with, your website, social media and marketing collateral.
Top photo credit: Complete Business Online
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
IVY Marketing Group was beyond excited to attend the 2018 Content Marketing World Conference and Expo September 4-7 in Cleveland.
While Tina Fey was the main keynote attraction, sharing about her award-winning work as a producer, writer and actor, more striking was the amazing scope of possibilities surrounding content marketing today.
It was electrifying to experience it all in one place. With over 120 session leaders on as many different topics, 30 some “lunch and learn” opportunities, and seven inspiring keynote speakers, the three-day event pulsed with energy and endless potential for content marketers – and their clients.
IVY is eager to share with those seeking top-quality marketing and PR all that we’ve learned, not only through our own experience over the past nearly 30 years, but by engaging in such world-class events as the CM World conference and other wonderful educational opportunities. Our finger is always on the pulse of the ever-evolving realm of content marketing.
According to CM World, “Content marketing is no longer a bright, shiny object. It’s an innovative and sustainable practice that connects brands with audiences in meaningful ways.”
We at IVY make content marketing our practice, and our passion, each and every day. We know that compelling content is the foundation of every successful brand, and we are committed to telling our clients’ unique stories through all the amazing doors modern content marketing opens to us.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
Isn’t it interesting that today’s marketers have to capture their online audiences within seconds, or risk losing them to another site, yet so many people devote endless hours to binge TV?
New research says it’s neuroscience. Because we humans are uniquely capable of empathy, we can also become engrossed in others’ discomfort or elation – even those we don’t personally know – adapting to and internalizing their psychological perspectives. According to cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken, the hormones cortisol and oxytocin rise when we’re in the grips of a good story, and we actually crave the long narratives that today’s best television can provide.
So, what does all this mean for modern marketers? How can we leverage the natural human gravitation to compelling stories to engage them in our brands?
Just as storytellers like Alfred Hitchcock (and creators of today’s binge-worthy productions) are masters at orchestrating exactly what they want audiences to see, think, feel and predict, successful marketers can lead consumers in the same way with engaging content based on intimate knowledge of their prospects. But first, lest you assume “leading” means “manipulating,” it must be done earnestly and with the utmost integrity – and nary a whiff of a sales pitch.
“Consumers are not inherently opposed to brand communication, but they don’t want interruption,” said Column Five Media’s Katy French, referring to brands infusing their stories with a subplot to sell, sell, sell. “Consumers crave engagement marketing…built on trust, mutual respect and common interests. They don’t want to be treated as a faceless dollar bill.”
Modern direct-to-consumer marketers would do well to realize the remarkable parallels between what attracts audiences to today’s binge TV (and yesterday’s epic stories around the hearth) and effective content marketing. Humans’ psychological need for stories makes us predisposed to investing personally in conflict and resolution.
The identification and incorporation of consumer pain points into your brand story, followed by your answer(s) to the problem, feels instinctive to customers and prospects because of their ability to relate and empathize.
Indeed, psychological studies have shown that when we hear a story, our brains change dramatically because we experience them as though they were real, and we become the main character of every story we hear.
Imagine the possibilities of making our audiences the heroes of our brand stories! While they are virtually endless, crafting great stories takes time, effort and skill. Too many companies and organizations hack out content just to have it, while completely missing the boat on how to make it work.
Considering again that pain points and solutions form the framework of any good story, quality content marketing builds upon that foundation with a character(s) facing a problem your brand can solve, a way for that character to access and employ your solution, and lives made better for it.
Tell your story in a distinct voice – yours – across all formats and platforms. Don’t get high and mighty in vaulted language or bogged in marketing gibberish; rather, talk to your audiences like you would your co-workers, your family, your trusted friends. After all, that’s who you want your customers to be.
Like a beautiful, comfortable home you never want to leave, your brand story needs more than a foundation. It needs details, layers, that demonstrate to your audience that you know them, understand them, want to please the punch out of them. For instance, identify what you have in common with your readers or viewers, outside your service or product, and tie those kindred elements into your story.
The End – It’s Only the Beginning
Like the finale of a favorite binge series, leave your audience wanting more, providing them with multiple ways to share and respond to your story. Let there be no end to what you can offer, only beginnings with ever more heroes in your own special tale.
Let our team of experts mold your story, help you tell it, and share it with the world.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.