Tell Me a Story: The Art and Craft of Meaningful Messaging

Content marketing is everywhere. A quick google search leads to thousands of items hawked by hundreds of companies, each trying to outdo the other and gain that all-important conversion. In this world of abundant information, how can you rise above the fray? How can you convince a prospect that your product or service beats the others?

Stop selling. Start telling.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Maya Angelou

Most people instinctively want to prove their widget is better with fancy graphs and statistics. They’ll use the latest and greatest jargon and pepper their prose with awkward acronyms. They might even explain a before and after or use astonishingly amazing alliteration. But they often miss the point—what really sets you apart isn’t the quality of your product or the expertise of your service—it’s your story.

What is a story?

Apologies to English teachers everywhere, but content marketing stories don’t necessarily have to follow a traditional five-step character arc. Brands should focus on telling stories that are:

  • Simple. Many companies want to include every bit of information in every piece of content, or convey too much technical information. This is especially difficult for those in highly technical industries. Your customer may not be on the tech side; even if they are, they don’t want to be bombarded with detailed specifications at first glance.
  • Emotional.  Don’t worry, we don’t mean your software solution has to make grown men cry. An emotional impact can be as simple as your prospect imagining the feeling of relief she’ll get when her product is FDA compliant. A better world is possible—you can make it happen.
  • Actionable. Don’t be coy. Make life easy on your prospect by painting a picture of what happens next. What can they expect? Don’t explain that it works—explain how it works. Then, most importantly, follow through.
  • Authentic. Tread carefully. You know you’re not being real when you’re trying too hard to be real. Consumers are cynical and savvy, they can spot disingenuousness a mile away. Don’t tell them the story you think they want to hear—tell the one that matters.

Here’s the catch: brand stories are best told by storytellers. Subject matter experts are rarely capable of crafting a compelling story. Your engineers are likely actual geniuses, your CEO a dynamic and visionary leader. But even if they are excellent weavers of words and tellers of tales, they’re too close. A talented marketing team can build a brand with insights even the founder couldn’t imagine. And of course, even if your engineers are secretly experts in product launches, their time is likely better spent perfecting their product or ideating a new one.

Wondering how you can turn your dull deliverables into quality content? Contact the storytellers at &Marketing today and discover how compelling your company can be.

Make Your Message Matter: Identifying and Promoting Your Superpowers

Ever feel a disconnect between the message you want to convey about your business and what you actually say?

At &Marketing, we understand that how you frame your message is key to how your clients—and prospects—see you. That’s why we’re proud to share this handy guide on uncovering and promoting your unique superpowers, written by our very own Chris “The Brain.” After reading, you’ll understand:

  • The top three messaging mistakes smart people make
  • How to help a prospect work with you before they make a big commitment
  • Valuable insights on what you’re *actually* selling
  • How to better discuss your unique position
  • & more!

Uncover Your Superpower

Still wondering to craft your unique message? We can help. &Marketing’s team of superpower sleuths can help you develop clear, engaging messaging that converts prospects into customers—faster than a speeding bullet. Consider us your personal Lois Lane.

When You Should Hire a Marketing Team

&Marketing’s Mascot & Mentor, Chris “The Brain” Hoyt is our guest poster this week, explaining how it’s impossible for a single person to be ‘expert’ in all the various marketing disciplines, and the need for focus and patience.  In Chris’ role, he helps our team understand and activate specific marketing tactics for our clients.

Chris The Brain
Why You Need a Marketing Team:

If you are a human on the Internet, then you probably already know how this article will end. You’re about to read why you ALWAYS need a marketing team, and you should hire OUR marketing team. The rest of this article is just a bunch of obvious drivel justifying the need for you to spend lots of your hard earned money paying a group of Millennials to make Instagram posts for you.

At least, that would be the point of this article if I wasn’t a salty marketing consultant tired of all the junk my industry puts out. The reality is that you probably do need a marketing team, but should start by doing a better job figuring out what you actually need from marketing first.

Stop Hunting Unicorns

The marketing unicorn is a young talented college graduate who can do social media, PR, video editing, web design, copywriting, graphic design, works for under 30K a year, has been guilted into putting off most of their adulthood due to their need to “pay dues” and is told by older businesses people that it is virtuous to only sleep 4 hours a night and work weekends. Of course, not only do these unicorns not really exist (they just fell asleep on their ice cream cones), their positions are not healthy for them or your business.

Doing lots of stuff without a strategy and the willingness to invest time and the expertise to carry them out is insanity. Unicorn or no, marketing is more than doing a lot of things at a surface level to see if anything works. What usually happens is that nothing works (surprise, surprise) and the business starts to think that nothing will work or that they got a faulty unicorn. Sometimes, a business burns through a few unicorns until they start to think, “Hey, maybe we’re doing this wrong?”

Do One Thing Right

I’m going to tell you a big secret in marketing: pretty much anything works over a long enough timeline, and nothing works in a short timeframe. All marketing depends on getting lots of people to make lots of different decisions, and that is the hardest thing in the world to do. Anything you do in marketing requires persistence to catch people’s attention, stick in their thoughts, and meet them at the right time to consider a change.

The best thing you can do in marketing is one thing well. Pick a good medium to reach your audience (hint: usually not Snapchat) and stick to making ads and offers in it. Track them, measure them, and tweak as you go. Once you are getting an ROI, then pick another source. Lather, rinse, repeat. You will get father than vomiting all over the Internet.

