With all things content marketing, there is no one way to do the job. Instead of getting frustrated by constantly trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t, it’s more productive to turn to proven tactics.
I know now that’s the beauty of the INBOUND conference, which I attended last week—having all these experts come together to share ideas, best practices, and what worked for them and ultimately helped them succeed.
Here are my top four takeaways from last week’s event:
Simplifying everything is not a solution.
People forget 90 percent of your content
As a content creator, I’ve always been of the mindset of making things simple and easy to understand. Bite-sized information is easily ingestible and digestible. In Carmen Simon’s session “The Neuroscience of Engagement,” she discussed the science of boredom and shared the shocking statistic that people forget 90 percent of your content. That’s just depressing.
The ultimate question is, what components can we include in our content so the brain does not habituate?
The answer: Create content that has an element of surprise.
Variation is a key part of making that happen. There’s no need to simplify everything. People can stay engaged with complex content if you vary the stimulus. Simon states that when you give the brain something it expects and then derail it slightly, it will stay engaged. So, whenever we are surprised by what we see or hear, we continue to pay attention.
One word of caution: Too much stimulation can cause the brain to disengage, so be careful about the number of components you vary.
The best stories are stories about your prospects.
We love stories because they are fun, engaging, and evoke some level of emotion. What really clicked for me is when presenter Karin Krisher said, “A story’s meaning is its meaning to the individual.” It’s not about how you tell the story, but rather how readers interpret the story—and how they experience it.
A story’s meaning is its meaning to the individual
Additionally, the reader (prospect, client, customer) needs to be the hero of the narrative, with sales and marketing acting as supporting characters. If you’re not already doing this, it’s imperative to reframe your narrative to focus on the buyer’s journey. This will help you deliver content that acknowledges their unique position and the challenges they face—and proposes how they will discover a solution. When you put yourself in your prospects’ shoes and really feel their pain with them, it provides a sense of relatability.
Arm sales with content that builds trust and credibility.
Kelsey Raymond’s session “The Secret to Creating Sales Enablement Content that Drives Results for Sales and Marketing” provided another miserable statistic: 80 percent of content assets are completely untouched by the sales team. Upon hearing that, I wanted to simultaneously scream, sob, and laugh at the absurdity.
I’ve worked on numerous projects where my team members and I have poured our hearts and souls into the finished product, so for sales not to use it is frustrating at best—especially if it’s something they requested.
It’s our responsibility to put in the time and effort with sales teams in order to give them exactly what they want, no matter how many back-and-forth actions it takes. When we get that final sign-off, it honestly feels like I birthed a content baby. If sales uses the asset as intended, the whole “labor” process is worth it. If they don’t, it’s like throwing that baby out with the bathwater.
No one wants to create content that just sits on a shelf. I’ll expand on this topic in a future blog, because there was so much great advice in Raymond’s session.
Visual storytelling is powerful.
No one wants to create content that just sits on a shelf
There’s this theory that humans have a shorter attention span than goldfish. For a content marketer, that’s another scary thought. Truth is, we have about eight seconds to grab someone’s attention. Fortunately, there’s a “loophole” to get around that challenge in that the human brain processes images faster than text.
Using images or other visual elements to break up a sea of text is a start, but the visual treatment must be relevant in order to move the story along. David Hooker said it best in his “Reading Visuals to Write (Right) Stories” presentation: “Visuals get people’s attention; storytelling keeps their attention. If you can do visual storytelling, that’s the best situation.” It’s something I’m increasingly aware of as I work closely with designers on one-pagers, infographics, and slideshares—figuring out how to visually represent certain aspects of copy to make a really powerful marketing asset (hopefully one sales teams will actually use).
I went into this conference with excitement and anticipation and left with renewed motivation. I’m looking forward to incorporating these ideas into the rest of 2018 and beyond.