You’re flipping aimlessly through channels and stumble across an infomercial. There sits a doctor (or someone dressed as a doctor) intentionally angled in front of the camera to make you feel as though you’re part of an exclusive interview. You’re getting the first (and limited time only) exposure to a revolutionary weight loss pill that studies show will guarantee you Kardashian curves or ‘your money back.’
Dr. Talks-a-good-part enthusiastically explains that through rigorous testing of multiple test subjects, the results have been like nothing he has ever seen in his 35 years of medicine (he appears no older than that) and he just has to bring the power of this discovery to you. Realistically, that’s a pretty big pill to swallow but you sit with your finger over the call button and wait for it. The testimonials, the before-and-after pictures, the empirical evidence — and they deliver.
You know it’s probably a sugar capsule containing trace amounts of cornstarch and some sort of questionable animal by-product, yet the presentation was perfectly convincing.
But wait, there’s more.
Here are four ways infomercials reveal lessons for great content marketing:
Finding the right angle
The way you approach your audience is the key to delivering a message that really resonates. You can be expertly eloquent and know your point or product inside and out, but if you don’t tailor your content to the literary tastes and buyer-level of your target, you’ll miss the mark every time. In fact, you risk speaking well over your readers’ heads or, worse yet, insulting their intelligence.
You have to know what your audience knows to know what they don’t know. This is less complicated than it sounds but it will take some detective work. The goal is to discover where they go for news and trending topics. This should be easy if you are following your followers.
It’s like the old adage, “Keep your followers close and your competition closer.” OK, I just (kind of) made that up — but an effective content marketing strategy does require you keep a close eye on the content your followers are reading and sharing. This allows you to fill gaps, meet their needs, and take their consumer experience to the next level with your content.
Once you have identified their favorite outlets, scour them for cues from tone to imagery to format. What is capturing the attention of your audience: Flashy images? Catchy titles? Short and sweet how-tos or long-form guides? How can you match that level of engagement with your brand? Then, look deeper into how the posts are being shared. Are readers liking, tweeting, and re-sharing content from main sources or through the shares of people in their network? This will tell you if your followers are perusing for information on content sites or they are grabbing up tips and trends from their social networking feeds. It’s important to know how social media is going to be the propelling factor of visibility of your content so you use it correctly.
Be sure to find the right angle to reach your audience and don’t be afraid to come at them from different directions. Determine the formula for the greatest exposure so you can deliver your message in a voice that reaches the most readers right where they are looking for it.
Now that you’re warmed up, it’s time to really do your research or, rather, find some research to back up your claims. Even Billy Mays proved the power of his life-altering cleaning products before he expected anyone to buy into his pitch. Although passion is an effective tactic, it’s not going to establish legitimate credibility. And do not expect your audience to just accept “what studies show” without showing the studies.
Truly great content is fully transparent so don’t be stingy with your sources. However, it’s important to remember these points when evaluating research to strengthen your content:
You might have an incredible imagination, but it’s not acceptable to stretch data thin in order to support your claims. Don’t be tempted to manipulate facts such as the population that was surveyed or the wording of specific results to make them meet your needs.
New research turns out all the time. You want to be careful to use the most recent statistics available about your topic. This is another reason why it is crucial you track down the original source of research you read about online. Look to see not only when a report was published, but also when the sources the author used were published. A “Hot New Trends of 2019 Report” may actually include data from 1997. This could mean there is no more recent research available and those findings are still accurate and relevant. And it might not.
Only use credible sources to defend and support your message. Your Facebook friend’s son, Bobby’s, seventh-grade science fair project is fascinating, but it’s not reputable research no matter how many times it was favorited on Instagram. A few examples of acceptable sources are original research reports, case studies, and peer reviewed journals.
Always cite the most direct source. You don’t want to send your audience on a winding path of links to he-said-she-said of the internet. Link your references to the original study, survey, or abstract. And try to use resources that show the real results rather than those behind subscription walls. Unless, of course, it’s your own original research. (Never link access directly to reports that live behind paywalls.)
While you have to be careful about what research you cite in your content because the reality is, anyone can perform research and publish findings…the good news is, anyone can do their own original research. That means you can too. If you’re simply not finding the stats you need — and you know it’s information your audience needs to know — you have just found a gap you can fill. Bring value to your industry by conducting your own research.
Sharing a relatable story
There’s really no better way to hook your audience than through storytelling. Establishing a connection by showing a bit of personal experience brings the message off the page and into the real life of the reader. It can be a personal account or a client success story. Either way, revealing a genuine understanding of the triumph or struggle your audience may be facing establishes a sense of trust.
If you don’t have firsthand experience, try crowdsourcing for real-life testimonials and expert advice. This is an especially effective approach to offering more advanced information on topics you aren’t as confident you’re qualified in. For example, consider interviewing an expert about their research to bring your audience deeper insight about the data.
Be sure to give credit where credit is due. Not only will the contributor appreciate the exposure you are providing them, but also they will bring their own readers and followers to your content, increasing your traffic and shares. That’s what great content marketing is all about.
Giving them more
There’s really no secret to the strategy that makes infomercials so effective. They always offer more.
Just when you think you know every imaginable use for a microfiber towel, there’s more. When there couldn’t possibly be another feature or freebie, there’s more. You come away from that mesmerizing five minutes skeptical that you can ever look at your Tupperware the same way again, or convinced your vacuum cord is actually trying to entrap you, aware there is a solution, and certain you need a second one (for the price of shipping and handling) — and then, there’s still more.
People want more. The more you share about your product, your company, your vision, mission, and values, the more you are branding yourself as someone who has what your readers need. Be transparent with your audience, grow with them, and always offer more.
What crazy or amazing product did you buy into because of the selling-power of infomercials? How can you use that same tactic to ramp up your content marketing strategy? Share with us on LinkedIn.