A week ago I attended a workshop on telling fairytales. When I mentioned this to my coworkers, they laughed at me a bit and then asked, in jest, if I’d learned anything “useful.” Because I answered “Of course,” mostly as a joke I promised them a “report.” When I started putting the elements in my head into the context of problems faced by the clients that we help as a team every day, I realized that the joke wasn’t so innocent. Thus, as a reply to the egging by my coworkers, but with the goal of closing deals more easily, this post started to take shape.

Among adults, telling fairytales means telling lies and untruths, which is something completely different from when we talk about fairytales for children. It was exactly this contrast that got me thinking more about this.

Positioning in time and space

In contrast to a fairytale, a tale is specifically positioned in space and time. Usually in the very space where the listener is at that moment: “On a beautiful day, just like today, she was walking on this very path, when she saw . . .”. I started wondering whether a product is always satisfyingly positioned in the customers’ environment and whether this brings it closer to them. Do we know them well enough? Can we also use other methods to get customers to identify with it? For example, a tale uses actively dialogue because these help us identify more easily and better with the action. Why wouldn’t you use it too?

Do you position a product satisfyingly in the customers’ environment to bring it closer to them? Click To Tweet

Don’t tell everything yourself

Tales include elements for solving the plot, but the readers or listeners should participate in solving it. The best storyteller is one that creates the right atmosphere and lets the listeners interject out of enthusiasm; for example, by shouting out what should be used to “conquer the rushing river.” The delight of a tale lies in the fact that the readers themselves come up with the solution. In this way, they accept it immediately—it becomes “theirs” right away. If the storyteller points directly to the solution, the readers won’t feel like it’s theirs and will find it less interesting.

Therefore, if you offer your clients “nails, wood, a hammer, and a bucket,” they themselves can determine that they don’t need the bucket to conquer the rushing river, but they can build a bridge from the other materials at hand. But pay attention—if you offer them too many things, they’ll be confused and you’ll lose all credibility.

Trust in the power of repetition

People like to hear a good story more than once; we return to a good supplier, we see a good film again, we reread a good book, and so on. Therefore repeating our story to recurring clients isn’t a turnoff. They come back for a reason. Remind them that they’ll experience the same quality of services again and again.

Remind your clients each time that they’ll experience quality service again and again. Click To Tweet

What’s the melody of your product?

It’s no accident that storytelling includes folk songs. Their power is enormous because of the rhythm provided by their content and melody. Their repetition forces you to join in. When a folk song is about a river, the lyrics and melody take on a rolling character to show this.

Does the language of your product suit the project itself and your potential customers? Will a tire change go “zoom zoom” or will the “coordination of the reception and mechanical team take place at the highest level and in the pleasant environment of your premises, offering a place to wait”? Rolling isn’t appropriate for everything, after all. And if you also get your keys back “zoom zoom” (were you thinking of speed with this?), you’ll surely mention “zoom zoom” to someone else—as a funny (or a bit silly) phrase, as fast service, or simply because a person finds it hard to resist repeating.

The unsaid and unwritten

A tale transmits patterns of behavior. We learn about respect for nature from tales based on a conversation between a river and a farmer. The farmer asks the river what he should do, and the river gives him advice. Instead of lecturing about environmental protection values, we achieve more by offering an example. When we speak about our product—for example, beautiful crystals—should we emphasize our story by saying that we put gloves on when handling them so we don’t damage them? Do we think enough about these unspoken messages when presenting our product? What do the customers “read” from the manner and channels of advertising, from the way we address them, and so on?

An example attracts, so let your actions support what you say. Click To Tweet

And not least of all: do you believe in your tale? Do you tell it with sincere enthusiasm, or does storytelling feel awkward to you?

If you need an editor or an experienced hand to write a successful tale starring you, we invite you to have coffee with us and a “writer’s consultation.”

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P. S. We’re telling more stories at our home now. And, even though our daughter’s enthusiasm is boundless, my husband is saying it’s time for some “zoom zoom” cooking workshop now. 🙂

Travel always gives me a dose of reality. Just when I think I know something about life, I end up in some foreign environment, only to find out yet again that I know absolutely nothing. A few weeks ago, I headed off to Morocco, a destination that had been on my to-do list for a number of years.

In addition to realizing that Morocco isn’t just a huge desert, that mint tea is actually an improved version of green tea, and that the film crew of the legendary blockbuster Casablanca actually never set foot in Morocco, I discovered another surprising fact on this trip: the Moroccans are experts in inbound marketing.

I was indisputably convinced of this by Mohammed, who operates the riad (a sort of traditional Arab hotel) in Fez, where I stayed overnight. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Mohammed is a rock star of modern marketing. Warming up the leads, nurturing customers, promoting recommendations … This twenty-five-year-old tourism student knows all of these techniques like the back of his hand and has been using them all on a daily basis for years, even though I’m sure he does it completely subconsciously, without any special strategy or expensive business plan. As if the golden rules of inbound marketing were written in his genes.

