During pre-conference workshops at Content Marketing World in Cleveland, Roslyn Atkinson was asked a question that’s near impossible to forget:

If you put your competitor’s logo on your content, could anyone tell the difference?

When spending 72 hours in the company of the world’s most successful content marketing minds, it is expected that your confidence will be tested by comments that question absolutely everything you’ve put your professional heart and soul into. This one in particular came from Robert Rose, the strategic brain powering the behemoth that is the Content Marketing Institute, and represents one of the many scintillating statements to come out of the pre-conference workshop sessions here at Content Marketing World, Cleveland.

In his workshop, Rose told the audience, “To differentiate means telling a different story, not the same one incrementally better.”

But in a marketplace as noisy as the internet, and with platforms as varied as they are numerous, how can you tell stories that are like nothing else out there?

Firstly, you have to identify why your products and services are not just better than those of the competition, but inherently different from the competition. To tell a different story, you must create unique value for your customers or members, not only through your products and services but through your content.

Think of your content as a product in its own right. How does it align with the values of your customers? Is it genuinely useful? Can it help them reach a particular end goal? And does it do these things in ways that your competitors’ content does not? As Rose so rightly stated: “Consumers are buying not because they are persuaded by an advertisement or a proof point, but because what they’re buying aligns with their life’s purpose.”

So if you’ve got in your hands a wildly unique value proposition, how can you tell a story that showcases it to the world? Rose suggests one particular word as a means through which to reach an answer: Why? Why do your customers need your product or service? In fact, why should they give two sods about your business? He goes on to suggest behaving like an infant and asking ‘why’ of each of your answers until you’ve reached the crux of the issue. There, he promises, you will find your story.

I spend a lot of my time working with clients to identify precisely what it is that they have in common with their customers, with their members, because shared values make for the beginnings of a captivating and downright compelling story. But what good, I hear you ask, are stories when I’m trying to sell stuff?

Perhaps my musings are a little too fluffy for your liking, but let’s not forget that stories are the building blocks on which some of the most successful and inspiring brands made their marks on the world. Rose agrees: “The ongoing globalisation of products, of content, means loyalty is earned based on your business approach, your values, and not based on your products and services.”

So, back to Rose’s first question: if you put a competitor’s logo on your content, could your customers tell the difference? Find your story, tell it well and you’ll feel confident in answering with nothing less than the words, “yes, absolutely”.

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