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Content Marketing: Strengthen Your Message with Stories

When I talk to partners about their business, I hear inspiring stories -- stories about helping a hospice spend more money on patients, or implementing ERP for a Native American nation, or providing managed services for a robotics startup. You also undoubtedly have great stories to tell. These stories can be the foundation for your marketing content.

When partners think about storytelling, they generally think about just case studies, which we'll talk more about later. But stories bring any material to life and help illustrate your point in a way that connects with your reader.

The American Express "Start Booming" ads are a great example of engaging stories that inspire and deliver the intended message. They're not case studies, but real-life examples of a benefit derived from a service: Small-business owners take advantage of their reward points to improve their business.

Stories for a Variety of Content
Stories help you make your point in a blog post, a whitepaper or webinar. You don't need to use the names of your clients and it's OK to combine events from unrelated projects to create the story that will illustrate your point. The goal is to help the prospect visualize how the technology will apply to and improve their business.

If you send out a monthly newsletter, include a story about a problem solved. Each month, focus on a different aspect of how your clients are migrating to the cloud. Instead of a case study on a SharePoint document management project, create an e-book with a series of stories about companies improving collaboration.

Case Studies: The Most Boring Documents on Earth
We are so used to following the "normal" case study formula of "challenge, solution, benefits" that we take out all human interest. Case studies should not be about the technology solution; they should be about the effects of the solution on the people and the business.

The following excerpt from a recent Microsoft case study is a good example of how not to engage your prospects. The generalization may be an attempt to make the case study apply to a variety of industries, but the outcome is anything but compelling.

"The company also had no central location to store contracts, performance reports, and other business documents, making it difficult for analysts to find critical information. For these reasons, ABC Company sought a new data solution."

Turning that idea into a story, even at a high level, will help connect the reader with the situation:

"Analyst turnover at ABC was high due to the long hours required to complete projects on time. To find the original contract and monthly performance reports for each project analysis report, the analyst needed to access three separate shared drives, drilling into four folders in each drive. ABC Company needed to make a change."

Your stories are interesting and help people make better decisions and improve how they run their business. Share them with tell the world.

Is your organization telling stories to connect with prospects? Please send me a note so we can share the knowledge.

This is the sixth installment in Barb's series on content marketing. Check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.

Posted by Barb Levisay on March 23, 2011 at 11:57 AM


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