Was inbound marketing invented by Arabs? Click To Tweet

How is it possible that his riad is fully booked for months in advance, even though there are at least five other similar hotels on the same street? Why will I, too, click a review score of 10 next to his listing on Booking.com?

1. Mohammed has a premium product and he’s proud of it

I’ve traveled quite a bit and seen many different accommodations, but this “hotel” has made it to the top of my favorites list. But not only because the rooms were cleverly outfitted with local patterns or because breakfast featured the most typical sweet Moroccan breads. The riad made it to the top of my list primarily because it reflected the character of its manager. Just think about it: when was the last time you memorized the name and face of the receptionist of a hotel you stayed at for only two nights?

2. Mohammed speaks three European languages and has recently also mastered the skill of making videos

When Mohammed realized that many of his guests often got lost on the way to his hotel in the narrow, complicated streets of the medina quarter, he recorded an amusing video that serves as a handy guide to the city medina. This helps settle the nerves of many guests who are afraid of getting lost in the maze-like and occasionally dangerous little streets (believe me, their fear is more than justified), while saving himself quite a few phone calls and a lot of searching for missing guests. And how do I know all of this? In addition to Arabic, Mohammed has also learned English, French, and Spanish. Why? “Because I wanted to understand my guests.”

3. Mohammed spends most of his day chatting with guests

Having his morning tea or taking an evening stroll to a local vantage point together with his guests, Mohammed constantly chats with them, listens to them, and offers them useful advice. Which route to take to the nearest city or where to find the best tagine—these are questions that Mohammed is always more than happy to answer and that build up trust among his clients from one day to the next. He’s well aware that nurturing current customers is at least as important as winning new ones, and so he considers any chats of this type as time well invested. When he sends his guests to his cousin at the end of the street to get the best argan oil in town, they will most likely listen to him even though they know full well that this involves a mutual favor. That’s because they’ll no longer see him as an annoying Moroccan who’s trying to sell them something at any cost, but as Mohammed, their friend.

Nurturing current customers is at least as important as winning new ones. Click To Tweet

4. Mohammed is aware of the importance of a good recommendation

If I didn’t come from the same line of business, I most likely wouldn’t have consciously noticed how, when saying goodbye and extending his best wishes to me along the lines of “Stay safe!” and “As-salāmu ʿalaykum,” Mohammed used an exceptionally subtle and non-intrusive way to mention that he’d be very pleased to read a word or two on Booking.com about how satisfied I was with my stay. Considering that I had found his hotel precisely through these recommendations, my decision was more than obvious.

I don’t want to drone on about using common sense again, but …

I imagine Mohammed does his job the way he does because his father, grandfather, and others did the same before him and especially because all of those years of experience have provided him with a good picture of what makes his clients happy and what doesn’t. He’s almost definitely never heard of the expression inbound marketing, which, to be completely honest, seems redundant even to me.

It may as well be referred to as common sense or, even better, kindness and empathy. The fact is that if we want to get close to someone, grow on them, and ultimately sell them a product, we need to establish a friendly and understanding relationship with them. This seems completely self-evident to Mohammed but, if you insist, we can of course (for the sake of credibility) also use a fancy expression like inbound marketing for it. 😉

 

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P. S. Not everyone has the golden rules of good marketing written in their genes, and so we can also use the customer lifecycle marketing planner to determine what we actually expect and want before creating a strategy.

Let’s start today’s post with a mini experiment. Look around for a moment and list all the devices with an ON/OFF switch that you can see. I’m sitting at my desk at the moment and so my list of these devices is pretty ordinary: a laptop, a phone, a tablet, air conditioning, and the light switches on the wall.

It doesn’t matter where you are, but you’ve probably listed at least five different devices that according to Jacob Morgan fall within the Internet of Things (IoT): coffee machines, central heating, fridges, cars, lamps, video projectors, and so on. If a device has an on/off switch, we will most likely be able to (or we already can) connect it to the World Wide Web. If that’s possible, then it’s an IoT device. As simple as that.

Marketing the Internet of Things or marketing with the help of the Internet of Things?

According to Mediapost reports, last summer as many as 51% marketers already agreed that the IoT was going to make the most revolutionary changes to their area of operation by 2020. 2020 is pretty close and so we can rightfully ask ourselves what stage marketing related to the IoT is currently in.

