It’s a paradox: The age of instant gratification is also the age of binge-watching. Email marketers have heard that they must make an instant connection with recipients or risk losing them forever. Yet these same recipients – who will blithely ignore even the most compelling subject lines – may not think twice about watching entire seasons of “Game of Thrones” or “Orange is the New Black” over a weekend.
In this new world of countless options and distracted engagement, consumers have become very selective about which content they pay attention to. But this isn’t necessarily bad news. While audiences pay little attention to the content they filter out, they spend more time engaging with the content they consider valuable. And here’s the bottom line for marketers: Effective content isn’t about being the brand that shouts the loudest. It’s about sparking a receptive signal so that your intended audience chooses to tune in.
With that in mind, here are four ways to “spark” recipients’ “receptive signals” – which are much like how companies like Netflix and HBO capture viewer attention.
1. Be a storyteller
“Stories are the hook,” says Rob Biesenbach at Chief Marketer. “Stories are the thing people are going to remember. Our brains are hardwired for stories and they have a unique effect on our brains. There is little distinction between story and experience. Stories sweep us up on a number of levels, our heart rates go up and we often put ourselves in the story or relate to the protagonist.”We looked at the power of storytelling in this post. In it, we describe five types of stories that email marketers can leverage for conversions: case studies/testimonials, reason-why stories, origin stories, vision stories, and rapport-building stories.
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2. Make recipients feel something
“Emotional marketing tells a story that connects with an audience in a human or personal way,” writes Ivy Cohen at Entrepreneur. “With consumers increasingly making buying decisions driven by feelings rather than logic, emotional marketing creates meaningful relationships that result in brand fans, replacing the loyalty marketing approach of years past.”According to Carla Johnson at the Content Marketing Institute, “Crafting emotional content begins with understanding your audiences’ feelings. Are they scared? Frustrated? Skeptical? Now ask what’s the opposite of that emotion? Poke at your audience’s emotions to motivate them to take action, whether that action is to look for more content from you, pick up the phone and call, or talk to someone face to face.”
3. Create a sense of urgency
All great storytellers, from Shakespeare to Stephen King to George R.R. Martin, know how to keep their narratives moving. They are all guided by the prime directive: don’t be boring. Shakespeare’s dramas, King’s horror thrillers and Martin’s fantasy epics all speak to the reader with a sense of urgency – “turn the page or risk missing something exciting.”Creating a sense of urgency, accompanied by a feeling of missing out (FOMO), is a potent tool for marketers. It’s something we looked at in this post.
4. Help your recipients with their ‘quests’
The driving narrative of many great works of literature, movies and television is a quest. Captain Ahab’s to kill the white whale. Michael Corleone’s to be seen as legitimate. Walter White’s to take care of his family. Your recipients are on quests, too, albeit usually not dramatic ones. If you can help them solve their problems – to succeed in their quests – you can help them be the heroes of their stories.
“People buy solutions, not products,” according to the Pinpointe blog. “No one wants a plunger—they want a way to fix their toilet when it gets stopped up. Write your copy to help the reader understand how your product or service will save them time or money, or generally make their life easier.”
(Yup, for purposes of today’s discussion, we have actually categorized fixing a toilet as a “quest!”)