I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
– Maya Angelou
Perhaps no topic in business these days receives more attention than content marketing. It seems like everyone in business is doing it or is convinced they should be.
Content marketing can be a very powerful tool when it’s done right, but many marketers, at least in the B2B world, get the sense that they aren’t doing it right.
According to a 2014 study, “an overwhelming 85 percent (of B2B marketing leaders) fail to connect content activity to business value — and, as a result, fail to retain customers or win their long-term loyalty. In fact, when asked to look back at the past 12 months and rate the effectiveness of content marketing efforts, only 14 percent of those surveyed gave their content practices high marks for delivering value back to the business.”
People are emotional creatures. We decide and take action (including buying decisions) based largely on emotions. So, if your marketing content tries to reach your audience only through a rational approach, there’s a good chance it will fall flat.
Savvy marketers have understood the power of an emotional appeal for generations and have used it used it to make a strong impact. A recent prime example is the Dove “Real Beauty” campaign from 2013.
Even if content shouldn’t be used to directly sell products, it should help drive the sales process forward. Many marketers use content to educate readers about their products – a valid function of content marketing.
But people won’t become more inclined to buy from you just because you educate them about your product. They won’t be persuaded by features and specs alone. They’ll be persuaded to make a purchase because they are convinced you will help them solve a nagging problem or reach a goal.
Emotion is a critical driver of that decision. People are emotional about their problems and finding a solution for them (this holds true for B2B buyers, too). It is possible to gain and keep their attention by engaging their emotions early in the content marketing process.
The first step to take in harnessing the power of emotion is to gain a deep understanding of your target audience. Put yourself in their shoes.
Survey them. Interview them. Hang out in the online forums they frequent. Visit the websites they read. Read the magazines and blogs they value. Understand the emotions they feel and the emotions that drive them to take action.
Within the title and first paragraphs of the content, focus on the readers – not your product. Show empathy and use the same language and vocabulary they do with their peers.
Talk in an emotional fashion about your reader’s pain. Do what Seth Godin refers to as “selling the problem”. Drive home the point in their heart and mind that they have a painful, frustrating problem… and then give them hope that you have the solution.
The same is true of B2B buying decisions. “Businesses” don’t decide to buy anything; people do. People get emotional over their work and over work-related buying decisions, even if the decision is about choosing industrial solvents or new machinery. It’s crucial to remember this when producing content for such audiences.
In a B2B environment, content that connects to emotions can lead consumers to take the next step in the buyer’s journey – whether that is joining your email list, registering for your latest value-packed webinar or contacting your sales team.
People are much more likely to buy from companies they feel an emotional connection to. Look at successful brands like Nike, Harley Davidson, and Apple. Customers feel a strong emotional attachment to these brands, and that connection is leveraged often in their marketing content.
Not only can using emotion in your content help you make more sales to new buyers, but maintaining a strong emotional connection through post-sale content can help make repeat sales and is more likely to get shared. It may even go viral.
Continue to use your marketing content to educate readers and build awareness of your products, but remember that people are emotional creatures. They make buying decisions based on their emotions, to one degree or another. Harness the power of emotion in your content to build a strong connection between your customers and your brand and you will stand out and get noticed in the crowded content marketplace.