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How to Create Your Core Story and Message

When it comes to marketing your business, it pays to have a good story. Storytelling has been around since the dawn of time, and a compelling story has the power to inspire readers, make them think, and motivate them to take action.

Creating a core story—one that speaks to the heart of what you do, who you are here to serve, and why—can guide all of your marketing messaging and empower you to connect with people all throughout the customer journey.

So how do you develop a powerful core story and message? Follow these steps.

Develop Client Personas

While your first impulse might be that your core story should be about you, that’s actually not the case. Instead, your client should be the hero of the story. By placing them at the center of your core story, you’re guaranteed to establish a message that resonates with them.

So writing a great core story starts with building your ideal client. To build your ideal client, you take a look at data you have on your existing clients (things like how much revenue they generate for your business, and whether or not they regularly refer you to others). From there, you will begin to see patterns emerge. Most of your best clients will have certain attributes, behaviors, and beliefs in common.

Once you’ve gleaned all you can from looking through the facts and figures internally, reach out to those clients who have emerged as your top sources of business. Conduct interviews, asking them about the things that matter most to them. Why do they love your business? What led them to pick you over the competition? What keeps them up at night? And how do you offer the perfect solution to those problems?

Armed with data and information straight from the source, you can now create your ideal client persona, or as we might call them for the sake of storytelling metaphors, your hero.

Define the Antagonist

Every great fairytale has a hero. But the story would go nowhere without a villain to challenge our beloved protagonist. Now that you understand who your ideal client, or hero, really is, it’s time to get specific about defining their problem.

Oftentimes, your hero isn’t entirely aware of the problem they have. They may be unaware of what the real problem is, or they might have difficulty identifying what it is that truly ails them. For example, let’s say you run a remodeling business. Your client might say that their problem is that they have an old, ugly, outdated kitchen. But in reality, their problem is that they don’t have a functional family gathering space.

They’re defining their problem in purely practical terms, but it’s really bigger than that. What you bring to the table with your remodeling services is the opportunity for a better life, by creating a kitchen where a family can relax, spend time together, and create memories.

When thinking about the antagonist in your story, it’s important to look beyond that surface-level pain point. Very frequently, what really plagues your hero at their core is something emotional, not practical.

Understand Your Role

When you’re thinking about how to market your business, it’s natural that your first impulse is to place yourself at the center of the story. But by now you know, your ideal client is the protagonist. So who are you?

You’re the wise mentor, helping your hero solve their problems and paving the way for them to succeed. We see this trope in literature and movies all the time—think: Atticus Finch, Gandalf, or Mr. Miyagi.

When you go to define your own role in your core story, it helps to think about what you bring to the table. How do you serve that role of guide or mentor in a way that’s different from everyone else, and why should your audience care?

Write the Core Story

Now that you have assembled all of the elements of a great fairytale—hero, villain, and wise mentor—it’s time to write your story. Start by establishing your hero at the center of your tale. Make it very clear who your ideal customer is and what they look like, so other similar prospects can recognize themselves in that hero right away.

Then introduce the villain. Make sure that they have a definite picture of what it is that really ails them, even if it’s something different from what they might initially assume is the crux of their issue.

From there, establish yourself as the guide who has the know-how and tools to take your hero where they want to go. And wrap it up by showing what their life looks like once you solve their problem. Take them from the dark days of a problem-filled life to a sunny future where you’ve guided them out of the darkness and into the light.

The final step is to provide them with a call to action (or, as you might say in fairytale parlance, a challenge to succeed). Essentially, you must say, “You’ve seen the struggles you face and the opportunity that we present to help you get to a better place; are you ready to take this journey with us?”

Use the Core Story to Guide Your Messaging

Now that you’ve crafted your story from these key elements, this core story needs to guide all of your messaging going forth. The story can’t just exist in a vacuum, it must be deployed at each stage of the customer journey, to guide your hero forward to the solution that you offer.

Think about how your story has the power to influence your hero along their journey.

  • Know and Like: Think of this as the first few chapters in a book. You’re giving your audience the chance to meet all of the key players in the story. They get to identify themselves as the hero, see the villain that they’re up against, and first meet the mentor who might be able to help them make it through.
  • Trust and Try: Now that your hero knows what their problem is, you have the opportunity to serve up your solution. This is where you make the case for your expertise, proving you’re well-positioned to guide them through the clashes with their villainous problem.
  • Buy: Here, you provide them with step-by-step guidance to understanding the solution you offer. By providing a great onboarding process, how-to and tutorial materials, and customer support, you essentially become that mentor, sticking by their side as they face the trials and tribulations of their journey.
  • Repeat and Refer: By now, you’ve helped them through to the end of their individual journey, and if you’ve told your story well and delivered on your promises, they’ll feel comfortable returning to you again and bringing some friends with them.

