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How Aspirational Content Inspires Action

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How Aspirational Content Inspires Action

It’s Monday afternoon. Dana, the CEO of a small but growing consultancy, is settling in for a time-blocked session to figure out which social media management tool to choose. She’s just hired a social media intern and wants to set him up for success.

Dana has already completed her preliminary research and narrowed her focus to Buffer, Hootsuite, and SocialPilot. She visits each site in turn.

  • Hootsuite’s home page copy speaks of ease, growth, and one-tab convenience: Social media management, but make it easy. Watch your social media stats skyrocket without breaking a sweat. Hootsuite brings scheduling, engagement, planning, and analytics to one tab.
  • Buffer’s home page leans on audience growth. It also speaks of values and sneaks in the characterizing keyword “ambitious,” which helps people relate and think, “Yes, that’s me:” Grow your audience on social and beyond. Buffer helps you build an audience organically. We’re a values-driven company that provides affordable, intuitive marketing tools for ambitious people and teams.
  • SocialPilot’s page talks about hitting goals and feature completeness: Everything you need to hit your Social Media Marketing Goals. Powerful Publishing. Seamless Collaboration. Insightful Analytics. Smart AI Assistant.

All else being equal — including price, flexibility, product quality, and ease of use — which would you choose? Which vendor most resonates with you?

Buffer’s copy draws me in most. It shies away from features and functions and focuses on what I want — growth. It also tugs at a need within me that says, “Yes, I want to consider myself an ambitious person” or “Yes, I am ambitious.”

Buffer’s method is what this article is about — aspirational content.

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Aspirational content: Differentiating your brand in a sea of sameness

Much content marketing, especially in B2B, emphasizes problem-solving and pain points. This approach leans on the logic that businesses want solutions to specific problems, and content that addresses those problems can engage potential customers.

But if your content focuses solely on pain points, you may overlook a crucial side of the customer journey — the aspirational side. Aspirational content aligns with the buyer’s vision of success, progress, and the ideal state they want after overcoming challenges. This type of content can be potent because it goes beyond the buyer’s immediate problems to their long-term goals and ambitions.

Aspirational content also aligns with Bain & Company’s B2B Elements of Value. Bain research turned up 40 elements of value for B2B buyers and placed those elements in a hierarchy. Not surprisingly, aspects like pricing, specifications, and features — what marketers tend to focus on in their content — sit at the bottom of the pyramid.

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But look at what’s on top: Personal touchpoints, like the ability to expand a network, boost a reputation, and vision and hope.

Hope versus aspirations

In my mind, hope is a lesser version of aspiration. Hope is a more general desire for something to happen or be true. It’s often based on external circumstances and can be passive. For example, you might hope for good weather or to win the lottery. Hope is a sense of optimism or a wish for a positive outcome, regardless of your efforts to make it happen.

Aspiration is more specific and active. It involves a strong desire to achieve personal goals or ambitions. Aspirations link to efforts and actions, for example, aspiring to be a successful author or running a marathon. It implies a set of steps or plans to achieve a specific goal.

In the sense of B2B content, aspiration is a better word. Business owners and marketers don’t “hope” to solve business problems. If all they did was hope, they might be out of a job. Instead, they aspire, and their aspirations sit on the other side of the sale — on the other side of the pain.

This gap between pain and pleasure is an opportunity for you. Adding more aspirational content into your mix allows you to differentiate yourself and paint a more holistic vision in the buyer’s mind. Aspirational content inspires and motivates, giving buyers a vision of what’s possible.

Your observation aligns with the evolving landscape of content marketing, where there’s a shift towards more balanced and comprehensive approaches that cater to the full spectrum of the buyer’s journey, from recognizing a problem to envisioning a better future.

Take a breath: A closer look at the word aspire

Being a curious person and word nerd, I looked up the definition of the verb aspire. It comes from the Latin ad spirare, which means to breathe.

Notice how one of its meanings is to pant. I would go further and say to pant after.

So when your prospects aspire to be, have, or do something, you might say they energetically pant after it.

I love little word treasures like that.

In this article, I’ll share a few examples of aspirational content and three ways you can tap into your prospects’ aspirations.

Ready? Let’s go.

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3 examples of aspirational content

To illustrate how you can use aspirational content, let’s look at three examples. These cases show how different brands tap into customer aspirations, creating a powerful connection beyond resolving immediate pains.

1. Verizon

Verizon’s Small Business Digital Ready home page is an excellent example of aspirational content.

