Big, Brave and Bold Marketing: How to Make it Work Within the Customer Journey

by | Content Marketing

Today, it’s getting harder to stand out from the crowd in a content-cluttered landscape. Get your customers to take notice by following the advice of two marketing giants, Ann Handley and John Jantsch: Be big, brave and bold marketing — but all within the context of the customer journey.

If you’ve been in marketing for the last twenty years, it’s virtually impossible not to have run into something written or taught by Ann Handley of MarketingProfs and John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing. They are influencers and innovators.

Both spoke at the Activate 2018 conference in Chicago in June. Before I dive into two great takeaways from these two giants, a big shout-out to ActiveCampaign for Activate 2018. It was AC’s first conference and they made quite a splash, bringing top presenters into an amazing venue.

Here’s what I gleaned.

Get big, bold and brave

Ann Handley

Ann Handley

Ann Handley’s company, MarketingProfs, is a resource marvel — a collection of training resources trusted by over 600,000 marketers. Every time I’ve seen her, I’ve been impressed by her clarity and spot-on advice.

She didn’t disappoint at Activate 2018, with the compelling message that if you want to create marketing that matters:

  • Tell a bigger story
  • Deliver bolder marketing
  • Take on a braver perspective

Bigger Bolder Braver

These three facets dictate your content’s tone. Let’s dig into them:

1. Tell a bigger story

When Ann talks about telling a “bigger story,” she doesn’t mean the story must be about a big issue. She means think about how your story fits within the bigger context of your target persona’s life.

Your product or service isn’t the “big story” for customers. Their big story is their own lives. You’re just one tiny (or perhaps big) part of it. So understand the context of where you fit in.

Ann brought up a couple great points to illustrate the concept, but I’ll focus on Plum Organics, a company that sells organic baby food and other baby products. Their content had a unique focus, which Ann summed up as “parenting unfiltered.”

With campaigns like “Do Your Partner,” Plum Organics produces pieces of content that matter to their customers beyond simply buying baby food. The “Do Your Partner” piece was meant to educate married couples with young children about how to rekindle the romance.  

This campaign is part of a bigger story (and it’s also plenty bold). Check it out:

Plum Organics – Do Your Partner from Plush NYC on Vimeo.

Plum Organics realized they are just a sliver of their customers’ lives. They’re using their content to expand their presence outside of baby products. And it’s working.

2. Generate bold digital marketing

Ann’s “bold” challenge wasn’t about thundering your message from the mountaintops. It was simply about making a story that truly stands out. To illustrate, she featured a beautiful video produced by The Humane Society.

Their research indicated that 99% of charitable giving goes to people, not to pets. Her bold message was beyond the typical pictures of puppies in dog cages: Instead, they focused on people.

In the amazing video below, you’ll see how the dog rescued the person, as much as the person rescued the dog. The strategy was a bold move, but with such flawless execution, it seems like a natural story, too. (Get your tissues ready for this one.)

PRO TIP: If you want your bold to be beautiful, make sure it’s backed by customer research, as The Humane Society did. “What story does your data tell?” Ann asked.

3. Use a braver tone of voice

Look at your website. Look at your blog. Look at your content.

Is it run-of-the-mill stuff? You know, the generic “blah blah” that you’d see on anyone’s site? Be honest. If you cover up your company name, does your content read just like your competitors’?

If the answer is yes, you need to strive for something unique, refreshing, and all your own. Ann quoted a great line from M+R Consulting Group, who suggested what they were shooting for with their content: “Even if the label falls off, you’ll know it’s ours.”

This should apply to product as well as content. As an example, she used the company Freaker as an example, where the company described its CEO in amazingly brave terms — the kind of stuff you never hear companies use when they’re describing their fearless leader.  

CEO Description

“Make your customer famous,” Ann said, and fame and fortune will follow you both.

Understand the customer journey — and guide it

John Jantsch

John Jantsch

John Jantsch’s presentation built on Ann’s advice and put it in context.

Marketing is a system

He began by noting, “Marketing is a system.” The system’s three core components are:

  1. Discover the ideal client
  2. Promise to solve a core problem
  3. Understand the customer journey and how to guide it

We’ve written extensively on the customer journey, and we were pleased to hear John reinforce some of our own beliefs.  

It’s not enough just to have an ideal client and a solution to meet their needs; you have to be able to prove that you’re the right choice.

Jantsch's Customer Journey

John Jantsch’s take on the customer journey

That means meeting them at all the points on the customer journey — from the point where they don’t know you at all (“Do Your Partner” is a perfect example) all the way to helping you find the solution to your problem (The Humane Society’s amazing video).

“You have to define the role of content in each channel during each stage of the journey,” Jantsch said. (Check out his website here.)

How do you understand what each stage looks like? Jantsch offered a unique approach. “Do it backwards,” he said. Start with a customer who has already purchased from you, and map the process backwards. What brought them to you? Which problems did you solve? What is their “bigger picture”?

Jantsch Quote

The answers to these questions should guide you to creating content that fits within your target audiences’ bigger picture, and addresses their concerns and preconceptions.

Many routes, one final destination

I love attending conferences like Activate, not only to meet heavy hitters like Ann and John, but to see how their thought processes can overlap and work together.

Take John Jantsch’s tactical application of mapping content to the customer journey, and infuse it with Ann Handley’s bigger, bolder and braver approach. You’ll get content that not only packs a punch…it also leads to a purchase.  

Special thanks to John and Ann for their images and slides.

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Greg Mischio

Greg Mischio

Greg Mischio has been creating content for many moons. He is the Founder and CEO of Winbound, a sales and marketing agency that provides content and marketing services with a focus on manufacturing and industrial verticals.

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