When actor Martin Sheen prepared to play the role of McMurphy in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, he would play a nightly basketball game with the guys before going on stage every night. He literally prepared by getting physical, perspiring and cussing just like his character would do.
Just like a great character actor, can imagine being your customer?
To write magnetic content that informs or entertains, but also tugs at the emotions of your customer. ..
This should be the goal of your articles, posts, videos, and any other type of content you produce. If you can get a reaction that stirs the belly — yes, I’m talking about a physical reaction — then your content will be memorable.
The easiest and first way to predict how your content will go over with your customer, is to gauge your reaction to content that moves you.
You need only tune into the signals within you to know what you want your brand to feel like.
Pay attention to the cues your mind and body give you when you’re exposed to powerful content. You’ll realize that every day, you have a chance to study copywriting and marketing… even if you’re not even actually reading!
Where and when does this occur? In real life conversations you have; while listening to others’ conversations, podcasts, and other auditory material, and visually (like now) as you are reading a page or screen of text. Images also trigger deep emotional responses.
Simply practice awareness, and you’ll get a powerful lesson in marketing!
Focus on ONE Message
Because we can’t process everything, we filter content. Most of us living in the western world, using the internet and working in a modern society adjust to the thousands of messages coming at us with the finesse of a native urbanite in a crowd. We dodge them quickly and ignore most of the stimuli in our environment.
How do thousands of messages slip by us every day? Because we tune them out. Most are exactly what you’d expect. They blend in with everything else, so they don’t make an impression.
The other reason we don’t tune in? We’re all too busy trying to get what we want. We all have our own agendas which include putting out stimuli of our own. It’s a rat race, but we all do it.
I challenge you to pay more attention to what moves you.
The best content creators are people who not only create; they also absorb what they see and pay attention to how it makes them feel. They are attentive to the messages that stick. Case studies of interesting, successful marketing campaigns are always useful, but the most useful and educational ones come from your own internal signals. The ones you experience first hand.
Notice your reaction.
I put myself through these paces whenever I encounter a message (marketing, political, human interest, personal, etc) that stands out.
Of course you can’t do this with all the content messages you receive. Sanity requires that you tune out most things. But pay attention when one or two slip into your consciousness and stick there. It’s like a copywriter’s or content marketer’s reaction chamber.
Noting your reaction to content you see is the first way to discern how and why a message “works” or doesn’t.
In this article,
- I’m going to show you how to tune into the messages that work for you.
- Then I’ll help you determine what’s going on and why those messages are effective.
- Finally, I’ll give you a Content Marketer’s Take-Away, where I’ll point out how you can use that knowledge to make your brand’s content messages more memorable.
You want to be noticed. (Hey, we all want to be noticed.) But more importantly, you want your brand to be memorable, to make a difference that people feel and ACT on.
Content Marketer’s Take-Away:
Critique content and other marketing messages that strike a chord with you… you know, the stuff that rocks your world.
Next time you find yourself paying closer attention to a particular piece of content, gauge the following things.
1. What Are The Clues Your Body Is Giving You About The Emotion That Was triggered?
First pay attention to how your body reacts. Humans react to a huge range of stimuli,, but we all react in similar ways. It’s natural. When we’re excited, our eyes dilate; when we’re bored, we fidget or zone out. Common traits and behaviors match our levels of engagement and interest.
You might notice your heart beating faster, or your shoulders relaxing. You may hear an internal voice inside your head agreeing or negating the message. If something catches your attention, notice how it makes you feel. Comfortable, anxious, beautiful, surprised, angry, inspired? Try to tap into one or two predominant emotions.
There’s an app called iCouch CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) which has a jaw-dropping list of all the possible negative emotions you can feel. The app itself helps you get a realistic grip on your emotions when they’re pulling you in a not-so-pretty direction. Part of the solution is naming the emotion you’re feeling. It’s great for gaining clarity on negative emotions and triggered reactions you have to real-life incidents. (A therapist recommended it to me once, and after using it a time or two, I realize this exercise is similar.) The difference here is that you want to be aware of all emotions that content messages evoke, for this content marketing exercise to work — not just negative ones!
