How to empower employees to be successful storytellers

This post outlines a strategic content marketing process to empower employees to be successful storytellers.

My personal story:

I was recently taken on a tour of a company by a client.

As we wandered through the showroom, depot and office, I was struck by the passion and enthusiasm that pulsed throughout his narrative. Neil’s business sells and instals bespoke bathrooms and wet rooms for disabled people in the South West. The “thank you” cards that adorn the walls of Neil’s office are a testament to the dignity that his team return to their clients.

What struck me as I walked with Neil, was how inanimate objects: Basins, toilets, showers and taps all came to life via his compelling narrative, with the detail that only someone with a lifelong career in installing specialist bathrooms and wet rooms could convey.

Had I recorded our hour-long tour of the business, the narrative could have provided an entire editorial calendar for marketing the business to its external audiences. But that wasn’t my role; It’s the job of the managers in the company, who I am training to be content marketers and storytellers.

Neil’s storytelling is the kind that underpins the very best small businesses, and my job is  to put in place a process that the managers can use to source, extract and produce rich, meaningful media that builds experiences and relationships with customers. 

The science of storytelling

My point is this: Before your employees attempt to tell your external audiences your brand stories,  you need a process to tell your stories internally. This is often the failure of social media: no process and shallow content.

A process to empower employees to be storytellers:

Step 1: Invite your employees together into a room, not once, but several times over the course of three months, at 2 to 3 week intervals, to work through a clearly defined content marketing strategy planning framework.

Step 2: Spend twenty percent of that time focused on your ideal buyer, including your understanding of their search journey and the questions they have at each stage of their buying cycle. Research the search terms, short and long tail keywords, that they are typing into to search engines to find a solution like yours. Examine the volume of traffic searching those terms.

Step 3. Understand your visitors short and long tail keyword searches

We can learn almost everything there is to know about how an ideal buyer searches online. There is no need to guess. Keyword research tools like Google Autosuggest, Ubersuggest and Google Keyword Planner all help ensure website content is laser targeted to answer your ideal buyers questions and thus bring your potential buyers closer to doing business with you.

Step 4. Map your website content to your customer buying cycle

If your website is to generate new leads for the business, your content should lead your prospects down the sales funnel. Your website should have a variety of content that addresses different questions or concerns depending on where your buyer is in the funnel, from awareness, through consideration to purchase. For example, a blog is great for building awareness and answering general questions that relate to your products, services or industry. Blog pages will attract and lead new prospects into your website. But for a potential customer evaluating your company for purchase, a deeper case study is necessary.

Step 5. Sketch out successful search scenarios

The key success factor for any website is to ensure that visitors can find the things that they’re interested in. If that doesn’t happen, then nothing else you do will matter. 

Now be frank: Are you getting enough of this traffic? Is your website content doing what it should for the business? Look at your analytics.

You’ll see that you have gaps, where either you’re not getting as many people into your funnel as you could be, or you’re losing the ones that do come in, but drop out.

Step 6: Look at your existing website and see how well it answers the needs of your audiences. This is the content audit. This will allow you to spot the gaping gaps in your content, and with the help of long tail keyword research, you can develop a fresh editorial plan that gives your team the strategic marketing guidance they need to reach, engage and convert more prospective customers.

The beauty of this methodology is that it gets rid of waste. The scientific and systematic underpinning of your content strategy ensures that your get a return on your efforts and on your investment (ROI.)

How to avoid common content marketing pitfalls

    • Don’t underestimate the work. Content marketing success requires a transformation of company culture.
    • Don’t expect it to be easy. Content marketing is like a newsroom: It requires work and collaboration.
    • Don’t be overly rigid. A successful content marketing approach is flexible enough to respond to the ongoing needs of the business, but solid enough to reliably integrate into the marketing function and not derail. This balance is something that will be unique to your organisation, but ideally you’d be able to map content around major events, seasonality and holidays and be able to respond to industry events and changes.  
    • Don’t fail to budget your time. Content creation takes time, lots of it. There are only so many hours in a day. Biting off more than you can chew only means that you’ll have a hard time managing expectations and rejigging deadlines. Prioritise your efforts and choose an achievable content production cadence, and you’ll be more successful in your marketing content efforts.

If you’ve put content marketing at the heart of you small business, I’d love to hear about your successes and challenges. What tips can you provide? What worked for you? Please share your stories in the comments.

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