Orig. Post September 23, 2014 by Scott Aughtmon, Content Marketing Institute | Re-Post September 23, 2014
What I am about to tell you might, at first, be shocking, but please hear me out. Because once you understand the full impact of this truth, it could change how you create content — and how positively it impacts your business.
You might think that one of the reasons your business isn’t more successful is because prospects and customers are rejecting you.
The fact is that this is probably not true. (Unless you have a generic or lousy product, then you’re right. They are rejecting you.) The real reason you’re not more successful could be something as simple as this: They don’t remember you.
Let me tell you a story to illustrate just how important memory is to successful content marketing:
A tragedy spawns history’s greatest memory technique
The great Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero aka “Cicero” was the first to record a legendary story about the discovery of a memorization method that has been used by people throughout history — and is still used by top “memory athletes” today:
Once, a poet named Simonides of Ceos was dining at the house of a wealthy nobleman named Scopas. He was there to recite a poem that he’d composed in honor of his host.
As was the custom in his day, he included a long passage referring to Castor and Pollux (twins who were commonly mentioned in Greek and Roman mythologies). However, this large inclusion in the middle of his poem made Scopas angry, so he told Simonides that he’d only pay him half the fee agreed on for the poem.
Simonides returned to his seat at the banquet table very frustrated with Scopas. But what happened next, would be something he could never have imagined, even in his wildest dreams.
Not long after this disagreement, Simonides received a message that two young men were standing at Scopas’ door, anxiously wanting to see him. Simonides got up from his seat and went out to meet them. The strange thing was that once he got to the door, no one seemed to be there. Just as he stood outside looking for them, a horrible tragedy occurred.
The roof of the hall where Scopas had been giving the banquet caved in, killing Scopas and everyone else inside. Later, when their friends were digging through the rubble, they couldn’t find the bodies of their loved ones, or even tell them apart, because they had been completely crushed.
It was because of this horrible tragedy that history’s greatest memory method was discovered. How? Because Simonides was able to identify where each person would be found in the rubble by remembering where each of them had been while reclining at the table a few moments before.
Later, as he thought about this experience, it suddenly hit him: Our minds have an incredible ability to remember things spatially. He realized that if he replaced the people sitting at the table with important items or ideas, he could remember those items just as easily as he recalled who was sitting where.
Thus, the concept of the “memory palace” was created, and from that moment on, it has been one of the most popular memorization tools people have had.
Now, hold onto this thought, because I’ll be coming back to it in just a minute.
It’s not personal
As I mentioned above, the reason that your prospects and customers might not be buying from you could simply be a problem of memory. In other words, you’re not on the top of their mind when they need the service or product you’re offering. And if your prospects and customers can’t remember you in their time of need, you may as well not even exist to them.
When you realize that one of the biggest problems your business faces may just be a memory problem, then you will understand that your most important task in business is to become more memorable. This is as fundamental to successful content marketing (and marketing, on the whole) as any other tool or technique.
Moonwalking with Einstein
A few years ago, I read a really interesting book by Joshua Foer called Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. Though this book has nothing to do with content marketing, it still contains a powerful truth that every content marketer should be familiar with:
Foer says, “The principle underlying all memory techniques is that our brains don’t remember all types of information equally well.” He asserts that while we are good at remembering visual imagery, we may not be as good at remembering words or numbers. Basically, he feels the secret of “memory athletes” is the ability to transform the things we want to remember into the kinds of memories our brains were built to remember well.
Don’t miss this point, because it’s just as important for content marketers as it is for memory athletes.
The key to getting our content marketing noticed and consumed, instead of being ignored by the reticular activating system, is to create content that our brains were built to remember.
How do you accomplish this? Foer’s words also reveal a solution:
“The general idea with most memory techniques is to change whatever boring thing is being inputted into your memory into something that is so colorful, so exciting, and so different from anything you’ve seen before that you can’t possibly forget it.”
The good news for content marketers
The good news is that, if it is used effectively, content marketing is perfect for making your business more memorable.
But the key is to use it effectively. As I always say, you cannot create generic content and expect to see results. It will never grab your audience’s attention or be memorable. You must create content that is unique and memorable. And here are five suggestions on ways you can do just that:
- Harness the power of case studies: As I said in my last post, stories are a powerful tool that we all need to leverage, because our minds seem to be intrinsically wired to remember them. Case studies don’t just present prospects with words and numbers they won’t remember — they tell stories that flesh out the words and numbers you use to describe your business, and give them context. This isn’t just a much more powerful way to convey information, it a much more memorable way, too.
- Harness the power of repetition: Strangers aren’t memorable to us, but we do remember people we have met and liked.You want your business to become something that consumers know, like, and trust. The way to do this as a business is the same way you do this as a person: You need to keep in touch with people you want to be remembered by. You must use content to keep in regular touch with your prospects and customers. You can do this through email, blog posts, podcasts, or video posts. Repetition is a strong memory tool, so it’s essential that you frequently and consistently place your content in front of your prospects and customers.
- Harness the power of descriptions: Our minds are adept at remembering things we can picture — this includes images, of course, but it also pertains to words that are highly descriptive. For this reason, it’s key that you use visuals and descriptions in your content (even if you are trying to present analytic or other data-rich information). Descriptive words help your prospects “see” and understand what you’re talking about. This means you will want to use analogies, adjectives, and any other comparisons in your content as much as possible, so your readers will be able to better lock it into their memories.
- Harness the power of imagination: This next method is similar to the last one in some ways, but moves beyond just descriptive words. Simonides realized that our minds are adept at remembering things in terms of spatial relationships. Similarly, content marketers can tap into the power of imagination to form memorable bonds between businesses and customers. In other words, you want to create content that will encourage your prospects to imagine what it is like to do business with you — to use your products or services and to experience the positive results this relationship will bring. By doing this, customers can, in a sense, experience your business in relation to their needs, which will enable them to remember you on a deeper level.
- Harness the power of voice: The final content marketing method I want to encourage you to use relies on the power that comes from using your own, unique voice. Remember that Foer said that the general idea of all memory techniques is to change something “boring” into something that’s “so colorful, so exciting, and so different from anything you’ve seen before that you can’t possibly forget it”? That’s what writing (or speaking) in your own voice will do to your content. It makes your content stand out from the boring “me too” content. It will make it more interesting, and most of all, memorable.
Once you realize that one of your most overlooked business problems is likely a memory problem (not an “interest” problem) and you recognize how poorly our minds remember abstract words and numbers, you’ll come to realize how vital it is that we focus on becoming more memorable in our content marketing.
Jim is a 30 year veteran of Fortune 500 sales and marketing with companies such as Oracle, Dell, and EMC, as well as Hilton and Omni hotels. His passion lies in helping emerging growth companies raise funds by leveraging the marketing tools and strategies that large corporations typically use. His focus is simple. “Help Businesses Raise Capital!”