The 3 Most Effective Content Marketing Principles

by Eric Tsai


It will be increasingly difficult to grab attention from anyone on the Internet or in person.

You may spend hours writing a great blog article, creating a high-value video or designing your marketing slicks only to find that people just aren’t interested in consuming them.

Why?

Because we’re being bombarded by messages, alerts, and feeds every second. We’re constantly distracted and interrupted when we invest our time on the Internet. As a result, our brain essentially reconfigures itself.

This is what Nicholas Carr, the author of the book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, found when he studies how the Internet influences the brain and its neural pathways.

Basically he discovered that the mental and social transformation created by our new electronic environment makes us shallower, unable to concentrate and strips our ability to do deep creative thinking.

Carr argues that,” We want to be interrupted, because each interruption brings us a valuable piece of information… And so we ask the Internet to keep interrupting us, in ever more and different ways. We willingly accept the loss of concentration and focus, the division of our attention and the fragmentation of our thoughts, in return for the wealth of compelling or at least diverting information we receive. Tuning out is not an option many of us would consider.”

Simply put, greater access to knowledge is not the same as greater knowledge; and breadth of knowledge is not the same as depth of knowledge.

So how does this affect your marketing or how you produce content for your business?

The answer is simple. If you don’t produce content in the way that people want to consume them, you will not be read, remembered or passed on.

Most of us simply don’t read and retain what we consume over the Internet like how we do it with physical books.

In fact, I heard one of Carr’s recent interview as he described that most people read over the Internet in a “F” formation, scanning horizontally across at the top, then moves down the left and half way down scans again across.

It’s indicative that in the process of producing compelling content you take consideration in the following mistakes to avoid so you have attractive “looking” content in format, length and appeal.

1 Strong Opening That Gets Straight To The Point

Great copywriting is not different than great public speaking. You must instantly grab people’s attention in a thought provoking way without trying to be fancy.

This is why article/book titles, the first 10 seconds of you meeting someone are so critical to set the tone for your audience.

Your audience’s mind wants to see the payoff by giving you the attention and their emotions are driving the need for you to get to the point.

This is extremely important as we humans do a lot of consequential thinking to figure out why we’re investing our time in consuming information.

Most experienced professional coaches, consultants, marketers, gurus or trainers have a lot of knowledge, but they often forget that they are the expert and their audience are not!

That’s why it’s important to open with a great title or introduction that immediately gets to the point.

The wealth of information out there usually overwhelms normal people, so I recommend you to focus on emotional connections so you can meet them where they’re at and try not to use any of your professional jargon. It takes practice.

2 Use Emotional Keywords And Phrases

Give them what they want then facilitate what they need as the content unfolds. Leverage emotional keywords and phrases that automatically paints a specific picture and are easy to understand.

When you use complex, difficult to understand phrases, your audience has to do all the work to figure out what you mean and it interrupts the flow of consuming that piece of information.

Stay away from theoretical, conceptual, abstract and general terms in your communication. Focus on communication that brings concrete, emotional and specific outcomes.  This is because we’re wired to respond more with what Paul MacLean discovered as our reptilian brain or what some calls lizard brain.

MacLean’s evolutionary triune brain theory suggests that the human brain was made up of three brains: reptilian (self preservation), limbic (emotions) and neocortex (logic).

I won’t go into the details but basically the reptilian brain can hijack the higher levels whenever it wants to do so especially when there is a pain point or urgency to solve a problem.

It can be as simple as the “need to know” urgency where you seek immediate knowledge (we want to be in control, our logical ego) or looking for an answer.

People don’t go to seminars, watch videos or engage in a conversation with you for no reason; even entertainment and the need to connect or to be heard is something we unconsciously look for.

3 Leverage Powerful Stories That Creates Your Marketing And Conversation

Story develops relationships with people. In order to do that people have to like you, know you and trust you (and yes, you can do that over the Internet).

Just having social proof is not enough, just being a likeable person is not enough.

Both of those are great foundation to build your relationship on, but ultimately people are more likely to buy what you sell if they trust you.

And trust can be built via powerful stories that motivates and inspires people.

When developing your story think of your story as a movie.

There is an opening, a situational challenge and then it goes through a rollercoaster ride that eventually hits a turning point then finally ends.

So how do you position your story?

You need to start your story high where everything is normal then take your audience to a low point where they can relate and connect but don’t make people feel sorry for you.

And then through a turning point or a series of events you overcome the lows and that’s where you give your audience hope.

It is NOT about you but your audience. Don’t make it your life long story or biography; focus on a specific area of your story that allows people to quickly learn about who you are.

Your story is a way to show your humanity so people believe what you can do for them.

The take away: Content marketing is about creating information that are meaningful to your audience and engages them emotionally.

The real value is when you’re able to meet them where they’re at psychologically and make them highly motivated to take actions.

