Advertising is dead. At least the sort that came about before the rise of the Internet. Unfortunately, many companies—and advertising agencies—tried to use the successful strategies of what we’ll call “traditional advertising” to try to find the same success online.
It didn’t work. Customers discovered and fell in love with the idea that they could oversee the marketing messages they receive. They were no longer at the mercy of interruptive messages about things they didn’t want. The public could finally seek out and consume information about products and services that truly interested them.
Not quite dead yet
So, maybe advertising didn’t really die. It reinvented itself. There were fits and starts along the way. Companies thought all they had to do is come up with the “online version” of their traditional advertising. It didn’t take long for the public to prove this was ineffective.
In this midst of this transformation, the Internet went through its own metamorphosis. Our human need to validate our beliefs and be amongst others who share them gave rise to social media. Suddenly, companies found their marketing being used as a sort of currency that people shared with others on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Social media gave customers the tools to help tell the stories of their favorite brands.
Content became the rising star
Storytelling is the currency we’ve shared since we invented language. In the age of the Internet, it’s called content. While some would have you believe it’s a complicated device, content is nothing more than what you create and share to tell your brand’s story. Effective content:
- Captures leads and turns them into prospects because it engages people with the act of storytelling.
- Generates new leads by utilizing what’s learned by interactions with prospects that have been converted into customers.
- Supports your “why” by continuing the story and customizing it so it supports each part of your sales funnel. It attracts leads. It educates prospects. It gives them reasons to become customers. It fortifies customer relationships that make them buy again.
- Is tailored to be effective for different online channels. Unlike traditional advertising message, it morphs to tell a story in the most appropriate format for emails, website articles, social media posts, and online multimedia.
- Has a clear purpose. It’s no longer about what fits in 28.5 seconds for a TV ad. It’s a story that takes as long as it needs to. The call to action doesn’t necessarily result in a sale, but it does provide a clear direction for an audience to follow.
- Does not rent people’s attention. In most cases, they’ve sought out this content—it’s not presented to them in the midst of something else. That’s important. Forrester research shows that the public resents and distrusts marketing that intercepts or interrupts them.
Stats to back it up
How effective is content at lead generation? A Google search will tell you it’s amazing. Or “meh.” Or totally dismal. The numbers are all over the place because content is all over the place. It’s effective when it connects and resonates—which it can’t do in a vacuum. It needs to be supported and offered to the right people. Here’s what Forrester research shows can happen when you do get it in front of those people:
- 85% engage when you use storytelling to offer multiple points of view, rather than just tell them that your product or service is the solution.
- 71% engage when you do nothing but provide useful information—without ever trying to sell them something.
- Stop selling!
Content doesn’t sell directly. It’s not supposed to. It supports your selling efforts. Content’s primary job is to educate. Leads are converted to prospects who become customers when you freely give them information that helps them make the decision to buy.
Not every person who consumes the content you create is ready to buy from you. They want to first know that you understand their problem. Then they want to understand how your product or service can help them solve the problem. It’s a process. It creates relationships and helps people put your approach into their worldview. The relationship-building is the most important aspect of content because let’s face it—you’re not the only one they can buy from.
Few things in this world are unique. The product or service you offer is available from your competitors. They can match you—and beat you—on every point except for one thing. Your “why.” And, if everything else is a level playing field, why you offer your product or service is the only competitive advantage you have.
There is nothing more effective than content to communicate this.
So, if content doesn’t sell, how can you justify investing in it?
You can measure its impact. In the early stages, your content creates awareness and attracts leads. It’s measurable by the amount of traffic to your blog or website. You can also track downloads, links, and social media shares. Together, these metrics show interest.
Lead or follow?
As marketers, we are no longer in the driver’s seat. People don’t have to consume even a second’s worth of content they don’t want. They control their journey from start to finish, and it’s got to be self-directed or they won’t take part. Our job, then, is to be educators and storytellers.
It helps to also reconsider the descriptive term we use for people who don’t know your product or service. We call them “leads.” The internet has empowered today’s buyer. They do not wish to be led. They want to be engaged.