Share That Message Everywhere

The final step in the development of your core story and message is to make sure that, once you know what it is, you share it far and wide. This starts on your website. Your homepage should clearly outline your core story, front and center. This should be a short, sweet, high-level view of the story. Think of it as the blurb on the back of a book—something that intrigues your viewers and encourages them to open up the cover and read more!

From there, you can create other content that’s grounded in your story and shared across other digital marketing channels. From social media to email marketing to video to podcasts, there’s always a way to incorporate your core story in all that you do.

When it comes to deciding where to tell your story, it makes sense to go back to your hero. Target the channels where you’re most likely to encounter that ideal client.

Creating a brand story is one of the most effective ways to connect on an emotional level with clients and prospects. When you center your story around their needs, problems, and wants, you cast yourself as the wise, sympathetic mentor who can help them move past the hurdles in their life and achieve great things.

How To Write an Effective Brand Story

Every business has competitors. No business will ever be the only option available to a client or customer. So every brand has to do some work to differentiate themselves from the competition. Why would someone pick you over that other guy or gal down the street? What unique value are you bringing to the table that they just can’t get with anyone else?

This is where storytelling comes in. Sure, there are a number of businesses out there that could theoretically solve your prospect’s problem. But by crafting a compelling brand story, you can differentiate yourself as the brand that understands the problem the best and has the most thoughtful solution to the issue.

There are five key elements to any effective brand story. Here, I’ll walk you through them, and give you the tips you need to create a statement that sets your business apart.

Address the Problem

People don’t seek your business out because of the product or service that you offer. They seek you out because they have a problem that needs fixing, and they think that yours could be the business to solve it.

The first step to proving that you are the best business to fix their issue is clearly defining the problem at hand. When you’re able to articulate the pain that your prospects are feeling, they immediately feel at ease: Here’s a business that gets what I need, and likely has the know-how to deliver.

So a great brand story starts with calling out your ideal customer’s problem, frustration, or challenge. Take, for example, a brand like Glossier. In recent years, they’ve squeezed into the crowded beauty space and now have a valuation of over $1 billion. They identify their customers’ issue right on their home page: “Beauty inspired by real life. Glossier is a new approach to beauty. It’s about fun and freedom and being OK with yourself today. We make intuitive, uncomplicated products designed to live with you.”

They acknowledge that their ideal customers have too many options when it comes to beauty care, that those high-fashion brands make them feel like they can’t live up to those impossible beauty standards, and that the steps to a beauty care regimen have gotten more and more complex over the years. They’re looking to pare things back and offer a handful of great products that get the job done, rather than complicate things with some other product you now need to cram into your medicine cabinet.

Paint a Picture of a Problem-Free World

Okay, so now you’ve gotten your prospect’s attention. You understand what their world is like, and you’re on their side: You know there’s a problem that needs solving. The next step is to show that a problem-free world is possible. What would your prospect’s life look like without the problem in it?

Returning to the Glossier example, they address this by sharing real-world stories of women who have embraced their intuitive approach to skincare. They include pictures of their smiling, naturally-glowing faces, and the women tell stories of a quick and easy beauty routine that still allows them plenty of time to enjoy their morning coffee before heading off to work.

How Did We Get Here?

Sure, your ideal customers have a problem, but now that you’ve called it out, you want to make sure they feel like they’re not alone. Visitors to your website shouldn’t get the sense that they’ve been called out; you want them to feel like it’s not their fault they’ve gotten into this mess!

The team at Glossier does this by acknowledging that they’re just like their ideal customer. They say that they’re “beauty editors [who have] tried it all.” They’ve walked into a Sephora and picked up every serum, eye cream, face mask, and eye shadow palette under the sun, just like their ideal clients have. And from this place of knowledge, they now create products that are uncomplicated and just work.

Outline a Way Forward

Now that you’ve addressed the issue, acknowledged that a better way is possible, and made your prospects feel that you understand how they got here, now you can show them another way.

Outline a way forward for them. Show that by taking a first step with you, they can move towards getting out of this mess and finding themselves on the other side, in a problem-free place.

Glossier does this on their site by then introducing their core products that are designed to simplify a skincare routine. There are only a handful of products, and they’re the basics anyone would need (like a moisturizer and face wash).

Invite Them to Contact You

Once you’ve proven your value by identifying your ideal customer’s problem, acknowledging that they’re not the source of the issue, and offering up your way forward, towards a brighter, problem-free future, it’s time to invite visitors to reach out. You’ve made your case for what you bring to the table, now it’s up to them to contact you to learn more.

Glossier does this at the bottom of their site. In addition to products that can be purchased online, they invite visitors to “Meet [them] in real life” by finding a store or pop-up location, and then they offer up their newsletter as a way to stay up-to-date on product launches and events.

