Content is easy to think about.
Let me rephrase that. Content is really easy to think about.
And since the advent of internet, there is no shortage of it anywhere online. One of the easiest things to do when establishing your brand is to fill up a website with some words and pretty visuals. And frankly, it's a lot of fun.
It's also very noisy and with all of that content floating around, it can be hard to stand out. Especially when it comes to selling something.
Think about this. How many articles or websites have you read that you really feel the need to go back to? How many websites are you reading all the time?
All it takes is 20 minutes online and you could have casually read about some travel trends, visited mythical worlds on your Tumblr dashboard, learned a recipe to make red curry in half the time, hit that 'like' button a few times, and seen what that one friend from high school was up to over the weekend (paragliding? Ooh, she fearless!)
But how many of those things will still be in your head three days from now?
You'll probably save it on your Pinterest and forget about it for a month. You'll watch the videos and quickly move on to the next YouTuber you're momentarily obsessed with. You'll 'like' and share and subscribe. But how much of it will you remember? How much will make it into your daily conversations?
As a content writer, I should probably be declaring the opposite (job security and all that), but I will be the first to admit that content creation has got to be noisiest, messiest, most overdone aspect of marketing. It never quits. There is never a day where everyone just goes quiet.
So, how do you stand out among all this noise?
Simple. Tell them a story.
An unlikely success story
It's hard to think about the art of storytelling without your favorite book, film, or series coming to mind. So, confession time: I've memorized every song and most of the dialogue of the film The Nightmare Before Christmas by Tim Burton. I watch it every year without fail and hope to share it with the next generation as the classic it's become.
Naturally, we love films because they give us a story. The best ones help you get lost in them for a while and they take up space in your mind days, weeks, and even years later. In the case of this quirky film, it's not only the feel-good tale with a few memorable life lessons that makes me love it, it's the unique way the story is told.
If you're not familiar with him, Tim Burton is a filmmaker known for his abstract style. Even looking at the man, you can tell there's something a bit different about him. In his story The Nightmare Before Christmas, he imagines popular holidays in a unique way, creating imaginative worlds right down to the last detail. To take it a step further, he chose to animate the film using stop motion.
So, it was an unlikely story. It didn't have a mainstream tone or theme that could guarantee it some commercial success. It was animated in a style that wasn't as popular and it was designed in a way that took years to complete while another style could have told the same story in a few months.
And yet, it became one of the most celebrated films of the year.
It was the first animated film to ever be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. Additionally, it was a commercial success, grossing $76.2 million dollars in its first run in 1993. It has gone on to find further acclaim over the years and is now a prominent fixture in the Disney's catalog with a passionate cult following.
Whether you're a fan of it or not, it's hard to deny that was an original idea. When you apply the same type of passion and creativity to the story you're trying to tell, people can't help but bring it into their conversations later. You want your potential customers to be thinking about the story you've told them with your content, because when they want more of the story, they'll be ready to convert to the purchasing part of your sales funnel.
How to tell a story
When it comes to storytelling, there's a pretty common formula that gets passed around. You probably even learned it in grade school when you were first learning how to write reports for your homework. It's simple and it goes like this: in a story, there is a beginning, a middle, and an end.
To break that down a little more, the beginning should help you set up the story you want to tell. This is where you meet your main character. From there, the plot point is set up which is simply the situation that drives the character to move forward.
In the case of content marketing, that main character is probably going to be your customer. For tour operators and activity providers, the situation driving them is likely going to be their desire for a good travel experience.
From there, we get to the middle where the story develops. There's usually some kind of confrontation here which may be resolved temporarily, but leads to the climax of the story. In the end, the story finds its resolution and then the character can live happily ever after.
So, how do you build your original story? It starts by thinking about your customer and writing directly to them.
“The only way to win at content marketing is for the reader to say, ‘This was written specially for you’.” -Jamie Turner, The 60 Second Marketer
1. Think about what your reader wants and needs
The best stories are simple. They start with people.
As a business owner, it's easy to sometimes look at your customers as a revenue source or a target market without taking much more into consideration. That's not a good place to start for a number of reasons, but especially because it guarantees the most boring content you could ever read.
As Joe Lesina has put it in this illustration, content is a fusion between the business and people.
People have a way of telling you what they're looking for. A great way to learn what your potential customers are looking for is to pay attention to the ones you already have. Look at your customer feedback surveys and try to take note of anything they're telling you about your experience that you might not have been aware of. Choose questions in your survey that will really help you identify which aspects of your business were most valuable to your customers and which parts could use some work.
If you need some help learning more industry research about the types of travelers you'd like to attract more of, read some of our data on travelers based on trends and common behaviors.
2. Make the content valuable
Naturally, you want your content to be worth the read. If you want valuable content, figure out how to offer something they might not be getting elsewhere. This sounds tricky because, as we discussed, content is everywhere. But what about content that feels like it was made for somebody like you?
A good example is this article you're reading right now. I've read plenty of articles that talk about the ROI of creative content and how important storytelling is in marketing. You probably have too, but how many have you read that apply to tour and activity providers? Perhaps a few, but that list will be shorter than the one with articles that don't focus on your specific industry.
The best content is a marriage between what you have to say and what your readers are looking for.
What makes it valuable is that the topic meets the reader where they are. In fact, you might have found this article simply by searching a term like "website content for tour operators" or "better storytelling for tourism companies" without knowing who TrekkSoft is or what we do.
You can apply this same concept to your blogs, website content, and promotional materials. So, once you've figured out what your customers want, you can write something for them. If you have a big audience in mind, that will work out too, but in my experience I've found it's best to write with only one or two people in mind and then flesh out the content from there.
Here are some examples of companies that offer their customers a personalized experience and get it right with their storytelling.
3. Keep the information clear
Your story's resolution can be found in the information. Your customers can find their solution if they understand how your offer solves their problem. That's why it's important to present your offers in a way it's easy to understand and actionable for the people reading it. Some quick tips to keep in mind:
Break down the industry jargon
Talk about your offers like a regular person would. For example, if you have a parasailing company and you want to describe a session to a first-time sailor, don't write about the tow line and the specifics of the harness your customer will wear. Instead tell them that there will be up-to-date safety gear provided and go into more specifics in person once they've arrived or earlier only if they've asked you.
Offer visuals that make your offers easy to understand
Sometimes it's hard to put an experience into words. That's where well-placed visuals will come in to help make everything a little easier to understand. The best visuals you can give are high quality pictures or videos of your company's tours.
Don't lie or mislead readers
Dishonesty might make you a sale, but it doesn't close the story because it doesn't solve your customer's problems. If they aren't getting what is promised to them, then their problem isn't solved so be honest and clear in what you write about your company and the experiences you're selling.
So, what's your favorite story out there? Is it yours or do you know of a company that's getting their creative storytelling right? Tell us about it in the comments below.
Looking to tell a better story with your content? Check out some of our content team's favorite tips.
Written by Sara Napier Burkhard
Sara is a writer from the American West Coast. In recent years, she's written for companies like Hipmunk, iTourMobile and Mylikes. She now resides in Zurich, Switzerland where she finds new adventures and attempts to speak German with minimal success.