September 23, 2016

How to Make Brand Storytelling Customer-Centric

Written by
Chris Klinefelter
Tags: Podcast

Shafqat Islam, the co-founder and CEO of NewsCred, was a recent guest on our podcast, B2B Nation.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • Brand storytelling
  • How we can use data to drive business results with content
  • Story of your brand versus your product speaking for itself
  • How brand storytelling is customer centric
  • What the future holds for content marketing

Below are some of the highlights from our conversation.*

What is brand storytelling?

“Brand storytelling has become a buzzword, as has content marketing. For me, it all boils down to marketers telling exceptional stories that drive business results. Of course you need to tell stories that show how your brand is different and stories that are valuable for your audience, but people often forget the second half of the sentence: drive business results. We have to be able to show results. We need to align ourselves with business results so we can show that content drives opportunities, leads, and sales. The goal isn’t to create content. The goal is to create content that works.”

How can we use data to drive business results with content?

“I don’t want to discount the art aspect of marketing here. Creativity has a big role in creating quality content. Using your gut isn’t always a bad thing when you know your audience, as there’s a very human element to telling stories. However, you need to use data to make content decisions. First, you need to capture the data. Publish content to your own property so you can start driving an audience to it. Find out who your audience is. Get your audience to subscribe and start giving you information. Begin asking what the content journey is for your audience and where they’re headed. You can then start forming hypotheses, such as people who read X then also read Y. Once you have your own audience, you can retarget them. 

“We’re moving away from the pageview era, where we would only measure metrics such as unique visitors, shares, and so on. We’ve seen a shift to what I call the engagement era, where we’re measuring attention and engaged time on different pages. We’re actively moving towards the performance era, where we really need to start setting up KPIs to help us measure whether we’re really driving leads. You can capture this data in your marketing automation system or in Google analytics. Third party sources are often places you can gather relevant data too. This data helps you create KPIs that inform what you create.”

Is brand storytelling at odds with letting your product speak for itself? 

“No, they’re not at odds. You need to think about the customer journey and where they are in the funnel. If someone is ready to buy, then tell them about your features. You should do that. The problem is that most people aren’t ready to buy. Probably 96 percent of people who come to your website are not ready to buy. We’ve all heard stats like 75 percent of the buyer journey is complete before a prospect even talks to sales, so when they’re not ready to buy, then the two schools of thought are at odds.

“Ask how you can inspire customers. If you’re United Airlines, ask how you can inspire someone to take a trip. If you’re selling B2B software, how do I educate prospects about the problem? How do I give them some thought leadership to think about the challenges? Once you’ve helped them identify the problem, then ask how you can help them think about solutions, and not necessarily your solution. Move them further down the funnel. Only when a prospect is very far down the funnel should you start letting your product do the talking. It really depends on the timing and the customer journey in regards to what content you should be creating.”

How is brand storytelling customer-centric?

“What’s exciting about content marketing is the notion of a value exchange. Brands need to give something to the customer that is worth the exchange of their attention or their dollars. You need to give them content that is valuable to them and their professional or personal lives. Content that is educational and help them solve problems. Your content should answer questions they have in their day-to-day life or jobs. For you as a marketer is to answer those questions and be as useful and valuable to the customer as possible. That exchange is what brand storytelling is all about.”

Brands need to give something to the customer that is worth the exchange of their attention or their dollars.

What does the future hold for content marketing?

“In terms of strategy, content marketing is going to go more towards measurement of performance. Even if you tell stories, you need to be able to measure how this content will affect your bottom line. Is your content creating opportunities, leads, or deals? It will require integration with marketing automation systems to figure out what the content journey is, what content is needed for the path to lead someone to become a customer, and how we attribute that content. This is relevant for both new customers and customer retention.

“In terms of channels, I believe every new technology is a potential canvas for content. In Asia, chat apps are huge. Are chat applications going to be a place where content can live? What about connected devices and IoT? Your refrigerator could be a surface where content could live for new recipes. We haven’t even scratched the surface for content canvases, including AR and VR, so I think marketers need to take a channel agnostic view. At first, create original content, then identify the channels that your content can appear on. Tailor that content for its channel context. Who knows what those channels will be? It will be fascinating to see what happens.”

*

B2B Nation is a podcast for B2B sales and marketing professionals, featuring expert opinions and advice on the most important topics in the industry. Check out our other episodes on iTunes, or follow us on Twitter: @Technology_Adv.

___

*Some excerpts have been paraphrased to enhance readability.