In the first stage, marketers will first have to convince their potential customers that it’s actually worth replacing older devices, which may still be doing their job just fine, with new-generation devices, such as smart meters, smart suitcases, smart cars or smart dishwashers. The moment the customer decides to make a purchase, data on how the device is used starts being collected, and thinking about services that could resolve the yet unresolved problems and previously unperceived needs also begins. By connecting devices and services, comprehensive packages can be designed that will be more useful and hence easier to market.

The second stage of marketing development during the IoT period will be characterized by opening up and connecting with advertisers and providers of complementary services and products. Let’s take smart washing machines as an example. In the first stage, developers of household appliances will furnish the machine with additional sensors to collect data on your laundry-making habits and at the same time give you the option to use remote control with your washing machine.

How often do you do laundry? Do you use only one specific wash cycle? What time do you usually turn on your washing machine? Is the water in your bathroom excessively hard?

After even a short period of use, a series of user data will be available and by comparing various demographic criteria marketing can come up with extremely valuable findings, which even a decade ago we could only dream of. Truly revolutionary changes will thus only happen in the second stage of development, when, as Clinton Bonner picturesquely explained, “the connectivity of digital devices will provide infinite opportunities for advertisers to listen and respond to their clients’ needs —with the right message at the right time, using the right device.”

Respond to your clients’ needs with the right message at the right time, using the right device. Click To Tweet

What next?

Through the development of connectivity, physical things transform into social things and when communication starts between them, this creates exceptional opportunities for a better and friendlier user experience. All too often the IoT is still perceived merely as a set of fun and handy devices, such as smart coffee machines, but beyond the fun a new IT infrastructure is being formed with apps and open API-interfaces that focus on designing new solutions known under the common term of social access management.

Creating smooth and uninterrupted physical experiences by connecting people, various devices, entire buildings, and smart places into a single whole is what lies at the heart of these solutions. A whole in which everything is adapted to the individual.

The IoT can be of great help in getting to know your customers, but are your employees ready for it? Click To Tweet

Marketing had better get ready because serious work is about to start!

In the next two decades, the Internet of Things is expected to contribute around €15 trillion to the global GDP. Based on the European Commission’s estimates, in the EU alone its contribution to the GDP will have reached €1 trillion by 2020. The first stage of the Internet of Things is already in full swing. The second stage is only a couple of years away. We have to begin preparing for how to make use of the masses of data that will suddenly become available. So what lies ahead?

  • A detailed analysis of buying habits at all platforms where users hang out and shop.
  • Insight into the new ways in which users communicate with the devices around them.
  • Detailed insight into the buying decision process and accurate location of customers within this process.
  • Identifying how individual users use specific devices and how they work.
  • Real-time interaction with the user and targeted advertising.
  • Informing the producer of any errors and problems with the devices’ operation before the user even perceives them.
  • Faster, more efficient, and friendlier resolution of user support issues.

Let me go back to the beginning. I’m convinced that all the devices you listed when you started reading this blog post will become increasingly smarter. The prices of adding connectivity functions and intelligent solutions are falling and users are becoming increasingly susceptible to simple, comfortable, and personalized communication with these devices. In this, many of us are a little worried or even scared about our safety and privacy. Providers will therefore most likely be obligated to give users the option of choice and obtain permission from them to collect data through these devices.

If you’re still a little suspicious about the IoT or if the possibility of someone keeping track of everything you do and tailoring your experience with the surrounding environment to you specifically still seems far away and futuristic, it’s time you woke up. In reality all of this is already happening. Keeping track of customers’ every step and personalizing their experience online has become a reality.

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Micro-moments determine an increasing number of life decisions these days. Even a few years ago we were still talking about in-depth decision-making processes and paths to purchase, whereas today the customer’s path from the moment a purchase need arises to the actual purchase is increasingly more variegated.

Can you recall the days when you had to keep a bunch of telephone numbers in your head? As long as we had to dial every telephone number each time, we had no trouble remembering half of our contact list. Now we know our own number and maybe that of a close relative or two, whereas the rest are stored in our cell phone’s contact list.

The same thing has happened with buying habits, research, and purchase decisions. Extensive catalogs of information we used to store in our heads have been replaced by searches for consumer needs in this (micro) moment. At any given moment we can take a look at a video showing how to pitch a tent during our vacation or at a list of good restaurants nearby, or purchase a product we need online.

We have to change the way we understand purchase decisions

If we want to get in touch with consumers, we have to adapt to the way they look for information. Customers who want to know the opening hours of a nearby restaurant don’t want to and don’t have the patience to read essays on the restaurant’s history.

Will customers get the information from you or your competition? Click To Tweet

Micro-moments can be divided into four key groups covering the majority of impulsive or fleeting contacts companies establish with customers using mobile devices:

  • I-want-to-know moments.
  • I-want-to-do moments.
  • I-want-to-go moments.
  • I-want-to-buy moments.

