Your BIG Simple Guide to Content Planning in 2019
A while back, we decided we’d like to do a webinar series. There was a problem though: webinars suck.
Not the concept, just the way they’re typically executed in the business world. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying I’ve sat through way too many of these bland, one-sided digital seminars that turned out to be nothing more than thinly veiled product pitches.
They weren’t entertaining. They weren’t valuable. They were, quite frankly, wastes of time.
We wanted to do something different. And when it comes to doing things differently, few people have more cred than our friend Jay Acunzo, which made him the perfect partner for this project. Jay literally wrote the book on bucking convention, and avoiding that restrictive pitfall of doing things the way they’ve always been done – it’s the very subject of his latest work, Break the Wheel: Question Best Practices, Hone Your Intuition, and Do Your Best Work.
Unsurprisingly, Jay had a vision for a different kind of webinar series: meaningful, cohesive, and engaging. It would blend high-quality, pre-produced segments with live audience interaction on the back end. Each episode, and guest, would bring something unique and essential to the overall narrative.
We arrived at a premise that was perfectly aligned with the core principles of DivvyHQ: big ideas that make work simple. And we enlisted four of the brightest thinkers in content marketing to deconstruct these big ideas with Mr. Acunzo.
We named it The BIG Simple. We’re beyond proud of the way this four-part series turned out. And for those who missed out, today we’re going to distill the most critical revelations from this journey, helping you craft them into a plan for doing your work differently – and better – in the new year.
A (BIG) Simple Content Marketing Plan for 2019
Before we start diving into each conversation and the key takeaways, we’d like to offer you the opportunity to watch them yourself in full. Previously exclusive to webinar registrants, all four episodes of the BIG Simple are now available for everyone to watch on-demand. To get the full experience, you really need to watch them all the way through, so if you have some downtime over the holidays, I highly recommend settling in and taking some notes.
But as promised, here’s the rundown. Let the big ideas below help guide you to a simpler and more effective content marketing plan in the new year.
Understanding Your Audience Through the Red Thread Method
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Did Abraham Lincoln actually say this? Who knows. But it’s a great quote nevertheless, and speaks to a truth that all content planners should hold to be self-evident: your content marketing strategy is going nowhere if you don’t lay extensive, informed groundwork. And in today’s environment, being informed is all about knowing your audience inside and out.
That’s why we kicked off The BIG Simple with veteran marketer, speaker and strategist Tamsen Webster as our first guest. She unpacked her Red Thread methodology for understanding your customers, and identifying the link between what they do and how they see.
When marketers think about brand messaging, we tend to think about product positioning, articulation of benefits, market differentiation, and so forth. That’s all well and good, but are we taking that crucial step of viewing the situation through the eyes of our end customer?
It’s not about how you convince people they need your solution. It’s about how they convince themselves.
Tamsen spent more than 10 years as a leader at Weight Watchers, and she saw first-hand how people ultimately must find the motivation for change from within. She believes this is, too often, an overlooked aspect of brand messaging strategy, and it’s why she is adamant about finding the Red Thread.
Her methodology breaks down into four parts:
- The Goal: What the audience wants to obtain or achieve (from their perspective, not yours).
- The Problem: What stands in the way of this goal? And what’s the underlying cause of this problem?
- The Truth: Something they intrinsically know to be true (or you can easily prove) that makes their problem impossible to ignore. *THIS IS CRITICAL*
- The Change: A mental shift in how your audience views the problem (and solutions).
With this framework established, we can use it to form the basis for our content marketing plan. It’s really important to identify and zero in on that “truth,” structuring our content strategies around communicating it to our audience and using it to move people from recognizing the problem to activating the change.
To do so, we must have actual dialogues with real customers, learning how they speak and how they describe their own pains or challenges. We need to develop more sophisticated buyer personas for tighter messaging alignment. In doing so, we’re able to establish more meaningful and resonant calls to action in our marketing content, helping to grow our new customer base. Then, it’s about inspiring loyalty within that base.
Driving Retention and Growth Through Your Content with the Loyalty Loop
Marketers focus a lot of attention on drumming up new business and acquiring new customers. Understandably so. But too often, marketing strategies become far too lopsided in this pursuit, at the expense of existing customers.
When we stop accounting for buyers after the sale, we’re making a big mistake. For almost any business, getting these individuals to buy again (and spread the word — more on that shortly) is vital to the long-term revenue equation. And here’s the thing: existing customer are WAY easier to convert! They’ve already shown some level of affinity for your brand.
