First off, what’s with the cocktail party? I haven’t given a cocktail party in . . . maybe never. So I’m using it as a metaphor for an occasion in which people mingle, talk, and drink, where you meet new people and catch up with old friends. You’re also standing, and this is where the cocktails come in, because when you want out of a conversation you excuse yourself by telling them you need to get a drink.
So that’s the set up. Now the action.
A group of natural products content marketers arrive.
They want you to find them, so they stand around acting all mysterious and interesting. They may even wink or catch your eye and so you approach one of them. Bam, they have you (and your drink is full, so no quick escape). They start talking all about themselves. How interesting they are. How they will change the world. How noble their cause is. How great their products are.
Not once do they ask about you. And when you stifle a yawn, they get even more animated, regaling you with more stories about their infinite genius. This is where you accidently spill your drink and excuse yourself, but then you bump into another one, who is jealous of all of the time you’ve spent with the other content marketer. So they talk faster about themselves, and having overheard a thing or two, compare what you heard (and hoped to forget) with their truth, that what they have to say is more interesting, more worthy. . . or more accuratly, more narcissistic!
Now there is one guy who came in with the natural products content marketers group who seems to be talking to several people, and (here’s the key) they are actually talking back. He’s reacting to what they have to say, responding and listening. You get in closer and notice he’s asking questions, providing answers, responding authentically, and willing to let others take center stage.
He is never alone. If you followed him throughout the course of the evening you would notice that he stays true to who he is. He may repeat himself to some new people, but each conversation has a freshness to it, and people respond as though what he has to say speaks to them.
The party ends and the next day I get calls from friends. They thank me (all of my friends are exceedingly polite), comment on the health and wellbeing of others we have known for some time, and ask me about that one guy, and how much they enjoyed him. As for the other content marketers, I can rattle off their names and none of my friends will have any recollection of their conversation.
“Even the one who saved the planet, discovered a cure for cancer, and has 32 proprietary formulas that will change your life?” I ask. “Oh, her,” they say. “Yeah, I guess she was alright. A bit of bore though.”
The Morning After Deconstruction
Now let’s deconstruct this tale in a way that might better relate to your needs.
1. A group of natural products content marketers arrive.
Content marketing has arrived. Every natural products marketer we talk to gives at least lip service to its value: good for SEO, has great repurposing potential, provides an outlet for the brand voice, and so on.
Here is the problem. It is not easy to do well. It takes commitment over the long haul. It takes a combination of planning, responsiveness, and storytelling skills.
Because, in the end, it’s not the amount that you tell people, it’s much more the way you engage. When we conduct our content marketing workshops, we have a mantra: “It’s not just about you.” More on that later.
2. They want you to find them so they stand around acting all mysterious and interesting. They may even wink or catch your eye and so you approach one of them.
Content marketing is at the core of inbound marketing. It is designed to have prospects who might have an interest discover your content. Often this occurs purely through organic search, but companies can “wink” by slipping in key word advertising, or they can catch your eye with a clever subject line. Nothing wrong with that.
So prospects take a chance and approach you. This is the critical point, because they came to you. Don’t take that for granted. You owe them the courtesy of making it worth their while. And this is where the relationship usually falls apart.
3. Talking about themselves
In the world of natural products, whether that be supplements, superfoods, skin care, functional beverages, teas, and so on, we find that everyone is very proud of what they offer and what they do. And with just cause. They are saving an indigenous culture. They are cleaning up the environment. They are helping people get well. They are incorporating sustainable practices. Their science is breakthrough.
In content marketing there are two distinct parts. Part one is what you have to offer and what you do. Part two is what you share in common with your customers.
Content marketing, in its drive to be search optimized, often forgets that part two, engagement, is even more important than part one. (Remember our mantra: “It’s not just about you.”)
If you focus on yourself only, maybe the first encounter is interesting. After all, it’s new, but pretty soon, talking only about how great the company and products are creates the impression that once is enough. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I get it, you’re great, your product is great. Now I got to leave and fill my drink.
It does not have to be that way. One of our clients has a passionate customer base that shares specific beliefs with that client. These beliefs are not directly related to sales, but by creating content that speaks to these beliefs they have been able to keep the conversation going. It also gives them permission to slip in an occasional call to action that is a little more product specific.
4. Now there is one guy who came in with the natural products content marketers group who seems to be talking to several people, (and here’s the key) they are talking back.
When you do content marketing well, it is an amazing thing to behold.
There are many ways to do this (not enough space in this post), but the key is knowing your communication platform.
I know, that’s a bit of jargon, but let’s break it down. Communication is the art of talking AND listening AND responding. Platform is what you stand for, being true to yourself AND those you serve.
Here is a common communications platform. A company that offers a solution since a specific date. You’ve probably seen that one in the form of a tagline under a logo. Any room for any back and forth? Yes, it tells people who you are and what you offer, but it’s all one way, and we’re supposed to be impressed? (Repeat the mantra; “It not just about you.”)
Here is another one that we actually worked on. Meet your herbs as your herbs meet you. It tells you what the company is interested in (herbs), and it encourages the act of interaction (you meet the herbs and they meet you). It incorporates a key belief in the intelligence of herbs and their relationship to people. And not once does it need to say that what the company offers is better than anyone else’s. It trusts that the customer will make the right choice.
From this platform the conversation can blossom and grow, and you’re the guy who people follow at the party.
I notice your glass is empty, by the way. Happy to get you another one.
photo by Gordon Flood