Getting your brand to pop in the crowded online marketplace is about more than having a spiffy logo or memorable slogan. It’s even bigger than offering the best product or service out there. The secret to standing out is telling a compelling brand story. And when you follow the steps above and include those essential elements, you can guarantee that you immediately build a sense of connection between your brand and prospects.

Why Storytelling Can Help Your Business' Bottom Line

Why Storytelling Can Help Your Business’ Bottom Line

When you’re thinking about how to promote your business, it can be tempting to focus solely on your products and services. After all, when you boil any business down to its most essential element it is about getting consumers to purchase the product or service that’s being offered.

But how you reach the end goal of closing that sale is at the heart of any good marketing strategy. And the fact of the matter is, there are a lot of businesses out there that can offer consumers a solution that’s very similar to yours. Plus, with the internet, location is not a barrier in the same way it used to be. So how do you stand out from your global competition?

Storytelling is a great way to build a personal connection with your customers, which is the differentiator that will keep them coming back to you, year after year, rather than turning to your rivals.

It Instantly Establishes a Human Connection

In today’s digital age, it’s now possible to be a long-term customer of a business and never interact with an actual human being at the company. For online giants like Amazon, what keeps people coming back is the fact that their prices are competitive and they have everything you could ever want; Amazon is highly convenient.

As the owner of a smaller business, you’re never going to be able to compete with the likes of an Amazon on those fronts. You need to find another way to stand out. A human connection is the reason someone chooses to buy from a local business rather than the faceless multinational corporate.

When you embrace storytelling that shows off your business’s personality, highlights fun facts about your team members, and makes customers feel like they really know the people behind the brand, that establishes a meaningful, lasting connection. For some tips on how to build a human connection with storytelling, check out this post.

It Helps You Stand Out on Social

So much of online marketing now is about social media. And because the purpose of these platforms is creating connection and telling stories, they’re the perfect place to employ smart storytelling techniques.

This starts by embracing the platform you’re on. Storytelling on you company’s Twitter account will be handled in a very different manner than the storytelling you do on Instagram. Twitter is of course focused on the written word, while Instagram is about telling stories through images. Using these different media to weave together a cohesive story across platforms is another great way to build trust and brand awareness.

When prospects encounter your brand across various social media platforms, but are always met with the same voice and point of view, this establishes your business as trustworthy and authoritative. Plus, when you take the time to actually interact with people—provide direct answers to their questions, react to photos they share that are related to your business, or otherwise undertake personalized engagement—you make your fans feel seen and special.

Once you’ve made a good impression on social, that helps you drive those prospects to your website, where you can hit them with your comprehensive storytelling that’s designed to move them through the customer journey.

It Guides the Customer Through Their Journey

The customer journey is not as clear-cut as it used to be. Because there are a myriad of ways someone can encounter your brand for the first time, it’s trickier for marketers to create a clear path from first interaction through to repeat business and referrals.

However, brand storytelling on your website can help you achieve this goal. Your website is the one asset online where you have complete control of all the content, so take advantage of that. Design your site so that the home page immediately addresses the concerns of your prospects and tells them who you are and why you can help. A short video that shares your mission is a great, bite-sized way to let people know who you are.

From there, you want to structure your website in a logical way that moves customers through the stages of their journey, with storytelling as your guide. The home page is the start of the story: the solution you offer. The next pages should address the middle of the story: how you fix their problem and why you’re the right people for the job. The end of the story is where the prospect reaches out to learn more and become a customer.

It Drives Conversions

Sometimes business owners focus solely on the ultimate conversion: the sale. But in reality, there are multiple conversions all along the customer journey. If a first-time visitor to your website comes back again several days later, that is a conversion. If that person then requests a white paper on a topic of interest, that’s a conversion, too.

Using smart storytelling that’s targeted at prospects and customers based on where they are in their journey, is a great way to drive those conversions.

Think about it this way: let’s say you have a video that covers your company’s origin story. It tells a compelling story, and is great at grabbing the attention of prospects. But this asset is not going to serve you well with those repeat customers who already know your business’s history. They need another story that speaks directly to where they are in their history with your business, and drives them to make the next conversion on their journey (which, for a repeat customer would be to refer you to someone else).

This kind of customer you’d want to greet with another story. Perhaps you create a referral program and pair it with a note that explains why you’re so passionate about sharing your business’s solutions with the friends of your existing customers.

Just like you wouldn’t hand a toddler a copy of Wuthering Heights (or a high schooler a copy of Goodnight Moon, for that matter!), driving conversions is about greeting different people with different stories.

Storytelling is at the heart of any strong marketing strategy. Knowing what your business does best and sharing why you’re passionate about your work is the way to win trust (and customers). Effective storytelling will keep your bottom line healthy and your customers coming back for more.