I want to know

These are moments when we’re looking for the answer to a question. Research shows that 90% of cell phone users make long-term decisions in a batch of many small moments. Purchasing a new car happens in 1,000 small installments: during lunch break, at the bus stop, while waiting in a line at a store. When making major decisions, customers spend more time educating themselves, but this takes place in increasingly scattered and disconnected moments. The content these customers are looking for is educational and provides direct and transparent answers to their questions.

Have you published content that helps these customers find simple answers? Do customers have clear and easy access to this content?

I want to do

When you buy one of those modern pop-up tents, you feel infinitely pleased. Five minutes after you arrive at the campsite, you’re all set and ready to go and you wonder why you didn’t go down to the beach straight away and pitch the tent later when it got dark. When your vacation is over, the reality hits you. While throwing your tent up in the air with a big grin on your face, you forgot to look at how it had been folded up into that matchbox-size bag. What will you do after twenty minutes of unsuccessful folding and turning? You’ll look for a video online that will show you how to pack up your tent.

If you want to communicate in micro-moments like these, you have to identify your customers’ questions. Here the customer support or sales department can help the most because it can tell you what questions keep coming up regularly on the market when customers face a difficult or unclear challenge.

I want to go

These micro-moments are typical of customers who decide to make an unplanned visit to a location. This includes searching for restaurants nearby, hospitals, browsing movie theater schedules on cell phones, and looking for stores, hotels, and the like.

These searches are characterized by the low occurrence of brands. When people are on their way somewhere and decide to go to a restaurant, they don’t have only one restaurant in mind, but are prepared to go to the nearest well-reviewed restaurant. Searching for the nearest pharmacy also doesn’t involve differentiating between different pharmacy chains. These searches have a significant impact on sales itself because when customers look for services nearby, that means they have decided to go to a place and make a purchase. Unlike the previous moments, this moment is the one that brings a customer through the door the fastest.

Do you present the prices and instructions for visiting your point of sale clearly to these searchers? Can they even find you if they search online by location and not your company name?

Can customers find you if they search online by location rather than your company name? Click To Tweet

I want to buy

This involves visits that are completely purchase-oriented. When an electric kettle breaks, the customer is instantly ready to make a purchase. These are low-cost purchases that take place instantaneously.

These types of customers are often willing to purchase a more expensive product. Ultimately, the price is the only bit of information that clearly distinguishes similar products on the shelf from one another. Customers have discovered the difference in price and decided to compare the products and look at the user reviews. Such customers look for reasons to buy a more expensive product if, of course, they can find convincing information about its advantages online.

Have you suitably facilitated the process of buying your products? How much effort have you put into posting information that clearly distinguishes your products from similar ones, and how easy it is to find positive reviews from your users?

When customers look you up on their smartphones, they have pretty clear questions in mind

At the same time, they expect simple and quick answers to these questions. If they don’t get them from you, they’ll go back online and get their answers from your competition. Outrun your competition and be the first to offer a fast and useful answer to the customer. The list above should serve as guidance and help, but don’t forget that every company has its specifics. Think about your customers’ needs and micro-moments, and perhaps you’ll come up with yet another category.

 

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My life is full of lessons I more or less always pay for dearly. The last one was: Don’t eat Christmas cookies in April. You can imagine that it was priceless. The one before that happened at work. It hit me like a cold shower and came with an extra “duh” on top. What am I talking about? That today’s readers read differently.

I know, I know, “duh,” right? But okay, seriously, when you’re writing something for digital publication, do you picture your reader sitting in a quiet, nicely lit room, sipping tea, and chewing on your thoughts word by word with full attention and interest? Or are you actually aware that readers most likely read your copy on just one of their currently active tabs, while chatting with a coworker on another screen and constantly checking for new e-mail down in the right corner of their screen?

Yes, technological innovations have radically changed our reading habits and ultimately the ways we think. But nonetheless I’ve noticed that these changes have still not managed to “move” most content creators of either marketing communications or other content to reconsider how this content is shaped, which has a fatal impact on all of our communication goals. Just like that tree that falls in the forest or not, it also doesn’t even matter in the end whether we have communicated our messages at all if the receiver doesn’t understand them.

You’ve only performed your role as a communicator well when the readers understand your message exactly the way you wanted them to.

FrodX’s blog already contains many posts on how important it is for people to hear the right message at the right moment and in the right context. However, we haven’t yet discussed the forms of these messages which, in order to be effective, have to adapt to an environment that in this day and age is largely defined by technology. It’s like how product packaging is important. The product could be of the highest quality and placed on the most prominent shelf in the store, but if its packaging doesn’t attract attention and evoke some sort of affinity in the customers passing by, the purchase will most likely not take place.

