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The Content Lever

Content that connects with your customer.

Creating a message that can cut through your market's clutter is an important challenge for any brand.

To consider this question for an industry trade show like NeoCon, we sampled product pitches for seating product launches from last year's show. Here are some quick observations: 

  1. The average pitch contained ten to 13 claims, such as "modular design", "optimum ergonomics", "high functionality", or being a "new generation" of seating. This is a lot, considering the common understanding that we can hold about seven things in our short-term memory. At a busy trade show, you may be lucky if they remember one key claim.
  2. 70% of these claim leadership in ergonomics, design, modularity, flexibility or comfort, including terms such as superior, optimum, new, innovative, state-of-the-art, etc. Can each competitor be a leader in all these areas? Does all this hyperbole help?
  3. 85% of these claims were from the company's point of viewrather than the user's point of view. For example, "design driven," "many colors to choose from," "re-engineered interface," and "sustainable practices" may be valuable, but too often the claims are about internal processes, benchmarks, or product characteristics. The question should be: How is this solving a user problem?

This is indicative of a traditional approach to content, where more is better. Companies load information onto customers about their solutions, not how their offer addresses customer problems. But you can’t inform someone into loving your brand. 

The Content Gap

Creating content for shows like NeoCon risks leaving a gap between what the company says and what the customer wants. On one side is the company, with a long list of empirical data trying to prove how its product is better. On the other side is the customer, sifting through mountains of information on product features. How can companies create meaningful content that stands out? Here are a few content creation principles.

Inspire, then Assure

Each piece of content should connect with either the heart or the head of your target audience. Trying to do both at the same time is tricky if not impossible. 

Start with inspiration – content that captures the heart. Inspiration pulls an audience in, triggers decision-making, and gets shared. Without it, people get bored or spend too much time considering options. What is the urgency in your message?

After inspiration, assure your audience with support for your claim. Be authentic; don't make bold but unsubstantiated claims. What are you doing that makes your makes your message believable?

Stimulate, persuade, inform

Marketing content often performs three basic tasks: To stimulate, persuade, and inform.

Going to market with only one type of content risks making your conversation flat, and disappearing into the market static. To rise above the noise, create the right mix of your content across all three categories. This will make your content more human and will create an opportunity for your customer to engage with your brand.

Stimulate – Give your customer an urgency to act, decide, and remember. This content requires knowing what makes your customer tick. People are emotional beings – normally what inspires them is not data driven. How does your offer transform their daily lives?

Persuade – Give your customer the opportunity to engage. This content frames the offer in a way that is compelling. It is where many traditional marketing campaigns live.

Inform – Give your customer the data they need to make a decision. This content is naturally created as products go through the development process, but is too often in the forefront of customer-facing content.

Creating content the moves from inspiration to assurance helps create a foundation for connecting with your customers. As you plan your next trade show, product launch, or promotional campaign, be sure to map your content approach.

Great content alone does not guarantee success. In a crowded marketplace, how do you know your message was received and that it had meaning? The Content Lever is one of the three ways you can rethink a customer touchpoint. 

To dive deeper, read A Structure for Non-Textual Communications by Jay Doblin.

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