When was the last time you engaged and became persuaded by a set of bullet points?
One reason you may not have been persuaded (apart from the potential for boredom) is that our brains are not built to retain information that is set out as bullet points on a slide. In fact, bullet points are the least effective way of sharing ideas.
Neuroscientists have found that the fastest way to share ideas in business is through stories – particularly ones that trigger emotions.
The narrative structure of stories is more impactful than bullet points on PowerPoint, our brains are wired for narratives such as storytelling.
Other studies have proven that social storytelling is responsible for more than 65% of conversations had in public. It, therefore, makes sense that when you write content for your business, you’ll get more online engagement if you tell stories about your brand. Storytelling is a great way to keep your online messages consistent throughout your website, social media and blogs.
So why do we try to sell our vision and spread ideas through bullet points? It isn’t very inspiring.
Here are four storytelling ideas for creating content for your business:
Storytelling: Customer stories & anecdotes
Through Your Customers’ Eyes: Customer Stories & Anecdotes
Jeff Bezos notes that when the anecdotes and metrics (data) disagree, the anecdotes are usually right.
Customer stories are a credible way of demonstrating your expertise as a business. Ask customers about how they came to use your product and/or service. What did they try before and how did it feel to work with your company? Document the customer’s journey from finding out about your product/service to getting real outcomes from their interaction with you. It could be rags-to-riches, which develops an instant rapport with your readers and is inspiring.
Storytelling: Pictures, Videos, Action
A Picture Tells A Thousand Words: Use Images, Videos & Action
Neuroscientists have proved that we recall things better when we see pictures compared to when we read text on a slide.
According to a report by Social Media Examiner, 74% of marketers are using visual assets. Visual marketing can help you tell a consistent story with every image, matching with your brand style. Also use video when possible, with eye-catching shots and engaging conversations by staff, suppliers and customers.
Storytelling: Analogies & Metaphors
Get Creative: Use Analogies & Metaphors
As a child growing up in African, I was told many stories about the tortoise, the hare and the elephant. There were always lessons in those stories – lessons about the world, manners and good character.
Stories are not just for children and young adults. A great story teaches, inspires and engages. Try using analogies and metaphors to convey your idea to your readers. I once used the analogy of a duck on the water to describe the ease of using a certain software. The duck represented the simplicity and slickness of use while the duck’s feet pedalling like mad in water represented the robustness and accuracy of the algorithm behind the software. It worked very well in conveying a distinct competitive advantage.
Storytelling: Fictional Characters, Buyer Personas
Show You Understand: Use Fictional Characters & Buyer Personas
One of the coolest ways to engage your target audience is to show them you know what is it like to be them.
In a recent video, I used a fictional company to show how B2B companies struggle with internal and external alignment. This video was based on buyer personas, created from years of experience dealing with marketing, sales and engineering teams in medium to large technical industries. Sometimes, they fail to understand their competitive environment well enough to create a unique competitive advantage. The video illustrated an understanding of that misalignment and proposed a solution.
Are there any other types of stories you can tell about your business? Tell us in the comments and share this blog with your network!
Do you struggle to engage with your audience as effectively as you would like? Do you often find yourself stuck for ideas for content? This blog sets out content ideas for software companies seeking to kickstart their company blog.
List useful resources
A simple but helpful blog is always a good place to start for content ideas for software companies. This could include a bunch of online tools. Or you could highlight resources that would help any organisation regardless of industry. Team Gate’s blog looks at 400 awesome free resources you can use to grow your business. It includes everything from social media and community management to SEO and website analysers.
Use video instead of text
Consider using video content instead of text. Video allows you to show your personality and convey your passion for the topic. Recent stats show that 43% of people want to see more video content from marketers and over half of the marketing professionals say video gives the best ROI. In fact, over half a billion people watch a video on Facebook every day. That equates to around 8.3% of the people on earth! Wistia, a video platform for marketers, publishes mainly high-quality video content alongside text-based posts.
Discuss the hottest tech trends
When considering content ideas for software companies, you cannot go wrong if you write about latest technology trends. Some examples of the latest trends in the software industry today include:
Businesses in every industry are going to start building apps on blockchain platforms, which means the demand for blockchain developers is going to go through the roof. There is also interest in blockchain news in general, therefore content on the topic will likely attract many readers.
Similar to Blockchain, cybersecurity is an area which a growing number of developers are finding demand in. In recent years, cyber attacks against organisations have been increasing in both sophistication and damage caused. Articles on cybersecurity would be a good way to enter into regular posts regarding the topic. A good example is an article by The Market Mogul, which describes cybersecurity as ‘The focal point of 2018’ and sets the scene on the topic.
A guide to data management and data governance could be the first step for people setting up their big data initiatives. Eric Brown, an entrepreneur, data scientist and consultant wrote a useful blog called ‘A roadmap to success with big data’. This article gives a good idea of some of the essentials worth considering when starting out with big data.
