If you spend any time trying to understand how to better market your business, you’ll quickly find tips and tricks about what to post to Facebook, achieving engagement on Twitter, or using Instagram, Snapchat, or LinkedIn to create relationships and build opportunities. This is content marketing – a crucial means of using your ideas and thought leadership to reach an audience interested in what you have to say.

But content marketing by itself is a dead-end street. What, exactly, are you marketing? For what purpose? Once you get people on your email list or following you on Twitter or liking your Facebook page…then what? Another newsletter? A 10% off coupon? If all you’re marketing is your product or download or service, you’re missing the essential ingredient to what people are actually interested in: Your story.

If all you’re marketing is your product you’re missing the essential ingredient: Your story.” quote=”If all you’re marketing is your product you’re missing the essential ingredient: Your story.

Seth Godin says marketing is just telling a story to people who are inclined to believe it. Yet few of us, especially small businesses, take time to define and understand our own story, much less how to share it in ways that will impact others.  I call this your marketing identity – self awareness about what makes you and your business interesting, meaningful, or unique.  Knowing your marketing identity is crucial to knowing what you’re marketing, why, and to whom.

The best stories are emotionally driven. You might have a pet store that’s open later hours than others – great, market that. You might offer more products at cheaper prices. Cool, go ahead and market that, too. But your real story – the thing that will develop lasting relationships with customers – is your love of animals. The thing that everybody can sense or feel the minute they walk in the door. There are lots of pet stores out there, and sometimes people will shop where it’s cheap or convenient, sure. But they’ll prefer to shop where they feel good about the people working there. And for most of us as consumers, customers, and buyers-of-stuff, the purchases that matter are purchases we invest some emotion into. You don’t buy running shoes. You buy the feeling of running. The shoes just make that feeling easier to achieve, or more enjoyable, or safer.

Careful, though, that you don’t try and manipulate your customers into some artificial storyline or emotion. A few years ago Facebook made its first TV commercial – “Chair” – that worked really hard to make Facebook seem like something transcendental. It smacked of self importance and felt absurd. In fact it was the perfect template for the HBO show Silicon Valley to spoof in a commercial called “Tables.” When you work too hard at trying to concoct your story, rather than allowing it to organically reveal itself, or when you try to obviously yank on heartstrings, people get turned off to you and your product. Remember, the same old rules apply – be credible, be authentic.

Facebook’s “Chair”:

Silicon Valley’s “Table”:

Here’s what I’d like you to do next:

Before you start creating your blog editorial calendar, producing your downloadable content, and scheduling next week’s Periscope video, know why you’re doing these things at all. Know your own marketing identity.  This means truly knowing your audience, what they’re experiencing, what they want and need, and why they look to you to be involved. Understand your story and how to tell it, so others will understand it and want to know it. Marketing your story with your content then becomes inevitable.

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