Expand Your Marketing Through Expertise

Instead of a unicorn, hire someone who is great at communication and organization. Have this person coordinate with your business, and the world of marketing experts all willing to work in contract roles because they are allergic to cubicles and early mornings. Have a digital marketing analyst run your search marketing. Have a true creative design expert work on your brand. Have a web developer make sure Russia doesn’t get a larger ROI from your site than your business. You seldom need any of these skills full-time, but you do need their full expertise.

Shameless Self-Promotion

Ok, yes, &Marketing is designed for businesses that need diverse marketing experience but are not ready for a full-time in-house team. And yes, I have written this “piece of content” just to grab your attention and put us in a position of “thought leadership.” But at least you know, that I know, that you know.

We may have created a new kind of marketing firm in the hopes of providing businesses the expertise they need, when they need it, without the usual cost and bloat of a traditional agency.  That doesn’t mean we are above using a few exploitive old-school tricks along the way. But the truth is that we believe this is a lasting trend, and many small and medium businesses need a team approach versus hoping that a unicorn exists.

The (Super) Powers of the Gig Economy

Today’s post comes courtesy of Melissa Garretson, &Marketing copywriter and long-time member of the gig economy. Curious how &Marketing’s team of experts can help your business? Let’s talk.

I miss going into an office sometimes. I miss putting on a slick suit and a pair of power heels to click-clack my way into a well-lit bastion of commerce. I miss stopping to chat with Mike in accounting, waving to Carol in payroll, and taking a break to dash into the lounge for a cup of coffee and a distractible ear. There’s a satisfying sense of camaraderie in a well-run office, mostly because you spend more time with the folks there than with the people to whom you are legally and preferentially bound. The physical office is also a great place to see and be seen as one attempts ascension of the corporate ladder. So yes, I do miss the office sometimes.

These days, my commute is a lot better. My corner office was once a guest bedroom and although there’s no Mike or Carol, my cats like to make special appearances on conference calls. The gig economy is gaining momentum as more and more successful and capable experts discover the joys of working in their workout clothes, and more and more companies see the benefits of hiring these pajama-clad professionals. Of course, this new economy is more than those working out of homes. You can find freelancers and contract employees filling nearly every role in every industry. Today’s worker bees are no longer anticipating a lifetime of working in one office, for one company. Instead, they’re expecting a diverse and varied career where they can hone their skills, choose their employers, and rise or fall on the waves of a meritocratic, assignment-based system.

Independent contractors may not be faster than a speeding bullet, but the gig economy does have a few impressive superpowers:

Cost Efficiency

Not only do companies save on overhead and HR benefits, they can immediately adjust personnel as needs ebb and flow. There are bound to be times an in-house employee is overwhelmed, underutilized, or just plain lazy. As a freelancer, I am my own boss and my boss knows all my tricks. If I waste time I end my day with nothing to deliver and nothing earned. It really is about efficiency—according to Inc., typical employees are only productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes of every 8 hour work day. When you hire by gig, you’re paying for only those 2 hours and 53 minutes. I can watch cat videos on my own time.

Caveat emptor, however. A quick online query displays an incredibly wide range of fees for every service. Some freelancers are inexpensive due to inexperience—they could be great if given the opportunity. Most bargain contractors however, are just… not good. Companies hiring solely by price typically end up engaging a second professional to clean up the first’s work. The safest, most time-efficient bet is to work with a respected firm the first time and utilize the vetted and screened professionals in their employ.

Access to Experts

Imagine a world where writers write, graphic designers design, coders code, and widget makers make widgets. That certainly isn’t your typical workplace. Most in-house employees are jacks-of-all-trades, whether they want to be or not. Businesses can’t afford to staff true experts in every area of their company, it would be incredibly cost-prohibitive. There are, however, many true experts looking for a gig here and there. Outsourced firms are a business’s best friend when it comes to matchmaking talent and project. “Things change on a week-to-week basis,” asserts &Marketing Managing Director Rajat Kapur. “We’ve nurtured a contractor bench of more than three dozen experts who can come in relatively quickly, understand a client’s challenges, and provide really good quality work. This flexibility makes a huge difference to our clients and to our bottom line.” If a client needs a copywriter, great—there’s an award-winning one available for up to ten hours next week. And when, in the following week, they no longer need the copywriter but are looking for a PR person, the roster is searched and the perfect person is found. Best of all, these experts often have experience with hundreds of companies in dozens of industries, giving them perspective and insights the average industry-leader can’t fathom.

Reduced Risk

Of course, sometimes the exact right person isn’t exactly right after all. It happens (I even had my doubts about Mike in accounting, but that’s neither here nor there). Companies realizing they’ve made a bad hire are in quite a pickle: do you forfeit all the time spent hiring and training someone, prepare yourself for the exit interviews, and jump the HR hoops that must be jumped, or just deal with an ineffective employee? Hiring a freelancer is the lowest risk option. If you’re unhappy with the work, all you have to do is not hire that freelancer again. That’s it. Of course, freelancers understand this and have a vested interest in producing work that will get them hired again and again—our pay is directly correlated to our client’s satisfaction.

I may occasionally miss my office, but the pros of freelancing far outweigh the cons. I’ve worked with everyone from software and jewelry designers to packaging and Hadoop engineers. I’ve stretched my skills and broadened my horizons and never missed an elementary school event. Best of all, I know I’ve crafted quality content for people I genuinely respect. Nice work if you can get it.

I wonder if Mike and Carol need a gig?