As you know, Marshall McLuhan already talked about how the messages we communicate are subordinate to the media or technology that govern the present day. The same subordination can also be ascribed to our reading habits. Does that mean our smartphones are responsible for the average online reader’s attention span being shorter than the memory of a goldfish? Probably. Does that mean that younger generations will in fact have shallow minds that will find it hard to become fully immersed in one thing, but will know at least a little something about everything? Definitely. But I still find the following much more important: how will you adapt your communication to the new challenges of environments that not only change constantly, but also develop unpredictably?

If readers don’t understand your message, you might as well not have sent it at all. Click To Tweet

Short catchy copy, the use of visual elements and hyperlinks, and abstracts that summarize the main message in simple sentences—in general, all of these are useful tips for digital content creators that want to keep up with the times, but they are definitely not enough to guarantee success always and everywhere. The path to success is (yes, you’ve guessed it) much longer and more complex than that. And you have to get to know your readers extremely well on the way.

Tell me how you read and I’ll tell you who you are.

What applies to the content and context also applies to the form. I think that any communication without knowing your reader well is just “dumping” on them (or just giving them marketing messages that go straight in the trash). It’s sort of like shooting in the dark, hoping to score.

As an anthropologist, I’ve got the professional flaw of constantly watching people. So a couple of days ago, I was watching my boss reading (or better: massacring) received e-mails on his cell phone in the car. There is only one traffic light on our way to the client’s office and because it turned red right when we got to the intersection, we had to stop there for a few seconds. While waiting for the green light, Igor deleted about thirty e-mails from his inbox, ones he decided he wasn’t interested in. He made this decision in a matter of seconds and most likely solely based on their subject.

I wonder if the writer of any of those thirty newsletters that ended up in the trash thought about guys like Igor while writing his copy. Did he think about the fact that his message had to survive the first selection at the traffic light, and then the next one Igor makes while drinking his afternoon coffee, and ultimately make it to his precious “Read in the Evening” folder? Some writers manage to achieve this and others don’t. The difference between them is definitely that the former know that fighting for attention is increasingly more challenging and that Igor’s criteria are getting increasingly stricter because he’s becoming less tolerant of marketing content by the day. This is how his reading habits have changed. As simple as that.

Tell me how you read and I’ll tell you who you are. Click To Tweet

The best weapon in the battle for attention is knowing the readers well, whereby it’s vital that you:

  • Know what stage of the buying process they are currently in,
  • Know what they are interested in and why (if at all), and what has proved useful for them,
  • Know how they read content. This means you have to identify the forms of content that the readers will notice, recognize, and be able to read.

With the first two points, the strategic use of marketing automation can provide effective help. The only reliable way you can find out the things described in the third point is to do field work: talk to people in your target group, read, use, and analyze the content targeted at this group, identify and know your competition, have the courage to do something different from what your competition is doing, and ultimately use the resource that may unfortunately be neglected the most: talking to your team members.

Don’t underestimate the fact that even the smallest hints coming from your team can be of great help in revealing the wider framework of your communication, even if this involves a (seemingly irrelevant) hint provided by an IT colleague a decade younger than you, who tells you that today’s Generation Z uses the word “super” only as a filler (Thanks, Rok! :)).

If you open your eyes wide and prick up your ears, you’ll soon realize that you can find this type of information all around you—but in order to hear, you need to be quiet first. Lesson learned.

 

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P.S. If you’re ready to make changes and ready to adapt to present-day challenges, we recommend that you read our manual How to Market in a World where Marketing No Longer Works.

If you’re one of those who prefers chatting to reading, you’re warmly invited to have a cup of coffee with us.

 

 

I often hear that Slovenians make great products, but we simply don’t have the know-how to sell them properly. Regardless of the industry. Of course, I first think that their products may not be that good and that the previous statement is just a convenient excuse. But unfortunately it is true that Slovenians have an engineering approach to development – at least in the IT industry. Too often we are focused only on what we can produce with our engineering skills and join the race to improve the technical characteristics of our product compared to our competitors.

Great developers think about the entire customer experience instead on focusing solely on the product that they are developing

Soft skills are rarely used in product development. Only a handful of companies manage to overcome their obsession with technical specifications when developing products. Slovenian IT companies that define their target group as well as predict the purchase stakeholders and their thinking to devise a customer engagement plan are truly a rare breed. This plan should be a comprehensive overview of the customer experience throughout the lifecycle of our relationship with the customer. Building a financial structure for the new product without a customer engagement plan relies on guesswork and wish lists, since serious planning and creating a solid business plan are impossible without it. You must have heard stories about great products that someone developed, but their salespeople were just incompetent and could not sell them. Customer focused companies should therefore think differently about product development and have a different view of the market. We could say that the story they want to tell with their product is the basis for its development.