How to Make Story Your Core Message

I’ve been writing about the use of story in marketing for years, and here’s what I know. A great story has many significant elements, and to have the greatest impact, each of these elements must be built in a certain order. The good news is that there’s a framework that any business can adopt to create an amazing story and grab their ideal customers’ attention.

Story is the hot marketing topic these days but it’s been with us forever. In fact, there’s a book I think everyone should read called Sapiens – A brief history of humankind. In it the author concludes that while humans were not always at the top of the food chain, they got there by developing the ability to tell stories – true and false – and use stories to get large groups of people to take action.

Perhaps the key point where I differ with most is that many people still focus on telling their story. I personally think it’s more about figuring out the story your client and prospect is telling themselves already and tapping into that. To show you what I mean, I’ve written a step by step guide below on how to craft your brand’s story for messaging.

Understand your brand

This sounds like a no-brainer, right? The fact is, however, many businesses have a tough time articulating what their brand is and what it represents. Before you can craft your story, you must understand your brand to its core. Having answers to the questions below will get you going in the right direction:

  • What is your secret sauce? What is the one thing you do better than anybody else?
  • Why should your audience care?
  • What are your audience’s wants, needs, and pain points that you can help solve (more on that below)?
  • Why would your audience need the solutions you provide?
  • What’s preventing them from finding a solution?
  • Why should they pick you over the competition?

There may be other questions that need to be addressed depending on your business, but having answers to these core questions is a good start. Through this process, you can find your brand’s authenticity, which will make for great storytelling.

Develop a Client Persona

A persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. You should have your persona in mind not only for your marketing efforts but for all business efforts. Personas help to visualize who your target audience is. To appropriately define your persona, you must understand what drives them, what they believe, what they fear, and what they desire. The more information you have to build the persona, the better your marketing and storytelling will be.

Create your hero

Remember, the story is not about YOU.  The hero of your story is your client persona. They need to see themselves in the story which starts with their challenges, problems, and issues that they don’t know how to solve. To appropriately create a hero for your story, you must:

  • Learn the hero’s backstory – This is where developing a client persona will really come in handy.
  • Give them an antagonist – What kind of story doesn’t have a villain? Help your hero understand the problem they face that you can help them solve.
  • Call them to duty – Cue the Bat-Signal! Your story must give your hero hope that they have the power to overcome whatever the challenge is. They need to feel like what you have to offer is hope and empowerment, not just products and services.
  • Help them persevere – You have to be prepared to demonstrate you’ll be there with them until they overcome their challenges. Be there every step of the way until their problem is solved.
  • Free them – Show them the results and impact they’ll receive from your solutions. Make their fairytale a reality.

Craft the Journey

Today, most marketers understand the value of story as a way to market and sell just about anything. However, few understand the right way to use story and narrative as a way to guide people on the perfect journey.

Once you have the hero for your story, you can actually take them on their journey. When your persona is looking for solutions to their problems and answer to their questions, it’s up to you and your marketing efforts to give them what they’re looking for. When you understand the goals your personas are facing during each phase of their journey, you can create content and campaigns aimed at their specific desires. It’s important to interact with your persona as early on in the journey as possible before they make any decisions on their own without your involvement.

Become storytellers

Once you’ve carefully crafted your brand’s story, you need to tell it. You need to share it with your audience and include it within all of your messaging moving forward. Your website is a great place to start.

Here’s the thing, people buy stories before they buy stuff. The better you get at storytelling, the more likely you’ll able to turn people into customers.

Are you currently using story in your messaging? How has it impacted your business?

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Why Your Website Needs a Storyteller Instead of a Designer

Your website is the hub of your online presence – period. (Well, maybe that’s not exactly true from you right now, but it must be!)

As such, it has to do some heavy lifting and that heavy lifting must extend far beyond the interactive brochure still built today by many business owners.

Your website must tell a story. A story must be engaging and there must be a hero, a problem, a quest, a call to arms, and a promise of a happy ending.

The trouble with most sites, however, stems to some degree from how the web design industry is viewed.

A business creates a great product or service, develops the processes for marketing said product or service and then turns to a designer to create a gorgeous set of web pages to showcase it.

At some point, they determine they are going to need lots of pretty words to go with that awesome design, and then eventually they will need someone to “SEO it all.”

Of course, today the path described above is a recipe for disaster and waste.

The purpose of your site

As the digital hub for your business, your website must be able to attract the right prospect, as well as build trust, provide information, offer a guided trial experience, convert, and nurture and do so without friction or confusion.

Your must build your website with a narrowly defined ideal customer, deep knowledge of their challenges and pains, and instant delivery of a strong message of differentiation. In other words, your website is a study in marketing strategy and the voice of your online presence.

