A great inbound marketing strategy is far more than a collection of tweets, blogs, emails and ads. Each element should play a defined role and achieve measurable results contributing towards an overarching strategy. In other words, it's all about the bigger picture.
This is why, for the last 18 months, workshops have been a key part of the marketing process at Six and Flow. We initially trialed the workshopping process on ourselves, admittedly with some scepticism. However, after a few test runs, we formed a solid framework which we now roll out across clients and see incredible value from, both for ourselves and for the client in question.
Workshops to generate a huge amount of information from new clients, allowing us to create effective marketing strategies that suit their needs and ambitions. However, for the client, the results extend far beyond this finished strategy document, and workshops offer something much more valuable.
First, they give clients a rare opportunity to get all key stakeholders in one room, gain collective buy-in and remove information silos for a day. Ask any growing company, and I'm sure they will tell you their teams are far too busy to have these collaborative sessions as much as they'd like. We make it happen.
Second, our workshops often evolve from an information-gathering exercise into something far more cathartic for these key stakeholders. Issues are aired out, worries shared and bold ideas suggested in an open forum. While we direct discussions, client input is essential and ideas from all stakeholders are welcomed.
As a result, our finished content strategy documents are effectively a joint effort, boosting company-wide buy-in.
We begin every workshop by mapping out key decisions that the company takes, and then asking the key stakeholders to step back and look at the wider context of how this all fits together from a numbers standpoint. We then ask them to take another step back and look at the emotional context of these decisions.
What we have learned from doing this is that "big picture" thinking is key to the long-term success of a business. Without a cohesive contextualised narrative, facts and figures mean nothing.
We are no longer in the 30-second ad slot era when messaging needed to be direct, punchy and identify the primary need of your consumer immediately. CMO Network member Kimberly Whitler recently explained to Forbes that consumers often spend more than half an hour engaging with your brand on their own terms, researching and information gathering online before making a purchase decision.
As traditional advertising mediums declined in popularity and inbound marketing approaches became more known, marketing messages have shifted from simple singular ideas to series of compelling stories which nurture deeper and longer lasting engagement.
People buy based on stories, people buy based on people, and people buy based on where they want to be rather than where they are. Key purchase decisions are often based on emotional factors. While some may discount this as reckless or irrational, author and philosopher Yuval Noah Harari offers a different viewpoint:
"When a human sees a snake, fear arises because millions of neurons swiftly calculate that the fear of death is high. If our ancestors didn't feel these emotions, they would die and fail to pass on their genes to the next generation. Feelings are thus not the opposite of rationality, but in fact evolutionary rationality."
We have seen plenty of marketing campaigns with goals such as '7.5% ROI' or 'reduce implementation time by two weeks' - and while these may be solid value indicators, they don't provide any narrative to empathise with. If your consumer is interacting with your content, it needs to say something more than "Buy me, buy me, buy me!"
Some people assume that emotions aren't based on thought, as we are not always physically aware of the incredible process occurring below the surface of our consciousness. What marketing needs to do is appeal to this emotional side of the mind, producing narratives which connect with the emotion of the client first and make the "rational" argument second.
But how do you do achieve an emotional connection when your product or offering isn't intrinsically emotional? Don't panic if you're not selling heart-shaped chocolates or teddy bears. This is where storytelling comes in.
Humans have always used stories to communicate and understand the human experience, from love to war to death. Everything we do is in some way based in stories. By using storytelling to its full potential, marketers can communicate complex issues in bold ways to drive a deeper connection with their audience.
For instance, look at the current Nike campaign with Colin Kapernick. It has little to nothing to do with apparel and shoe, besides the fact he's a former NFL quarterback. By throwing its weight behind his personal story and the wider narrative around civil rights in America, Nike has managed to deeply resonate with one of its core demographics, leading to a 31% jump in sales.
Another example is the 'Like a Girl' campaign from Always. Again, this had little to do with the sporting ability of young women, and focused more on challenging gender bias. The campaign told a well-crafted story, and resulted in double-digit brand recognition growth for Always, alongside numerous industry awards.
In an increasingly fragmented world, telling a bigger story allows brands to communicate tactically and powerfully across mediums. There is so much information swirling around today, why should a consumer give you their time and attention? You need to offer them engaging content which meet their needs, but delivered in a way which speaks to their emotional side.
Now to pull it all together. Understanding the bigger story is the key to a great marketing campaign, and this can only be achieved through a collective understanding within your business. The best way to achieve this is by hosting an inbound workshop, allowing everyone to contribute in a constructive way to a collaborative strategy.
Interested in learning more? Download our guide to inbound marketing strategy below, or get in touch with our team to ask us any questions. We'd love to hear from you!