Start thinking about how to sell the product as soon as you start developing it. Click To Tweet

You cannot build the emotional potential of the product just by focusing on its technical characteristics

Stories should provide an emotional connection between the customer and the provider or their product. Good storytellers are able to engage people emotionally in their story. Their subtle messages provide layers to the story and raise the product above its technical characteristics that are easily comparable. This is what every company wants. Their customers should see the widest context of the product, their story. Even more – they want their customers to keep telling and sharing their story. This is the only way that these stories can become credible. This entire construct is a product of a successful storyteller.

Only a good story provides an emotional connection to your brand. Click To Tweet

Most Slovenian companies (not only in the IT industry) have a poor awareness of the importance of their story and the story of their products. Even if they try to do something about it, they usually just go through the motions and don’t employ a systematic process with clear goals and success indicators. Posting an employment add for a Chief Storyteller raises quite a few eyebrows in Slovenia even if such work positions are nothing unusual in the global economy. Some googling showed me that Nike employed a Chief Storytelling Officer in the nineties, and that SAP has had that function from 2013.

Communicating goals and selling a means to an end

Marketing people have been more than happy to embrace the content marketing phenomenon, and this has lead us to the point where suddenly no one is interested in content any more. There is just too much content and it is too similar. Every marketer is trying to drown us in content. It is very rarely useful or even amusing. It seems like everyone is recreating the same content over and over again. People who used to think about the number of leaflets at exhibitions or were trying to find the right promotional gifts for customers are not necessarily capable of having a strategic overview of the market, products and the competitive value of their company. They are also not necessarily creative personalities with a knack for telling stories, but they are now creating content, because this is one of the main tasks of marketing today. The flood of low-quality content and the decreasing responsiveness of customers to it will slowly make managers realize that not everyone is suited for creating content just like they slowly realized that not everyone who works in a marketing department is a good designer.

The golden rule for creating marketing content is that the content you create should be useful or at least amusing. Since it is hard to be funny most of the time and it depends on the customers’ sense of humor, the content should most of all be useful. But is only a rule on the operational level that text writers should consider. The chief Storyteller in the company should have a wider perspective with a further reach. The best stories somehow shine some light on the goals that your customers are tying to achieve and products are only means to accomplishing these goals. Sales people love to talk to the customers about reaching their goals and the hurdles that they have to face on the way there. The job of the Chief Storyteller and marketing operations is assuring that this actually happens.

The customer will always have an easier time understanding the problem than its solution

You can often hear that it is not hard to write stories for sports equipment manufacturers like Nike, but it is practically impossible to write one for a company developing an IT system that supports manufacturing and storage for small and medium sized companies. I personally believe that the second case gives us even more room for creating a story. We just need to stop focusing our writing on selling software.

For a good story you need to gain a good understanding of your customers' problems. Click To Tweet

A good story requires us to step into the shoes of our target customers and gain a good understanding of their problems. Even the problems that they haven’t even thought about yet. If we can warn them about these problems and present the goals that they could reach with us, they will be glad to work hand in hand with us. I’m sure that every manager of a small and medium sized manufacturing company would like to read how they could optimize their manufacturing and logistics, so they could reach the efficiency of market leaders. A good storyteller keeps the customers focused on their goals and talks about the problems on the road to reach them. The customers have a much better understanding of their problems than the solutions for them.

 

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If your marketing department is asking itself how many of your customers mention you or brag about you in their social circle, you have begun thinking about why should your clients brag about you to their friends. The answer to this question is crucial for the growth of any company. In the end, when marketers clog all communication channels, recommendations will be all that is left. Genuine personal recommendations. Some companies are well aware of this today, but they are mostly focused on technical challenges, mechanics, processes to incentivize recommendations, and neglect the emotional component that is the key motivator for honest recommendations.

If it does not motivate you personally, it will hardly motivate your customers

If we disregard the communication noise and pending customer oversaturation, because everyone is doing the same things, we should question ourselves about our long-term investments. And the way forward is not a secret. Honest personal recommendations among friends and spreading good faith in your customers’ social circle is the only viable long-term strategy. But before you invite your customers to recommend you or “like” something, please think about why they should do that. What could make them want to do it? Think about what brings you to the moment when you want to recommend something to your friends.

If you cannot brag about luxury items, you won’t buy them. Click To Tweet

Are you managing envy?

Do you really believe anyone would buy a €10,000 watch if no one would notice its value? If you cannot brag about luxury items, you won’t buy them. Do you think that Akrapovič sells their exhaust systems only because they add 2 HP and make the motorbike 1 kg lighter? This is perhaps their rationalization for buying, but it is not their main motivator. There are lots of similar cases. One of our customers sells water cooling systems for PCs. Water cooling enables a much quieter computer and more efficient CPU cooling which can increase its efficiency, but it still seems that they are mostly selling designer products – like Apple. In all of these cases, customers brag about their products. No one is embarrassed because they bought their product from Akrapovič, Apple or EKWB. What would you say drives their customers to brag about these products?