It must make people feel something quickly, it must draw them into their story, it must help visitors realize quickly that you get them, and that you have what it takes to change their current reality.

This is a process, not a webpage!

Guiding the journey

The buyer holds the cards today and expects to find whatever they are looking for online. They research, read, shop, bookmark, subscribe, revisit, compare, rate and review as standard markers along the buying process.

Websites today don’t create demand, they organize behavior and this requires strategy, storytelling, research, search engine optimization, intention, AND a design that facilitates what people expect from the sites they visit.

A storytelling home page might include a message that grabs the reader right where it hurts (strategy message, SEO, trust), trust markers in the form of testimonials (trust), a story about someone who was helped (proof, education), a scannable description or two about products and services (SEO, education), a story about the person and purpose behind the brand (trust, content), more trust markers (more trust and proof), a picture of what it could be like for the reader (content, aspiration, SEO), and several compelling calls to act (trial, trust, nurture). Here’s a good example of site that practices this approach

Great web design today supports; it does not dominate.

Conversion matters

Every interaction with your site is a conversion of some sort. Guiding and stimulating the behavior of the visitor is the objective.

When a first-time visitor comes to your site your goal is to convince them to come back – that’s a conversion. When they come back your goal is to get them to stay and read some more – that’s a conversion. When they stick around your goal is to interest them in specific information that educates – that’s a conversion. When they start consuming your ebooks, newsletters, and webinars your goal is the get them to tell you about their needs and challenges – that’s a conversion.

Okay, I suspect you get it – a conversion is much more than a purchase, it’s a set of micro-commitments that lead to a profitable purchase and your site must light the path at every stage.

This is perhaps the trickiest part as every visitor is different. They have a different story, they have difference knowledge about their problem and your solution, they are often at different points in the journey and they certainly have their own way of making purchase decisions.

Conversion is about helping them make the choice that seems right for them, not about forcing then through a funnel.

Measuring every activity, click, hover, page visit, and even time on site, is the only way to start to understand what’s working and not working. It’s the only way to personalize the journey based on what you learn. True conversion nuts test and can tell you what elements of their contact us form are causing friction.

You don’t have to go that level, but heck understanding what people who respond to your Facebook Ads do when they hit your site might be an awesome first step.

SEO at the start

Great web design starts with keyword research.

Keyword research, long the workhorse of the SEO pro, is an invaluable tool when it comes to developing strategy. Keyword research not only helps you determine popular search terms, it helps you better understand your ideal client, get a deeper grasp on their problems and intentions, and reveals clues to how they find, research, and source products and services like yours.

This knowledge allows you to create the right structure for your site before you ever start choosing colors and fonts.

Understanding the story structure of your home page and subsequent main pages is how you build and use your website to attract the right clients!

Content at the heart

In the end, your website is a container for your content, pure and simple. Nice packaging helps a visitor find and consume your content, but useful content is what drives the online machine.

Of course, content for content sake isn’t what I’m referring to here. Your content must be designed with intent. You must have content that helps create awareness, content that builds trust, content that educates, content the converts and even content to stimulate referrals.

By building a website and subsequent content around the story your prospect is telling themselves you also create context and that’s the key winning conversion with your content.

Hire a storyteller

You can no longer afford to view your website as a design only adventure. Your web hub must be built with your overall marketing strategy in mind and for my money, that starts by engaging a marketing professional who begins with strategy and who can turn your strategy into a story and who can make your content the voice of strategy.

If you want to talk to me about this idea send me a note with the text – I want to talk to a storyteller.

Need more tips on how to grow your business? Check out our entire Guide to Marketing Professional Services.

2 Lead Conversations to Replace Lead Funnels

danny-iny

Marketing Podcast with Danny Iny

The term “lead funnel” seems to be getting a lot of love from the Internet marketing set. Today it seems as though there are dozens of marketers promoting products and courses teaching this age old tactic cloaked in a new set of tools.

While the idea of a lead funnel makes a great deal of sense – you get people who are interested in an idea and get them more and more excited about your solution as the answer to their idea.

The problem I have is  more in the execution.

You don’t have to look much farther than the language of the lead funnel crowd – terms like lead magnets and trip wires give you the sense that this whole marketing thing is just a big game of cat and mouse and that prospects simply need to be tricked into buying.

For over a decade now I’ve presented the idea of The Marketing Hourglass as a replacement for the marketing funnel and as a way to more accurately represent the journey our prospects and clients want to experience.

Vital to this way of thinking is the realization that building know, like and trust sufficient to turn a prospect into a customer requires a level of engagement more like a conversation with a friend than guerilla warfare tactic.