Whether it’s signing up for your newsletter, buy your product, get your coaching or read your book. In fact, it can also be used to get your internal team on board or management buy-in to your proposal.

Everyone is inundated with information, overwhelmed with daily tasks and if you can focus on the 3 principles above, your audience will be drawn to you more because you make it about them and easy for them.

How do you approach marketing your information, content or product? Share your thoughts below.

What Is Adding Value And How It Applies To Social Networking

by Eric Tsai

As a social media advocate I often discuss adding value to the conversations, to the communities or to the relationships. I guess I assumed everyone already knew what the term means and how it applies to them until I started to get questions from people.

So what exactly is adding value and how? Is it just an over-used marketing jargon? An illusion of a feel-good emotion? The more I use the term “value” the more I feel like it’s loosing its soul (I’m guilty as charge at times).

One of my favorite artists, the awesome Hugh MacLeod had a great piece about Adding Value with the quote, “The aim of “adding value” is a hard one to argue with… who doesn’t want to add value to their current enterprise? But it’s also utterly meaningless…”

Well, obviously there are many ways to look at it but here is how I perceive the meaning of adding value.

Let’s face it, most businesses wants to add value to the bottom line which means making sales and growing profits.

In sales, adding value used to mean networking in the best interest of your company or your career which is to sell, sell, sell!

Today it means helping people to make informed decisions, finding out their needs first and showing an interest to solve their problems not yours. The one way sales pitch broadcasting simply becomes part of the meaningless noise in a sea of noises.

The Meaning of Knowledge

In sales, either the product sells itself (more of an affirmation and emotional validation) or it’s selling via education (information and data).

A Porsche salesman don’t sell the 911 Turbo, they sell the experience of buying a Porsche (great products drives emotions). On the other hand, a Honda salesman sells the features and benefits against competitors like Toyota and Nissan (value proposition, more needs than wants).

In both scenarios, the goal is to ensure that the person feels good about the decisions that they’ve made (or going to make) on the purchase which leads to trust building. And trust is built on relationships from knowledge and actions.

The more knowledge you have, the less fear you have, the less stress you feel and the better you feel about your decision making process.

You could think of having knowledge as freedom from limitations and having information is empowerment. The ability to make your own decision is valuable because who wants to be pressured into buying?

Emotion Trumps Logic

Now you know the importance of adding value through knowledge transfer, you then need to know how to take actions with your knowledge.

Besides physically helping someone, the action part comes down to communication. And because emotions are the essence of the communication, marketers need to focus on the emotional needs of the customers at the time when feelings are vivid. This mean to empathize with your customers and truly focus on how to make their lives better.

You can not make people’s lives better if you don’t understand their lives.

When you solve someone’s problem, they’ll usually remember it not because of the facts but because of how they felt when it was happening. Simply put, memory is tied to emotions and emotions are more real than thoughts.

Now apply that to marketing and you’ll realize that providing useful and meaningful information does exactly that – it makes people remember you if you satisfy their needs by providing value!

This is why the increasingly Social Web is a great place to find those that are in need of knowledge (also why information product sells). When you need an answer, you want it now, you Google it (you can Yahoo or Bing it too of course).

The online conversation across all social networks are as authentic as it gets, besides the offline in-person engagements, because it’s taking place when people are still feeling the emotions dealing with their problems – what is, how-to, why is, who can…you get the point.

The rest of it is about the context of adding value, at the right place at the right time.

The optimal time to email your subscribers, the suitable LinkedIn group to contribute knowledge or the people you engage on Twitter – they’re all channels to add your value to the conversation within the communities to forge solid relationships.

Motives and Actions

The last point in adding value is the motives behind such actions. Why are you doing this? Why are businesses embracing the freemium model?

Most of the time the objective is to create brand awareness, build credibility and what I keep pounding the table on: to create social proof around the topics of health, wealth and relationships.

However; there is always a trade-off, you get free Gmail with all the awesome features of other Google Apps because Google advertises around your inbox.The same applies to most of the social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. You’re exchanging personal information to use their products.

My take is that if you’re honest about your intentions and focus on serving only those that matters to your business, you will attract the customers you want.

Like what Seth Godin wrote in his book Purple Cow, “the key to failure is trying to please everyone.” Well, he’s right, everyone is NOT your customers.

And the science behind motivation isn’t as clear cut as features and benefits or even monetary rewards. Checkout this video by RSA animation adapted from Dan Pink’s talk at the RSA on “The surprising truth about what motivates us.”

The take away: Identify your customer’s problem is where adding value starts. And listening when they talk is your opportunity to fill the value gaps.

Think of it as facilitating the process of buying on their terms not yours. You have to create the right environment that entices people, and if you do it well, then they will show up and join the party.

It is only by adding value you will be remembered, reciprocated and passed on (via word-of-mouth).

There are simply too much information and too little time. Marketing messages are everywhere and people have developed ad blindness, seeing doesn’t mean retaining.

Are you adding value?