Do you really believe anyone would buy a €10,000 watch if no one would notice its value? Click To Tweet

This Saturday, Miha and I took our coworkers for a visit to three winemakers in the Vipava valley –Krapež, Miška and Lepa Vida. We could call it teambuilding, but our main purpose was presenting the TreBello project which involves the three winemakers we mentioned and will eventually lead to a reservation system for culinary tourists. We heard some genuine stories from each one, tried some amazing wine and wonderful dishes. On my way home, I started thinking where and why would my coworkers invite their friends. What will they remember in the long term? The wine? The story about leaving the berries in the wine for an additional year to enrich its taste? The 200 year old wine cellar? I don’t think so. If they tell their friends anything, they will tell them about this*.

B2B is slightly different. Instead on focusing on envy, we should be thinking about fear. If you want to know what drives recommendations in the B2B segment, I recommend you to read these two short documents:


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*How many people can fit into one wine barrel (2800 liters)?

Digitalization or digital transformation (if you prefer) is one of the key generators of current economic progress (as well as social development). When I try to explain it to our customers, I try to narrow it down to concrete examples. This is the only simple and understandable way to explain it that will fascinate them and lead them to taking steps in their development which could potentially include some of our services.

There is no survival without development

I often hear, especially among domestic companies, that they are a part of a mature industry and there are almost no chances for any significant new developments in their business. When I hear something like that, I first think about the owners of the company. I would not feel comfortable being the owner of a company that no longer believes in their survival – because there is no survival without development. It is only a matter of time.

There is no survival without development. Click To Tweet

The digitalization trend that we are witnessing this moment is a good development step in my opinion. Development trends have never been as clear as they are now. Digitalization opens new development opportunities to companies in 3 areas – they can improve the customer experience (CX), optimize their own processes or try to create new business models.

Hello digitalization, hello Barbie

I don’t want all of this to sound purely hypothetical, so I will illustrate it with a real world example. The last one that got me thinking was Matell. Not many people know the company, but they certainly know their main product – Barbie. It is probably the most recognizable girl’s toy that has been on the market ever since 1959. Yet they are still thinking about development. Even though most people would think there is no room for further developing of dolls, I discovered that Matell really embraced digitalization. Last year they launched their new product »Hello Barbie«.

»Hello Barbie« is a Wifi enabled doll that connects to the Barbie cloud. It recognizes the speech of English speaking children and meaningfully talks back to them. Let’s just say they integrated Cortana or Siri in their classic Barbie doll and it can adapt to the age and developmental stage of the child. Parents gain an opportunity to follow their child’s development, and it helps children develop their imagination. This has been one of the most important aspects of Barbie dolls since their beginnings in 1959.

Digitalization opens the way to new products that will probably bring more money. Click To Tweet

If I ignore the fact that this Barbie doll model costs $75 at Mattel’s e-shop, while the classic Barbie model costs a couple of cents under $10, I find the digitalization of the doll fascinating because they opened the way to new products which will probably bring much more money in the future than Barbie’s fashion accessories were bringing until now. Imagine »Hello Barbie« as the first step in your child’s journey of learning a foreign language. It could be used by speech therapists for example. Or it could simply be used as a toy that helps children learn new words. I can also imagine parents using it as a baby phone that monitors their child’s sleep. Maybe even as an archive that stores your child’s best memories. There is a bunch of reasons to call »Hello Barbie« a »smart toy« and parents will always find »rational« arguments to buy it. The manufacturer will try to find arguments for educators who will recommend their product as an accessory that will help in the development of your child. What parent wouldn’t want that.

Are you still certain that there are no development opportunities in your business?

Mattel has certainly drawn the attention of tech-geek fathers. At least in the short term. If I was buying a doll for my daughter today, I would definitely buy »Hello Barbie«. Even if it doesn’t yet work outside USA and Canada, and there are lots of negative reviews on Amazon that focus on dodgy connectivity and the complex setup of the service.

Are you still sure that there are no development opportunities in your business? What can we do to help you?

 

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When talking to a customer that wants to work with us, I first try to find the answer to the question above. I need to understand why buyers choose them. What can they offer to show their competitive advantage.

If the answer is based on the price, it soon becomes clear that we don’t have much to work with. Our contribution would only make them less competitive. Unless we cut down on their manpower by automating marketing communication and sales process, of course.

Our services are not intended for those who see their existence within the red ocean strategies. If your competitive advantage is based solely on the lowest price, you should concentrate on cutting expenses. This is the only thing that will increase your lifespan. Recommendations and encouraging recommendations should be your only strategy, so invest into great customer service. Grow only as much as you can from recommendations by satisfied customers. Acquiring customers through other means might be more successful, but it increases the cost of acquisition, so you have to figure out if you can afford it.