[tweetthis]Turning a prospect into a customer requires a level of engagement more like a conversation with a friend than war tactic.[/tweetthis]

My guest on this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Danny Iny, founder of Mirasee Marketing, host of the Business Reimagined podcast and the bestselling author if multiple books including Engagement From Scratch. We discuss the power of a name, the value of storytelling in marketing, and better ways to reach your target audience.

Iny is quietly sparking a change in the marketing conversion world by teaching the art of the narrative conversation as the best way to communicate and build long-term marketing relationships.

In our conversation we cover a lot of ground, but mostly we agree that if you actually pay attention to and care about what your prospects care about, marketing is a lot more fun.

Questions I ask Danny:

  • How did you reach the name Mirasee Marketing for your business?
  • Is there a storytelling formula you can follow for your marketing?
  • Is a conversational tone in your marketing materials critical?

What You’ll Learn if You Give A Listen:

  • The value of storytelling in marketing
  • How to create the interest and desire for your product before you sell it
  • Why crafting a cool story isn’t going to sell someone something they don’t want

6 How to Use Infographics Effectively

Because of the constant bombardment of information we experience on a daily basis, the average human being now has a shorter attention span than a goldfish! In the digital era, marketers have to change and adapt their strategies in order to get their messages heard amongst the many other competing voices. Because humans are wired to respond more positively to visuals than text, infographics tend to get far more shares than traditional text-based content.

Additionally, infographics allow you to create an emotive story around a seemingly meaningless sea of data, allowing people to swiftly understand the key points without having to do any of the tedious reading. While anyone can pay to commission an infographic, there are certain factors you need to consider if you want your infographic to become a viral success!

Choosing the right topic

It’s important to remember that your infographic should never be a tout for your company; instead you should aim to tackle a contentious issue in your industry or cover a hot topic that you know will encourage sharing. In other words, aim to provide genuine value to people instead of simply promoting yourself. With resources such as Google Trends, Twitter hashtags, and numerous RSS aggregators, you’re sure to be able to find a topic that people will love to see encapsulated in a stunning infographic.

Content creation

When researching the facts for your infographic, always use reputable sources and ensure that they are airtight – particularly if your infographic is about a contentious issue – someone is bound to want to point out the flaws in your argument! You may wish to incorporate some quotes from industry specialists to serve as proof elements for your argument. Also, a few interesting lesser-known facts and quirky anecdotes may help to provide some light entertainment for readers.

When organizing your content, thinking visually is crucial. It’s important to remember that not every fact and statistic will make a good visualization, and conversely, not every great visualization will fit within the narrative of your infographic. In order for the infographic to work, the visuals must support the content and help to drive the narrative home. Never be tempted to sacrifice substance for style! As with any form of content marketing, well-researched, high-quality content is the cornerstone of an effective infographic.

Design

You may wish to design an infographic to match the branding of your company, and this may be a good idea if you are creating the piece for company presentations or other internal purposes. However, you should always avoid “over branding” the piece – in most cases you only need to include your company’s logo and website discretely in the footer.

In the design phase, less is more; if you’re used to creating long-winded text content, you may feel reluctant to omit certain pieces of data, even if they aren’t propelling the narrative forward. However, leaving in extraneous elements will only serve to clutter the infographic and confuse people. Always design from a holistic perspective and be prepared to sacrifice elements that aren’t contributing to the clarity and argument of the infographic.

Promotion

You may wish to create a specific landing page for your infographic, or you can simply post it as part of a blog post. Either way, you should make sure that the page has complete social media functionality so that people can share with ease. Additionally, it helps to include the HTML embed code directly beneath the infographic so people can post it on their websites with ease – this is particularly useful for bloggers within your niche who may wish to incorporate your infographic into their own unique content.

There are numerous infographic submission sites that will be happy to host your infographic and if you’re lucky you could even have it featured on Mashable. However, to get your infographic to go viral you’re probably going to have to do a lot of hustling. Promoting using social media is highly recommended, but don’t forget to leverage your personal network. If you know someone who has a large following online, persuading them to share your infographic can result in huge amounts of exposure, expanding your audience and bringing you new business!

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Jack Knopfler is the Lead Content Editor at Mammoth Infographics. He has a background in digital marketing and has helped clients in a range industries to improve their presence online.

3 Elevating Customer Experience a Must When Marketing Luxury Brands

It’s no secret that luxury brand buyers’ needs are quite different from those of traditional buyers. With more resources and generally less time available than the average consumer, competition for their money and attention is fierce. So how do you amp up your brand and make it stand out to the luxury customer?

Cutting through all the noise in marketing and advertising nowadays means ditching the old school practice of simply promoting the characteristics and features of your product. Today’s luxury buyer is not sold on solely the benefits of what you are selling but on the overall brand experience; an experience that must be conveyed at every possible touchpoint whether digitally, on a customer service call or in person. Capture the attention of luxury buyers by focusing on these three aspects of your brand experience.