In partnership with Next Street and Local Initiatives Support Corporation, the Verizon Small Business Digital Ready program gives under-resourced small businesses the tools they need to grow and thrive in the digital economy. Small business owners who register on the platform get free, personalized access to online courses, mentorship opportunities with industry experts, peer networking events, 1:1 expert coaching, and incentives, such as grant funding opportunities.

The text on the program’s home page illustrates that Verizon sees who its prospects are and what they aspire to be, do, and have — not just to sell phone services.

Look at the heading – that’s what Verizon is “selling.”

They’re selling “big opportunities.”

Are you looking for big opportunities?

I am!

2. A private school

Many years ago, I discovered a fabulous example of aspirational copy on the home page of a private school. The page at the time had a photo of a smiling, young child and three words only:

Number cruncher. Diplomat. Explorer.

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As a parent, that copy spoke to me hard, as it was supposed to do.

The marketer who chose those words understood my aspirations for my children.

I wanted them to succeed, whether as an accountant, a diplomat, or an explorer.

Sadly, the page now says, “Discover brilliance.” For this article, I looked at the home pages of at least 20 private and public schools, hoping to find a recent example of aspirational copy to share with you, but I could not find one.

If you market for schools, take note.

3. PictoClub

PictoClub sells bespoke and original artwork to the trades and to “unconventional collectors.” You can find and commission paintings, photographs, sculptures, and even books on its website.

What led me to include PictoClub is the name of its blog: The Aspirational.

There’s nothing like being out in the open about what you’re after.

Now, let’s look at three ways you can tap into the aspirations of your prospects in your content.

1. Understand the stories your prospects tell themselves

One fundamental way to tap into your prospects’ aspirations is to ask what stories they tell themselves.

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Understand the story that’s going on in their minds right now, and then reflect what you see back to them.

What or how do they think of themselves? How do your prospects want the world to see them?

Me, I like to think I’m a rebel. So when I discovered a company called Big Ass Fans, I fell in love.

It’s a name that likely turns a lot of people off. But me? I love it. It’s a bit irreverent but honest and authentic. They sell big ass fans.

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I’m a fan of Big Ass Fans, and I’ve never even purchased one. But I love the idea and want to buy from them someday.

I also tell people about the company even though I haven’t yet purchased from them — just as I’m telling you right now.

Another company that connects with the rebel in me is Velocity Partners, a content marketing agency out of London.

I love how their ebooks break the rules of ebook design, for example, with this struck-through heading.

And the cuss words.

Elements like those are why I like the brand. I aspire to be like them. I like the things they think and share.

2. Know what your prospects want to be, do, and have

Another way to think about the aspirations of your perfect potential customer is to ask yourself what change you seek to help them make.

What do you want customers to say about themselves before and after purchasing? Work through the before and after for beliefs, states of being, statuses, feelings, and mindsets.

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Here’s a handy chart that explains better than words.

Here’s an example using different before and after states.

3. Celebrate achieved aspirations with customer success stories

Another way to tap into aspirations is to highlight real-life examples of customers who’ve achieved their aspirations thanks to your product or service. This approach validates that your offerings work and inspires your audience.

When writing the story, do so in a way that lets the customer’s transformation unfold.

  • What’s the customer’s before state? Open with a story of the customer’s day in the life before you came along. What was life like before they searched for a solution? Be detailed. Select just a few specific moments. Include quotes so the customer can speak for themself.
  • What ultimately triggered the search for help? What were their aspirations? Where did the customer look for help? Why did they choose you over others? Include quotes.
  • How did the help unfold? Was there an implementation process or a discovery workshop? What was it like for the customer? Include quotes.
  • What’s the customer’s life like now? Finally, finish by painting a picture of a day in the customer’s life afterward. Be detailed. Use quotes. Most importantly, show how your company helped the customer achieve their aspirations.

What’s next? Go beyond pains and features and functions: Paint possibilities

Remember Dana, our CEO from the opening story? If I were Dana, and each social media management tool had the same features, functions, and pricing, I’d have been won over by how the tool helped me see my future success. And that’s the essence of aspirational content — painting possibilities.

As you craft your next piece of content, ask yourself: Does it help my audience envision a brighter future? Does it speak to their deeper desires and ambitions? If the answer is yes, congratulations. You’ve moved beyond selling a product or service to selling a dream — which is what your prospect is really buying.

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Snapchat Explores New Messaging Retention Feature: A Game-Changer or Risky Move?

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Snapchat Explores New Messaging Retention Feature: A Game-Changer or Risky Move?

