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Marketing Messenger/ Branding & Communications

Content Must Drive Conversion, Not Make BFFs


by Tim Riesterer
Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer
Corporate Visions Inc.

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Article Highlights:

  • Just rehashing and regurgitating industry facts may help with SEO, but it fails to meet the threshold of so-called thought leadership.
  • Your content needs to have the kind of edge that demands a response.
  • The most effective way to change your prospects’ mind is to make them see their current status quo as unsafe.

At a recent industry event on demand generation and content marketing, I almost couldn’t believe my ears and eyes. One of the presenters provided a list of “stages” your content marketing needs to drive your audience through. Stage one, the first level of the relationship, was “awareness.” This made sense, but the final stage listed, the highest order of content marketing relationship, was “BFF” (or best friends forever, for those who don’t have a teenage texting lexicon).

Seriously, that’s why content marketing is such a big deal? A company needs to spend gobs of money to create BFFs?

Maybe I’m missing something, but all of the talk about aggregating content and becoming a destination for industry information–including your competitors’ content–seems to miss the point entirely. Just rehashing and regurgitating industry facts and “no-duh” conclusions may help with SEO, but it fails to meet the threshold of so-called thought leadership.

Unless your content drives conversion to commercial activity, such as pipeline and revenue, you have nothing, right? What am I missing here? Your teenagers decide their popularity and social media worth by how many “likes” they get. Are you really going to stake your marketing career and budget by having a certain number of likes as your goal?

Make Sure Your Content Creates Action
Your content needs to have the kind of edge that demands a response. You can do this by making sure your messaging appeals to the part of your prospects’ brains that causes them to change a habit or move from their status quo. This is called the “old brain,” sometimes referred to as the “lizard brain,” and the old brain has very specific requirements your message must meet:

  • The old brain doesn’t have the capacity for language, so it needs pictures to help it wake up and decide to do something.
  • The old brain is a very basic mechanism, similar to an on-/off-switch, so your pictures need to be very simple and concrete, not complex and abstract.
  • This part of the brain is your survival mechanism, so your visuals need to create a context that makes the status quo unsafe and prompts your prospects to take action.

Three Recommendations For Better Visuals
Remember these three rules so you will know you are creating visuals with power and purpose:

1. Context: As mentioned above, the most effective way to change your prospects’ mind is to make them see their current status quo as unsafe. Your pictures must depict the gaps and deficiencies in their current state that makes it both unsustainable and requiring a new approach. Don’t just show your solution and describe why it’s great and expect them to leap at the new opportunity. At first, your prospects see your offering as a painful change management project, more painful than the pains they are living with. You need to create a context that flips that perception where they see the pains they are living with as more painful than the pain of change.

2. Contrast: There is no perceived value if there is no contrast. The part of the brain you are appealing to craves contrast to help make a decision, so your picture needs to show clear contrast between the status quo and your solution. Depict the before and after by showing how your new approach specifically fills the gaps and overcomes the deficiencies of the status quo you portrayed earlier. This will help the brain determine the virtues of your solution since it can then visually discern the tangible benefits that you’re proposing.

3. Concrete: Simple, concrete visuals tell your prospect’s brain that the solution you’re proposing is not only real, but also doable. Complex and abstract visuals confuse the brain and paralyze it from making a decision. But by using imagery, such as numbers, arrows, stick figures, shapes, and whimsical icons, you are translating a potentially complicated concept into a simple visual that makes it seem accessible, approachable, and, as a result, doable enough to drive a decision.

So the next time you’re faced with developing content for your marketing campaigns, make sure to use visuals that comply with these three rules to incite your prospects to action.

About Tim Riesterer

A marketing and sales industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience, Tim Riesterer is the chief strategy and marketing officer for Corporate Visions Inc., a leading sales and marketing messaging company that works with B2B companies. Tim is also a recognized thought leader, practitioner, and author. His books, “Customer Message Management” and “Conversations that Win the Complex Sale,” focus on improving market-ready messages and tools that marketers and salespeople can use to win more deals. For easily integrated marketing and sales tips, visit