Know Your Audience

This may sound like a no-brainer, but it is a practice ignored by brands all too often. Not all luxury buyers are driven by the same motives or respond the same way to marketing tactics, and failure to tailor your efforts to your specific audience’s needs could be costly.

kuhlman cellars

Example: Kuhlman Cellars

Those who book tastings at this Texas winery are not the average wine guzzlers, but rather aficionados with an appreciation for learning the ins and outs of wine making and tasting. They knew that their visitors would be more impressed with the high level of knowledge their staff possessed about their products and the industry than showy, grandiose surroundings. Rather than compensating with over-the-top interiors as many high-end wineries do, they chose to keep their tasting rooms simple and keep the focus on creating a personalized learning experience tailored to their visitors’ interests.

Tell a Story

Today’s luxury buyers also favor substance over style, meaning they are more likely to connect with a brand that has the marketing savvy to tell a story and align with their personal values rather with a brand that relies on its product’s flashiness. Your customers are educated, so treat them that way by ramping up your content and avoiding gimmicks and commodity marketing language.

5th and west

Example: Fifth & West

Future downtown Austin luxury high rise Fifth & West is one of the area’s most exciting residential ownership opportunities, and their marketing tactics needed to express this landmark development to potential residents on every level. While stunning renderings of the building certainly spoke for themselves, any accompanying copy needed to speak to the carefulness and thoughtfulness put into every aspect of the project. Vivid yet concise language and even quotes from interior architect Michael Hsu in marketing pieces effectively conveyed the heightened luxury living residents would experience. In fact, more than 60 percent of residences had been sold within three months of groundbreaking.

Convenience is Key

Now that you have hooked your customer with your brand experience and story, give them the ability to interact with your brand in a way that is most convenient for their demanding lifestyle. Providing ample options to suit their unique needs during every stage of the buying cycle allows them to shop and make decisions in a manner of their choosing. Accomplish this by pushing the creative envelope and utilizing technology in a way that both accommodates your buyers’ unique needs and provides that Wow Factor.

lexus of austin

Example: Lexus

Lexus of Austin’s launch party for two new vehicle models needed to set the standard for how grand and technology-centered the event would be. The invitation’s attention-grabbing, animated graphics captured invitees’ interest and created an interactive experience while allowing readers to gather information about the event and RSVP with ease. Convenience? Interactivity? Wow Factor? Check, check, check.

Fine-tuning your marketing efforts to focus on the needs and preferences of luxury buyers is a surefire way to create deeper connections with your audience and build loyalty. Doing so is the difference between your brand being uninspiring and being unforgettable.

Maria OrozovaMaria Orozova is the President and Creative Director of The MOD Studio, a boutique marketing and design agency based in Austin and the creative powerhouse behind many local and national brands. www.theMODstudio.com

Can Your Video Advertisement Reduce Everyone to Tears?

Remember Tears for Fears? They had it right: everybody wants to rule the world.

tears for fears

When you set out to create a video advertisement, you want its influence to span the globe. The best way to accomplish that feat is to leverage something that is universal: like emotion.

Brands that elevate themselves up from the level of simply providing a service, to the heralded plateau of being a facilitator of emotion are the brands most likely to succeed in the global online community.

In the past, the challenge was establishing a genuine human connection with only a 30-second video spot. But online, viewers have “leisure time” in the emergent channels (social timelines, Whatsapp-style group messaging, etc.) to consume content that is much longer in length.

In this blog post, we’re going to take a look at an advertisement from Google that utilizes this extra available time effectively in order to shoot straight for the heart of the viewer to bring forth the tears.

Google’s “Dear Sophie” Ad Will Break You

Interestingly enough, ‘Tears for Fears’ is a reference to one of the core principals American psychologist and psychotherapist Arthur Janov, who advocates a ‘tears instead of fears’ approach to dealing with (childhood) trauma.

Google’s ‘Dear Sophie’ video is only dealing with the consumer’s fear of the unknown, but their approach is similar: break you down to build you up. Check it out:

(If you don’t have time to view the advertisement, it basically features a man emailing “into the future” his newborn daughter using Google’s services.)

“Dear Sophie” comes from BBH New York & Google Creative Labs. It has over ten million views, and about two seconds into the video you feel why—in your heart. It will get to you emotionally.

For that reason and others, it has won multiple advertising awards, including the People’s Voice at the 2012 Webby Awards.

The advertisement is about 1:30 in length—three times the length of the traditional 30-second slot—but it sustains the viewer’s attention just fine because in part the viewer is probably just browsing the web looking for something to watch.

