It’s been a bit of an absence in blogging, but I just haven’t seen anything that caught my attention enough to comment.
A few days ago, during my perusal of marketer blogs, I read a post by the always insightful Ardath Albee (Marketing Interactions), entitled “Scenarios Add Value to Marketing Content.” In that post, she advocates framing content marketing in terms of scenarios, like customer success stories. This is exactly the point I have been trying to make in my posts like “Successful selling by using simulations to put your prospects in their own (future) success story”, “The Best Content Marketing for Product Manufacturers: Problems Your Products Solve“, and Scenario-Based Simulations: the Makings of a B2B Love Story“.
Ardath argues that if the story (or book/movie in her description) is done well, “[it] moves you to believe its veracity for the time you’re involved.” In other words, the idea is to convey an experience, not just a testimonial about your product or service:
The reason scenarios are important is because they take our content from 30,000 feet to 3 feet. Scenarios don’t just help our prospects understand the concepts, but relate to them by being able to visualize what they might mean in practice for them and their companies.
she feels that customer success stories are a good starting point, but need to be reframed:
The reason [customer success stories] usually aren’t great scenarios is because they’re focused on the nuts and bolts and on making your company look good. Imagine the power if they were actually told in a way that allowed the prospect to visualize themselves going through the experience…
I would say even better than allowing them to visualize going through the experience would be to allow interaction as part of the experience–the customer ‘solves’ the problem presented (and the problem is framed in such a way as to highlight the features or capabilities of the product). The piece puts the prospect in his or her own success story.
Success stories are good, but where else can one get good scenarios? From product training. Training should be designed to help customers solve their problems. A company should have a wealth of training material available, and therefore a great place to start in the search for good scenarios is by reviewing training scenarios. I don’t think that content for training should be the same as content for marketing — in the training context, the desired outcome is to have the learner acquire a skill, whereas in the marketing context, I believe it is to have the prospect believe they can acquire the skill. The somewhat subtle difference is that the training is typically a more involved interactive experience, but there is no reason there could not be a connection between a marketing piece and the training piece, for those prospects who want to delve further. This echoes the insightful (but often neglected) phrase “marketing is educational.”
I think that the idea of basing marketing materials off good training content sounds like a future common sense marketing principle, kind of like the way content marketing has emerged as a means to solve customer problems, rather than simply a medium for extolling the virtues of a product.