“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
This much-circulated quote has been attributed to author Maya Angelou, and while I’m always skeptical of provenance when it comes to famous-person quotes online, I like the spirit of the quote and how it can relate to brand content.
Your content — from your website to your LinkedIn page to your trade booth collaterals — is chock-full of important information about your company, your products, your client successes and more. Taken together, that content is intended to provide the complete picture your audience needs to get who you are and what you do.
But how does that content make people feel?
There’s a big difference between informing and inspiring. If your content is only doing the former, you may be seeing lower conversion numbers than you’d like. People don’t always make business or buying decisions solely by comparing price and features. Consciously or not, they’re influenced by a host of intangibles called “feelings,” and quality content takes this into consideration.
Now, “touchy-feely” can make stakeholders edgy and understandably so. We live in a metrics-driven world, where business decisions should be grounded in qualitative data and analytics. No one wants to try to sell the boss on funding an initiative whose objective is to “make our audience feel warm and fuzzy.” Better to approach her with research showing “X% of the audience will request contact by a salesperson when presented with Y and Z.” So, don’t throw your spreadsheets and numbers out the window, but don’t overlook the role pure emotion plays in brand interactions either.
Content doesn’t always feel so good
Creating content that connects on an emotional level can go a long way in building a positive impression of your brand in the user’s mind. Some scenarios where seemingly straightforward content can arouse unanticipated negativity:
- Your content is full of technical detail and insider lingo. You think you’re showing your expertise and know-how; your audience thinks you’re showing off and suspects they’re not “smart” enough for you.
- Your content doesn’t have a consistent voice and tone. Your audience is uncomfortable with this shifting personality and can’t figure out who you really are. If your content leaves them confused, they feel it’ll probably be confusing to work with you too.
- Your blog is where your team can get a little irreverent and show your audience a lighter side of the business (and everyone internally finds it hysterical). Users, on the other hand, might view this content as inappropriate, offensive or just silly. Humor can be very tricky to master, so proceed with caution.
Turn that frown upside-down
So, how can you foster good feelings and let customers see that doing business with you will be a positive experience? A few places to start:
- Language. Avoid alienating your audience by using words and phrases they recognize and understand. Show you grasp their challenges and goals by focusing on benefits over features.
- Visuals. It can be hard to express authenticity if you’re limited to stock photography, but try to choose images that aren’t ridiculously contrived, represent diversity, feel inviting and communicate substance while still aligning with your brand style. Putting a photo of a smiling “customer service agent” wearing a headset next to your Contact Us link suggests you’re just like everyone else and can’t be bothered with creating a memorable experience.
- Consistency. Evaluate each piece of content to see that it makes sense in the context of your overall brand narrative.
- Polish. Even if they don’t think it’s a big deal, users do react to things like typos, messed-up formatting, spelling errors and grammar mistakes. These small transgressions interrupt the customer experience and get in the way of delivering your business’s value proposition.
- Clarity. Create content that gives users what they need to feel confident about their next action or choice, whether by adding a more prominent call to action, using graphics to communicate complex ideas or cleaning up copy to read more clearly.
- Openness. Don’t be afraid to take a strong stand and speak the truth. You can’t be everything to everyone, so identify your target users and be honest and forthright in communicating to them the differentiators and advantages of your offerings. Wishy-washy messaging doesn’t connect deeply with anyone.
As always, it’s worth taking the time to step into your audience’s shoes and anticipate how they’ll respond to your content — not just individual blog posts or web pages but the entire body of work that speaks for your brand. If you do it right, they’ll come away from it feeling good and singing your praises.