The Big Takeaway: You Have Time to Tell a Story So Tell One

Notice how “Dear Sophie” is not really about any one service in particular. In simply telling a story, Google succeeds in advertising all of their services—a lifestyle, even. A lifestyle of love.

It sounds somewhat cheesy, but ten million views isn’t cheesy at all.

To sum everything up: the short story format of a couple minutes is made possible by the extra “leisure time” available online.

Depending on the context, there are no rules. (I once watched an online B2C video advertisement that was over an hour long. I don’t even know how long it actually was because I stopped watching!)

Generally, however, most people agree that anywhere from 2–7 minutes is an appropriate range for the short story format.

In the next blog post, we’re going to continue looking at “leisure time” advertising. Taking full advantage of the time available is one aspect, but taking full advantage of the context itself is another, and perhaps more important.

Mike TylerMike Tyler CEO of War Room ranked #1 in online Digital Advertising and reporting. Are you looking for more Video Advertising tips? Check out the Video Advertising Guru

3 Content Creation is Dead – Long Live Storytelling!

Photo via BlogMutt's CEO, Scott Yates

Photo via BlogMutt’s CEO, Scott Yates

Since the first cave drawings, storytelling has been an integral part of society and the intellectual evolution of man. And that’s what we always called it: storytelling.

And then the Internet happened.

And somewhere along the way, storytelling started getting replaced by “content creation”—a term that didn’t exist before the Internet. Google’s Ngram viewer (a tool that charts the usage of words in printed sources from 1800–2008) shows the precipitous rise of the words “content creation” around 1993-1994. This was also the time web browsers like Internet Explorer and Netscape launched.

Coincidence?

As companies started coming online and search engines became the de facto discovery tool for prospective customers, the battle for keyword relevance on SERPs grew. Content volume outperformed content value, and that’s when we stopped telling stories and started creating content.

Storytelling’s Triumphant Return

As search engines become more discerning about content quality and consumers more shrewd about how they spend their time online, storytelling works and content creation doesn’t.
There’s simply too much out there to read and not enough time to read it. And wouldn’t you rather read a story instead of something called “created content”? Stories are what make us uniquely human and different from monkeys. Content creation sounds like storytelling between two search engine algorithms.

Tell Your Story

It sounds obvious, but only you can tell your story. So many marketing articles talk about having a content strategy. Having goals. Having an editorial calendar. Having a call to action.

First: Tell your story. Then worry about all that.

It doesn’t matter if you’re Patagonia or Joe’s Plumbing Service. Every company, of every size, has a story to tell. Potential customers get jaded with clickbait, listicles, and inaccurate information every day. Article headlines over promise. Content underwhelms. Rinse. Repeat. Customers want something to sink their teeth into. Something meaty and unique.

Start with a Belief

Good storytellers don’t need an MFA in creative writing. Telling your story starts with a belief. A belief in your business and your customers. Your belief justifies your company’s existence. Every piece of communication should contain elements of your belief.

Ted Manasa offers this definition of belief to get you started: A brand is a belief in a better world that differs from your competitors’ worlds and is a world that your customers want to live in.

[Tweet “A brand is a belief in a better world that differs from your competitors’ worlds and is a world that your customers want to live in”]

Belief is the glue that holds a good story together. Ever sit in a movie and see something happen that was so unbelievable it negatively impacted your opinion of the whole thing? That’s the power of belief. And the same rules hold true for your business. Customers have to believe you before they’re going to buy from you.

Act on Your Belief

Since the Mad Men-era, we’ve been inundated with get-rich-quick schemes, “As Seen on TV” cure-alls and healthy-looking people in cigarette ads. We’ve become cynical consumers.

The companies who act on their beliefs end up telling the most authentic and compelling stories. Some of the most discerning consumers aren’t just buying a product anymore. They’re buying a belief system. A product gets prospective customers in the door. A belief system keeps them there.

Don’t Forget the Human Element

The best stories have a human element. Without a personal connection, a story is just information. Don’t forget about the human element when you communicate to customers on your blog, through your newsletters, videos or on social media. Remember to believe in a better world that differs from your competitors and your customers also want to live in. Show them this world so they can believe in it too.

Become a Great Storyteller

Start with a belief. Act on your belief by showing customers the world you believe in. Make your belief a reality in your eyes and your customers’ eyes. This is accomplished through your customer service, the emails you send, the blogs you write, the product you sell, and the relationships you develop.

Every outbound piece of communication should have an element of your belief within it. Successful companies use each element as an opportunity to show customers a better world than the one they live in today.

patrick armitagePatrick Armitage is the Director of Marketing at BlogMutt—a content writing service helping businesses and agencies get their blogging done. Follow his miscellany (@Pat_Armitage) and all things BlogMutt (@BlogMutt) on Twitter.