If your business comes from the fact that you do things that others cannot do, you’re in danger that no one will need your service/product. You will need to invest a lot to create a need for your product. First you need to invest in raising awareness of the problem that your product solves and later in convincing customers that your solution provides a better approach compared to competitive approaches to solving the same problem.

The essence of every entrepreneurial initiative is finding a market to create a temporary monopoly. Click To Tweet

If you have a solution for a problem that the market is aware of, yet no one managed to solve it yet, first find investors that will be able to follow your needs for expanding your business. This will be key for your global success. If your opportunity is recognized by competitors whose operations are better prepared to handle it, they will overtake you. It won’t matter that you were the innovators. Followers sometimes overtake those they once followed, because they were better prepared. They are sometimes able to remove obstacles that innovators didn’t recognize or were unable to solve.

The essence of every entrepreneurial initiative is finding a new market for a product and creating a temporary monopoly. Being able to do things that others can’t do. Or at least not as successfully. If that is a good enough reason for buying from you, the challenge that your marketing faces is relatively clear. The challenge that your product development faces is clear as well – you want to extend your temporary monopoly for as long as you can.

 

The answer to “Why should buyers buy from you?” really is crucial. Click To Tweet

All too often we meet companies that are confused when I ask them “Why should buyers buy from you?” at the beginning of our introductory meeting. I believe that the answer to that question is really crucial if the purpose of your visit is preparing a Customer Engagement Plan. More and more often I realize that our outside perspective can significantly impact the product development and the business model of our customers. If you don’t know exactly why customers should buy from you, you’ve probably found us too late. Not too late for preparing a customer engagement plan, but too late for your product development.

 

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Let’s face it – we are drowning in content. All of a sudden every company creates content to attract new buyers and these activities are only intensifying. Companies that invest in content marketing see the solution in increasing the quantity of created content, publishing content more often, repeating content and using additional communication channels. But does any of that really work?

I am certain that marketing has reached a phase where context is much more important than creating content. The success of content marketing will therefore depend on the skill of reaching consumers in the right context. Interesting content will never reach the consumers if we don’t know their context, because content without context will only bore them. Every story that reaches readers in the moment when they are not interested distances us from them. We might see it as collecting negative points – the more intense and uninteresting we are, the sooner we will be out of the game.

What you want to hear depends on your state of mind in the given moment. Click To Tweet

The fact is that you cannot succeed by providing bad content and having a boring writing style, but even good content combined with excellent language skills won’t necessarily lead to success. At least not in the way that was possible just a few years ago. Today’s efforts must be focused on providing the right content to the right reader at the right time. If content marketing is a tool for achieving the sales goals of the company, it is crucial to connect the created content to the buying rationalization of our buyers. What you want to hear depends on your state of mind in the given moment. The key to success is knowing the state of individual minds in a given moment, so you can serve the right content at the right moment in the way that the individual mind likes.

This means two things:

  1. Create content for the entire customer journey (for all target groups and products)
    Your content must cover the entire customer journey of your buyers and not only the initial interest generation, which is built mostly around problems that the buyer is supposed to be solving. If you think this will reveal too much information to your competitors, you are wrong. Your competitors already know how you attract new customers, just as you know how they do it. If you’re hiding anything, you’ve only managed to hide it from your potential buyers.
  2. Establish marketing automation
    There is no other way to get context or the state of the customer journey for individual customers than tracking their behavior on your digital backyard. That is unless they contact you personally, which is becoming more and more rare. It will be hard for you to influence anything when they have already formed a larger part of their purchase decision. Tracking the activity of individual readers by analyzing their digital breadcrumbs is necessary for determining their context. This will enable you to adapt and personalize their web experience. And to achieve both, you will need a well implemented marketing automation system along with great content.
Personalize to a point that is useful to the readers – provide content you believe interests them. Click To Tweet

I could probably write at least 10 more posts about sensibly implementing marketing automation, but if I cut to the point, it should:

  • Enable individual tracking of customers through the customer journey (marketing funnel) and proactively collect their data.
  • Personalize the digital experience of the potential customer with the provider (not only email communication, but the website as well).
  • Qualify the leads from the position of sales potential (buyer readiness) and import their information into the CRM system where the sales team can process it.

A piece of advice for the end … Be careful with personalization. You may scare away your leads by showing them exactly how much you know about them. Only personalize up to a point that is useful to them – providing content that you believe might interest them.

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PS.
If you want to enrich your investment into creating content and make your content marketing more actionable, I would recommend you read these manuals:



If you don’t want to be alone on this journey, email me: [email protected].