The use of AI in improving and personalising your customer service is the obvious topic to go for. However, there are countless areas for discussion within this area. AI is being used in supply chain management and even creating a better hiring process. Interviewed developed a software which uses machine learning and natural language processing to sift through resumes to filter the best ones out from the rest.
Respond to industry research
Consider using a new angle to trigger a conversation. Industry research always attracts discussion amongst readers, especially in the comments section of the posting. It would be smart to be first to publish your own thoughts on latest industry research. If you do this, try approaching it from a new perspective to give your readers some food for thought.
The Economist gave a different angle towards automation – mentioning that over half of jobs are vulnerable to automation taking over.
There is a shift within IoT (Internet of Things) from building your own IoT stack to choosing from a range of IoT platform providers. This blog could cover the top categories of considerations that are the foundation of choosing an IoT platform provider – such as security and return on investment. This will assist developers when making the important choice.
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The past few months have brought some anxiety about GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which comes into force from May 25th. We are yet to see the impact that it will have on email marketing, for instance. Some consequences will be the reduction in email lists and a change in how companies ask for and store email addresses. Our hope is that companies continue to use email marketing as a key channel to reach, inform, educate and engage target audiences.
Compared to Facebook or LinkedIn, email marketing is a particularly profitable channel as you can reach customers who have already indicated interest in your product or service. According to the DMA’s Marketer Email Tracker 2018 report, ROI for email increased from £30.03 for every £1 spent in 2016 to £32.28 in 2017. Therefore, email marketing should be part of your overall marketing plan. In this blog post, we will outline how you can continue to use email marketing effectively, and even increase email open rates with your opt-in lists.
Factors Affecting Average Email Open Rates
First, let’s define Email Open Rates. Email open rates are the % measure of how many email recipients opened your email during a particular email campaign. Email marketing platforms such as MailChimp and Mailjet will give you an open rate for each campaign and also an average contact score for each person on your email lists. Your email open rate depends on many factors. Some factors are:
We generally aim for 25% or higher but if you have open rates that are lower than this, don’t worry too much. As noted above, there are other factors out of your control that could affect your open rates. For instance, the UK has one of the lowest email open rates at 13%, while Denmark has one of the highest at 31%. The important thing is that your email campaign achieves the results you want. That could be sales, engagement or simply raising awareness of your company’s activities.
When it comes to technical B2B markets, where there is usually more complex content and perhaps less marketing know-how, we see low to average email open rates. For instance, Engineering/Manufacturing have an open rate of 21.28% and IT see 26.69% of their emails opened by recipients.
How to improve your email open rates
We’ve touched on a few factors that affect how many recipients open your emails. The reason we want people to open our emails is that we want them to take an action. That action could be to click on a link or offer (we will discuss click-through-rates (aka CTR) in a separate blog). First and foremost, we need to understand the audience that we are trying to reach.
Run some tests
The best way to understand your audience is to run tests. A recent study by the DMA reveals that 47% of companies test under a quarter of their emails. 15% don’t do any testing at all.You could run tests on several aspects of your email. For instance, split your email list and send out identical emails but with a slightly different email headline or call to action. Don’t change more than one thing per test otherwise you won’t know which attribute made impact on your email open rate. Make your opening engaging and personal, then test away!
Write to a specific person
When you send out your emails, write them as if you are addressing one person. Use your recipient’s first name in your opening (add <<First Name>> tag). In the body of the email, use ‘You’ and ‘Your’ when possible. For instance, if you are referring to the recipient’s team, write “your team” instead of “the team”. Familiarity and an active tone are likely to draw in your reader. If you have understood your target audience, you will use words and phrases that engage them and ultimately moves them to take action.
Provide relevant content
Have an email marketing content strategy before you start sending out emails. Your strategy must consider your target audiences’ needs and the kind of content that they are likely to engage with. If your email recipients know that your emails will contain useful and actionable information, they will look forward to it and engage with it. Sending predominantly sales-y emails or irrelevant content or content that they can get elsewhere will result in low open rates.
Avoid words/phrases that scream “Spam”
Many email filters flag up emails that have words and phrases like “discount”, “offer”, “xx% off”, “sale” and “promotion”. Avoid using these words in your emails. Also, do not use all caps in your subject line or inside the body of your emails. If your email appears suspicious, your recipient’s email filter will put your email in the spam folder. Keep your email informative and relevant. Limit the number of links to ensure that your email is safe to open.
Send it from a person rather than from a company
Your emails are likely to get a higher open rate if they come from a person rather than from a company. Some email filters mark emails as “promotional” if they come from a company. For small businesses and startups, it is easy to send your email from your company founder or the marketing director, for instance. You will increase engagement and open rates if your recipients feel that your email is personal. Sign off with your first name – it’s a nice touch!