The ability to identify which specific emotion is triggered by a message or event is a useful skill raises your self-awareness and makes you a better marketer. I encourage you to try it.
Content Marketer’s Take Away:
Name the emotion you’re going for, then decipher some words or idioms that go along with that emotion. For example, the emotion Confusion may cause one to use words like “baffled; perplexed; wonder why…; explain to me…; I don’t understand…; bizarre; etc.”
Keep a list of those words to use in your copy.
2. Dissect Your Emotional Reaction.
Now see if you can go a little deeper.
- Do you believe the message?
- Do certain words or phrases trigger thoughts about the past, present or future?
- Do you find yourself internalizing the message (taking it personally), or using it to make comparisons between people, yourself or others?
- Do you enjoy the pace of the message, do you wish it would hurry up or slow down?
- Are you absorbed by it (forgetting yourself and climbing into it, laughing, nodding, engaging)?
- Are you deflecting the message (standing outside it, picking it apart, trying to decode or process it).
- Maybe it’s holding your curiosity because you can’t predict what’s coming next.
3. What Is The Source Of The Emotion?
Determine what it is you’re actually responding to.
- Is it the message itself, the power of the words or image?
- Does it remind you of something? A memory you savor, or one from which you recoil?
- Does it have a theme you’re drawn to? Is it like a story, a movie, a book or person you know, etc.?
- Does the message make you feel an emotion similar to one you’ve had before? If so, what was that associated with?
As a producer of content for your brand (or your client’s brand, if you’re a freelance content creator), you’ll find clues about your ideal customer’s viewpoints by reading Amazon reviews, asking questions on Quora, studying exit interviews, or simply lurking on forums and Facebook pages where they interact.
Do this! It’s so worth it to get a unique, personalized perspective from a few highly-engaged customers. You want to swim in their world, so really immerse yourself in it.
Content Marketer’s Take-Away:
When creating content, know your customer well enough to envision your content in the context of an emotional situation relating to a problem, a discovery, or some other factor in his or her life.
Next, allow yourself to continue along with this theme.
4. What Questions Does The Content Raise?
Does the message raise questions? What TYPE of questions are they?
Now here’s where things start to get interesting from a content marketing point of view.
Good content always has a jumping off point. There a reason that it exists in the first place. It provides some sort of answer, service, idea, resolution, critique, etc.
But it also (usually) leaves a door open. Possibly, the consumer of the content wants more content like it. Maybe they are intrigued enough to ask the next question that would lead to a sale, or at least follow a logical sequence of related information.
What about you? When a piece of content gets a reaction, are you wishing for more facts; or wondering about the credentials of the person writing or speaking? Does the content make you curious about how to solve, relieve, or improve something going on with you? Does is make you want to do something better for yourself or your community; or does it worry you?
For example, because of the report you just read, are you questioning whether you are really prepared for your upcoming presentation or product launch; trying to remember what you had for dinner at the restaurant last week; or dreading that blind date you agreed to; or looking forward to sharing the content with your followers on social media, or someone you know?
Great content is personal. It speaks to one person… and cracks the door open.
Content Marketer’s Take-Away:
Research where your content leaves something undone for your customer, and then plan content that closes the loop. Assuming that most content online isn’t a one-and-done type of sale, consider where you’ve left a gap, or where you can strategically place a gap that gets your customer wanting to fill that void.
The point here is to consider any rebuttals, objections, or clarification points that come up. Sometimes it’s what the message doesn’t say, which make it the most compelling thing you read all day. Your mind takes over and begins its own conversation.
Something else occurs when content is magnetic… You start imagining connections.
5. Where is the connection between the message and what matters to you?
Does the message connect two ideas? Maybe the message opens a door that your mind naturally wants to investigate further.
