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When you drop a pebble into a body of water, the splash creates ripples that multiply and expand outward symmetrically. The ripples get larger and larger, reaching more and more space within the water.
Some people like to imagine effective content marketing in that way – an ever-expanding item that continuously reaches farther and wider than before.
Samantha Stone, founder and CMO of The Marketing Advisory Network, isn’t satisfied with that analogy. Ripples are predictable and monotonous, and if you replicate them with your content, she argues, you’re not cbuilding an engaging experience for your audience is having.
Check out Samantha’s full opinion on content marketing as a ripple effect as well as much more in this exclusive Tuning Fork interview!
In This Conversation:
“Resonance” is an important content marketing principle. Merriam-Webster defines it as: a sound that’s produced in one object that’s caused by the sound or vibration of another. When we apply this concept to the content we generte, marketing becomes a lot more interesting and powerful.
Resonance is a lot more than just being relevant – it's inspiring action. As marketers we have an obligation to engage our audience in a way that entices them. Because of how much content is being produced, the diversity of our community, and the variety of places our assets are read and watched – we have to create experiences that are not only relevant, but that our audience recognizes themselves in the material. In effect, we want to create content that is playing off of what the audience is experiencing.
My son just started at RIT in upstate New York. When we went to his Accepted Student Open House a few months ago, there was a gentleman walking up and down the aisles playing the violin. And I thought, this is a rather unusual thing for a technology school. But they explained later that he was only playing a small number of notes, and that the instrument had been programmed to take a cue from the notes that were played and to create the rest of the song. Only every once in awhile, would he redirect it by playing a few notes, and the instrument would redirect itself.
For me, that’s the perfect analogy for content marketing. We want to create a rhythm that kicks somebody off, but then we want them to pick that up and make it their own. We want interaction that evolves back and forth with their input and feedback.
More than a ripple effect. What bothers me about the ripple effect is that it’s essentially the same thing moving outward. With meaningful resonance, we don’t just take our kernel and project it outward multiple times as a copy. We change our content and the way we create it based on the iterations we have with our audience. Their viewing of it, their feedback about it, their modification of it for their own purposes – they all inform what we create. Rather than a ripple effect, it potentially becomes a very different thing than we may have started out doing.
I’m not going to walk into a boardroom and walk out with money for my resonance campaign. They’re not going to understand that.
Here’s the reality: when I show someone the research on what the buyers want and the strategy to apply it, I don’t get a lot of push-back. What’s the alternative? To create more stuff “about us”? More data sheets and collateral?
Conceptually, I find it very easy to talk about this notion of relevance and resonance, and focusing on the people that we’re trying to sell to. The challenge comes in the day-to-day operationalizing of that vision – when the CEO has a board meeting and wants a shiny new object to show. Or a salesperson just got off a phone call and says gosh, I desperately need this new thing. All of a sudden, we get torn away from our core mission, and we start trying to create every piece of content for every person across the company.
I firmly believe that content marketing is struggling, in every organization I go to, because they are actually no longer responsible for content marketing – they become responsible for content. That is a very dangerous slippery slope that we cannot afford to let happen. Content marketers cannot write every proposal template, every web page, every datasheet because when content marketing becomes responsible to those day-to-day fire drills, it is impossible to stay true to the vision of what really needs to be done to move buyers forward.
A portion of the content strategist’s job is to create efficiency within that organization. They have to be disciplined about taking time to create the structure, process, and tools that let them scale, and we have to give time to them to achieve that mission. We have to set goals and metrics that gear towards the greater goal as opposed to just being responsive.
Most content marketing organizations struggle because the content marketers are effectively measured on the amount of content that’s produced. We need to go back to measuring them on the effectiveness of that content, so that they can be more disciplined about where they pay attention.
There is no way to build content that resonates without personalization. But I want to be really clear on the definition of personalization. To me, personalization does not require that I know everything about you as an individual. Nor is it replacing (First Name) with my name. It’s not personal to me that suddenly this video has my name in it, or my logo appears on the screen. It does uplift response rates to do those things. But that’s not really the heart of personalization.
To me, the heart of personalization is using everything I happen to know about you. Whether it be an order you placed in the past, some content you consumed in the past, or a conversation you had with my sales team – whatever it is about you that I’ve learned. When I use that insight to direct our content exchange we are likely to experience true, interactive resonance.