Andrew Davis, author of Brandscaping, has recognized this disconnect plaguing many organizations, and places it at the heart of his Loyalty Loop concept, which he joined to discuss with Jay on Episode 2.
Here’s how Davis explains the idea: There was a moment of inspiration that prompted someone to buy from you. How can you recreate that moment again and again through your content strategy? When we do this successfully, he argues that we can compel customers to bypass the active evaluation phase (where they weigh our brand against others) and buy from us again, simply because they trust and like us.
In practice, the Loyalty Loop can take many forms depending on the industry, company, and audience. But fundamentally, Davis urges us to figure out something we can do differently than any of our competitors. Create a unique and memorable experience immediately after someone makes a commitment to your brand, whether that’s purchasing a product or subscribing to a newsletter. Then, build it sustainably into your ongoing strategy and your editorial calendar.
Operationalizing Word-of-Mouth Marketing with Talk Triggers
“Let’s give them something to talk about.” — Bonnie Raitt
Word-of-mouth marketing is “the most important, least appreciated factor for your business,” argues Jay Baer, founder of Convince & Convert. The impact of peer recommendations is both objectively and intuitively obvious, but very few companies have a repeatable structure in place for encouraging them.
The problem is this: As you probably know, people are naturally more inclined to talk about bad experiences than good ones. So even if you’re backing up the quality of your offering, it won’t necessarily inspire a customer to go and tell their friend about it.
Enter: Talk Triggers.
Baer describes these as strategic operational differentiators that compel word-of-mouth. There’s really no limit to what might qualify as a Talk Trigger, but it must bear these four traits:
Human beings are wired to remember that which is different and unexpected. Even a perfectly nice experience with a brand may not prompt them to tell a friend. But if there is something particularly remarkable, noteworthy, and pleasantly surprising about their encounter? Then you’ve got your Talk Trigger. So let’s follow Ms. Raitt’s advice and give them something to talk about.
There are any number of ways you can incorporate Talk Triggers into your content marketing plan, although as Baer notes, this initiative tends to require involvement beyond just the marketing department. One example of this approach in action that Jay he cited during his episode was Doubletree hotels and the warm, fresh cookie they hand out during each guest’s check-in. The company has also launched an integrated marketing campaign and supporting content materials to reinforce this operational differentiator.
What might a Talk Trigger look like in the context of your business? How can your content strategy magnify its impact? And how can you sell the rest of your organization on making it happen?
Selling Your Ideas and Solidifying Your Strategy
With the three big ideas unpacked above, we’ve created the foundation for a content marketing plan that attracts, retains, and grows a targeted customer base. Perhaps while reading along you’ve been formulating your own spins on these models befitting your strategy. But of course, implementing anything new can be like pulling teeth – especially at larger organizations. That brings us to our final subject: selling big ideas and turning them into realities.
Michael Brenner now runs his own company, Marketing Insider Group, but along the way he said he’s had more than 50 bosses in his career. Through countless attempts to convince and persuade his superiors, he has learned a thing or two (or 50) about effectively making your case and breaking through.
The issue, Brenner asserts, is that we are conditioned to lay out our arguments backward, starting with the solution (from our perspective) rather than the problem (from their perspective). He has found the most success when taking a step back, making an honest assessment of what’s in it for the other person, and framing his delivery from that perspective.
“Don’t sell your ideas,” Brenner implores. “Sell why your ideas should exist.”
This ties back to Ms. Webster’s Red Thread concept. Just as marketers should develop brand messaging from a position of empathy, the same should apply for rationalizing strategic initiatives internally. Speak in the other person’s language, and substantiate the problem you’re trying to solve with a “Truth” that is undeniable for them (e.g., “We are losing market share because of our inefficiency with content creation and it’s hurting your numbers, as you can see on this graph,” or more candidly, “Our competitors are crushing us on content and we both know it”).
Far too many great ideas in marketing fall by the wayside before they ever get off the ground. Employing Brenner’s methodology for selling your ideas in a relatable, data-driven fashion will help you avoid hitting this wall. We can apply his principles for conversations with customers, prospects, partners and peers as well.
Simplify Your Content Marketing Plan and Succeed
At the end of the day, success in content marketing (and business in general) is all about being memorable, and creating positive mental associations for your brand. The four ideas covered above will help you create a framework for doing just that. We can’t possibly do them justice with quick recaps, so to get the full story, make sure you watch the videos and hear out these pioneering thinkers in their own words.
Thank you once again to Jay Acunzo and all of our esteemed contributors from The BIG Simple Season 1. And if you’re looking for a software platform that will help you organize your content strategy around implementing these ideas in the coming year, we heartily encourage you to give DivvyHQ a try.