In a recent announcement, Snapchat revealed a groundbreaking update that challenges its traditional design ethos. The platform is experimenting with an option that allows users to defy the 24-hour auto-delete rule, a feature synonymous with Snapchat’s ephemeral messaging model.

The proposed change aims to introduce a “Never delete” option in messaging retention settings, aligning Snapchat more closely with conventional messaging apps. While this move may blur Snapchat’s distinctive selling point, Snap appears convinced of its necessity.

According to Snap, the decision stems from user feedback and a commitment to innovation based on user needs. The company aims to provide greater flexibility and control over conversations, catering to the preferences of its community.

Currently undergoing trials in select markets, the new feature empowers users to adjust retention settings on a conversation-by-conversation basis. Flexibility remains paramount, with participants able to modify settings within chats and receive in-chat notifications to ensure transparency.

Snapchat underscores that the default auto-delete feature will persist, reinforcing its design philosophy centered on ephemerality. However, with the app gaining traction as a primary messaging platform, the option offers users a means to preserve longer chat histories.

The update marks a pivotal moment for Snapchat, renowned for its disappearing message premise, especially popular among younger demographics. Retaining this focus has been pivotal to Snapchat’s identity, but the shift suggests a broader strategy aimed at diversifying its user base.

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This strategy may appeal particularly to older demographics, potentially extending Snapchat’s relevance as users age. By emulating features of conventional messaging platforms, Snapchat seeks to enhance its appeal and broaden its reach.

Yet, the introduction of message retention poses questions about Snapchat’s uniqueness. While addressing user demands, the risk of diluting Snapchat’s distinctiveness looms large.

As Snapchat ventures into uncharted territory, the outcome of this experiment remains uncertain. Will message retention propel Snapchat to new heights, or will it compromise the platform’s uniqueness?

Only time will tell.

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Catering to specific audience boosts your business, says accountant turned coach

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Catering to specific audience boosts your business, says accountant turned coach

While it is tempting to try to appeal to a broad audience, the founder of alcohol-free coaching service Just the Tonic, Sandra Parker, believes the best thing you can do for your business is focus on your niche. Here’s how she did just that.

When running a business, reaching out to as many clients as possible can be tempting. But it also risks making your marketing “too generic,” warns Sandra Parker, the founder of Just The Tonic Coaching.

“From the very start of my business, I knew exactly who I could help and who I couldn’t,” Parker told My Biggest Lessons.

Parker struggled with alcohol dependence as a young professional. Today, her business targets high-achieving individuals who face challenges similar to those she had early in her career.

“I understand their frustrations, I understand their fears, and I understand their coping mechanisms and the stories they’re telling themselves,” Parker said. “Because of that, I’m able to market very effectively, to speak in a language that they understand, and am able to reach them.” 

“I believe that it’s really important that you know exactly who your customer or your client is, and you target them, and you resist the temptation to make your marketing too generic to try and reach everyone,” she explained.

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“If you speak specifically to your target clients, you will reach them, and I believe that’s the way that you’re going to be more successful.

Watch the video for more of Sandra Parker’s biggest lessons.

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Instagram Tests Live-Stream Games to Enhance Engagement

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Instagram Tests Live-Stream Games to Enhance Engagement

Instagram’s testing out some new options to help spice up your live-streams in the app, with some live broadcasters now able to select a game that they can play with viewers in-stream.

As you can see in these example screens, posted by Ahmed Ghanem, some creators now have the option to play either “This or That”, a question and answer prompt that you can share with your viewers, or “Trivia”, to generate more engagement within your IG live-streams.

That could be a simple way to spark more conversation and interaction, which could then lead into further engagement opportunities from your live audience.

Meta’s been exploring more ways to make live-streaming a bigger consideration for IG creators, with a view to live-streams potentially catching on with more users.

That includes the gradual expansion of its “Stars” live-stream donation program, giving more creators in more regions a means to accept donations from live-stream viewers, while back in December, Instagram also added some new options to make it easier to go live using third-party tools via desktop PCs.

Live streaming has been a major shift in China, where shopping live-streams, in particular, have led to massive opportunities for streaming platforms. They haven’t caught on in the same way in Western regions, but as TikTok and YouTube look to push live-stream adoption, there is still a chance that they will become a much bigger element in future.

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Which is why IG is also trying to stay in touch, and add more ways for its creators to engage via streams. Live-stream games is another element within this, which could make this a better community-building, and potentially sales-driving option.

We’ve asked Instagram for more information on this test, and we’ll update this post if/when we hear back.

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