Watch when this happens. You could be riding a subway, gazing at a fashion ad through the window at a subway stop, and for the next three hours you’re pulling at the mental thread it left hanging. Or maybe an article you read keeps you associating some concept with another unrelated practice. For example, an article on digging wells in Africa make you think of a way to improve next month’s off-sight meeting. A pink dog sweater makes you remember a Christmas card your grandmother sent you when you were seven…
What’s that all about? Random thoughts and ideas may have connections to colors, smells, sounds, words, images, and other sense-stirring ingredients.
If you resonate with a content message, try to identify where a connection is made and why.
You’ll find there’s usually something you’ve been worrying about, or daydreaming about or even something you’ve been exposed to that you didn’t even consciously register. Maybe you think of a time in history that made an impression, or you thought about a prominent individual in your life, or you suddenly remembered to make a forgotten phone call.
Content Marketer’s Take-Away:
The deepest connections happen under the surface of the actual text or images of an article, PPC ad, or video. This may or may not be helpful to you, but I honestly believe that this is the area where a marketer can try as they might and still not exactly understand why a customer clicks or likes a message.
People are so completely different, and content hits you in such a personal way! There’s always some sub current of emotion that marketers can never know. It’s important to spend time with your customer.
This is where social media is wonderful, and really useful to the content marketer! Here, you can really develop relationships with people who matter to your business. Share, ask questions, and support their dreams and goals. You can even foster relationships between your clients by knitting together an online place for people who share similar goals or outlook. Sometimes they may not even know their goals exist unless they see your content… Can you see how important your work is? Don’t take it lightly.
Next, consider the immediacy factor…
6. Why Is This Important NOW?
Try to match the message with recent history, in a time-related context. If you have responded to a piece of content in a memorable way, why is the message triggering those emotions now?
Context in your life may be unique to your internal thoughts and memories, or it could be a product of your culture and environment: Books you’re reading, recent conversations, a memorable image or video, an upcoming season or holiday, or trending news, etc. Pinpoint why the source of content is relevant to you right now.
It’s likely that the connections you make after viewing some content are not random thoughts about events, people, or memories that come up. You reacted to the message or the content for an identifiable reason — and that reason occurred in the not-so-distant past.
Content Marketer’s Take-Away:
Your job is to strategically map a way to engage a customer through the fulfillment of his or her goals. That means you should understand all stations along the way, whether or not it results in a sale. The past feeds into the present, and within a single brand, you have a lot of control over the sequence of messages your customer sees.
A previous Facebook ad, instructional video, or blog post, rarely works all on its own. It’s usually part of a chain of content that leads the customer toward the discovery of a solution to an immediate or impending problem.
Content (especially online content) is powerful because it cannot exist in a vacuum. It always fits into a continuing series your customer experiences.
With all the automation tools and multiple sources of social media at hand, you can arrange for marketing messages to appear in a specific order, and in a context that is relevant to your customer.
Effective messages have a visceral effect on your brain and heart.
The more you monitor your reactions to content that moves you, the more you’ll notice what makes you react, and then ACT. As a content marketer, pay attention to small triggers you respond to.
The content you publish and share should captivate your customer in a parallel manner.
Studying how people internally process content is a never-ending, fascinating process.
The stickiest content triggers hundreds of human reactions on many levels within microseconds. Good content starts with speaking your customer’s language, and sets of a fountain of sparks that light up the deepest parts of your customer’s being. It takes practice and a really strong understanding of your customer, but when it happens, your content “works!”
The better you understand how your mind, body, and spirit process words and information, the better you will be at tailoring the right message to your customers when you write content or copy.
Remember the way certain great character actors get ready to perform? Marketing is similar to acting, although you’re not “on stage.” When someone is exposed to your content, you just might captivate your audience the same way an actor entertains a crowd of people.
Step into the feeling you want your customer to have, and the shoes she’s wearing now. Then you can deliver great content messages that fulfill their needs and compel people to act.