Ensure your subscribers have opted-in
Best days and times
Some research shows that the best day to send emails is Tuesdays if you want a higher open rate (>19.9%). But Fridays seem to get the highest click-through rate (>4.9%). Avoid sending business-related emails on the weekend or late in the evening. We have found that the best time of day is between 6 am and 10 am to get the most engagement from our email list. But don’t take our word for it! Try sending your emails at different times and days, see what works for your target audience.
Segment your email list
You might have a list of 500 subscribers. Do you send all of them the same emails? If so, you should segment your list and send them only what they are interested in. If you are an IT company, you could have an email segment for IT managers (i.e. decision-makers) and a separate one for IT users (i.e. not decision-makers). IT managers might want to read about cost-efficiency and tips for user adoption to technology. IT users would be more interested in shortcuts to make them more productive in their day-to-day work. When you keep the email relevant, you will see your email open rates increase.
Reward your top contacts
Most email marketing tools will score the people on your email list. Contacts who regularly open your emails will get a 4 or 5 star while those that open your emails occasionally or never open them will receive a 1 or 2 star. Try to offer rewards to your best contacts. For instance, offer an exclusive gift to them or invite them to a preferred contact event. Building a strong relationship with your best contacts will make them even more likely to open your email. Occasionally sending emails only to this group will significantly improve your email open rates.
Content structure: Simple/Complex
One challenge for email marketing is to stand out within an increasingly cluttered mailbox. Companies are finding that their subject lines and content are simply not attracting the attention of their audience.Consider having very brief initial descriptions, coupled with a very clear call-to-action. This is perfect for subscribers who quickly skim their emails. Try short content e.g. an email with just one link to a piece of content. Then try adding videos and more content to test how your email recipients engage with multiple pieces of content. Remember: fewer links are better.
Optimise for mobile
55% of emails were opened on mobile devices from May 2016 to April 2017 – up from just 29% in 2012 [Source: B2B Marketing]. Therefore, it is crucial that you optimise your emails for mobile. Some quick things you can do are to shrink your images and enlarge the font on the page. Remember that mobile devices automatically flip the orientation of the screen so your email should look good in portrait and landscape formats. One way to optimise for this is to use a single column layout. If you are not optimising for mobile, your email open rates are probably much lower than what they could be.
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Last week, Wetherspoons announced that it is shutting its social media accounts. The award-winning pub chain had over 44,000 followers on Twitter and 100,000 on Facebook. Was it a brave or a stupid move? Time will tell. In this article, I discuss the main reasons that Wetherspoons took this decision and what you can do if you decide to shut off your company’s social media presence.
Wetherspoons saw no real benefit from social media
In 2018, the average Wetherspoons Tweet received six retweets and four likes. When you consider that the chain serves three million pints a week, it hints that their customers are not really engaging with the chain on social media. Overall, Wetherspoons doesn’t believe that shutting down social media will have any business impact. Social media appears to be the wrong fit for Wetherspoons’ customers.
If you don’t have social media accounts for your business or you are thinking about shutting yours down, here are key things to consider:
Are your customers actively engaging with brands on social media?
First, analyse your target customers. Find out if they follow their favourite brands on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. If they do, dig deeper to uncover how they engage. Are they mainly making complaints, giving feedback or sharing content about their experience with the brands? Whatever you discover, ensure that your business is not missing out on valuable feedback and engagement. If you decide not to be on social media, implement other feedback processes e.g. through your website or a customer service centre.
Your website should be the centre of all your activity. Even if you have a strong social presence, your content should lead visitors to your website to learn more and grow your lead generation activities. Create a hub of regular content and resources for your customers on your website. Develop a good understanding of the topics that customers want to read about. Then ensure that they know that it is available on your website.
Develop Robust Email & Direct Marketing Programmes
Following on from the last point, you must let customers know about the content on your website. If you have no social media accounts, distributing content could get tricky. Wetherspoons has a magazine that it uses to reach its customers. Customers can get the magazine through direct mail or via one of the pubs. Another way to reach customers is to develop a robust email marketing list. This can be done through contact forms on the website, contests and in the pubs (by asking customers to fill out a form).
Create A Referral Scheme
If you have good engagement with existing customers through direct mail, email marketing or in person (at the pubs), you could implement a referral programme to encourage them to recommend your business to others. You could tell your existing customers about the programme by direct mail, your website and email for instance.
Make PR Your Friend
Bill Gates famously said, “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on PR.”
If you are not on social media, you need another channel to develop your brand story, make announcements about your business and to address the public in a crisis. Hire a good PR company that understands your industry and its influencers. Spend time developing a story that will engage your target market and push the story into the media as often as possible.
Do Events Well
Some customers just don’t do social media. But many will come to a great event. Events are a fantastic way to meet in person and give your customers an experience of your company culture and brand. Use events to bring partners, customers, employees and suppliers together. Or keep the different stakeholder groups separate. Whatever you do, do events well. Ensure that it is well-organised and relevant to the attendees. Follow up after the events. And don’t forget to ask for feedback!