A couple of years ago, I left teaching to become a content marketer without having the faintest idea of what that actually meant.
I assumed that being a good nonfiction writer would immediately translate into content marketing. Yet, I stared silently at the Google Analytics page in front of me.
One click per week, maybe two. I had written over 25,000 words, and all I got were a couple of pity visits to my site.
What was wrong?
My wife, a successful content marketer, slid over a copy of Content Inc. The truth is that while I knew how to write nonfiction, I didn’t know how to put together content for marketing purposes.
A magic elixir blends the beauty of writing for humans with the calculation of writing for an algorithm.
Now, after attracting over 100,000 unique readers, obtaining bucketloads of top-three rankings for difficult keywords, and gaining a clear understanding of domain authority, I’ve concluded that memoir marketing is the future of content marketing.
What is Memoir Marketing?
Memoir marketing is the collaborative process between traditional nonfiction writing and content marketing.
The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
I prefer to understand content marketing as the utilization of storytelling to drive, attract, and retain customers.
See, as humans, we love a good story. We’ve loved stories since cave people started painting on walls. We still love stories, whether binge-watching Only Murderers in the Building on Hulu or listening to our favorite true-crime podcast.
Stories help us connect the dots, empathize, and, most importantly, build connections.
Memoir marketing takes those beliefs and intertwines them with personal narratives to drive home the key points of the article.
It’s a proven concept in fields other than writing. Take, for example, Tony Robbins.
Throughout any one of Robbins’ seminars, he shares a personal anecdote. Sometimes it’s funny; sometimes it’s heartbreaking. By doing so, Robbins builds a relationship, a connection with his audience.
From there, the marketing portion is easy. One Robbins anecdote turns in tweets, videos, podcast clips, ads, and even t-shirts. That’s content marketing.
Pulizzi’s Content Inc mixes personal narratives with content brilliantly. The same goes for Neil Patel’s emails.
Memoir marketing strategy is simple: personal narrative + content marketing. That’s all.
I know some of you might be thinking, why not just make something up? Just cook up a work of fiction.
Sure, that’s easier and most definitely safer. But it’s not a true story.
And the moment someone pokes a hole in your narrative, it’s over. Trust is gone. Connection is broken. Relationship is severed.
If you’re a big brand, maybe this won’t affect your bottom line. But for smaller businesses, this would be devastating.
Memoir marketing relies on a couple of key concepts: strong storytelling (think hero’s journey), technical content marketing skills (keywords, SEO), and most importantly, a narrative worth sharing.
And we already know everyone has a story to tell.
The Art of Writing
As a former high school English teacher, I emphasized the importance of stories to my students. I’d utilize stories to build connections between students, between texts, between lessons.
Kind of like a Lego set.
You start with one piece, then another, then another. And soon enough, you’ll have a badass Neptune Discovery Lab sitting in your living room.
So throughout my educational career, I showed students how I built my own metaphorical Lego Aqua Dome and how they needed to use those pieces to create something of their own.
I realized that I needed to build something new somewhere along the way.
Maybe I’ve lost the metaphor here.
Anyways, I left teaching to pursue my passion of being a writer. I wanted to craft narratives that made people laugh or just feel something.
But when it comes to content marketing, being a good storyteller isn’t enough sometimes.
Wait, I’m Writing for Robots?
I maintain that the biggest reason why Don Draper’s Kodak advertising campaign wouldn’t work today is that Draper did not do enough keyword research.
Oh yeah, and because all of our phones have cameras now too.
Marketing pre-internet only needed to focus on eliciting emotion from customers.
Terms like cost-per-click didn’t exist yet. Telling your friends that you’re going to Google something would lead to confused looks. And “Domain Authority” was about Seinfeld episodes, not how many backlinks you have.
If we were talking solely about content marketing, the rest of this section would be about keyword research, PageRank, and metadata. And don’t get me wrong, all of that is important.
But when it comes to memoir marketing, writing for robots requires a lot more artfulness.
Two factors, in particular, are essential when ranking on Google with memoir marketing: time on page and engagement.
If you create compelling content (i.e. an interesting personal narrative), people are more likely to stick around on the page to continue reading. Backlinko describes this as “dwell time.”
The longer someone stays on your page, the longer their dwell time. Google then takes those data points into account when moving content up and down the first page of Google.
But instead of creating longer-form content to write a piece of content longer than everything ranking higher than you, memoir marketing forces you to create a compelling narrative that hooks readers throughout the entire piece.
It’s not about words for word’s sake but writing stories that capture attention and drive readership.
That leads to the second factor: engagement with your readers.
If you create content that is entertaining, educational, and inspirational, then your readers will share it with everyone they know.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.
Good stories deserve to be shared and the higher the engagement, the more likely your article ranks on page 1. Google wants content that was created with readers in mind.
Just focus on telling a good story, as long as you do that, the rankings (and audience) will come.
Growing Pains of a Content Writer
“But what about my art?” I tantrum as my wife took a scalpel to a new piece.
As her fingers tapped the delete key, her eyes never looked up from the screen. “Trust me, I know what I’m doing,” she said.
My wife learned the lessons of Search Engine Optimization long before I did, so my desire to be an artist (emphasis on the ’tist’ part) on the internet held little sway during the editing process.
Despite both of us being graduates of the Johns Hopkins Nonfiction writing program, she understood through her work experience that inserting personal anecdotes and beautiful sentences alongside thought-out keyword research, interlinking, and distribution strategy created high-performing articles on the internet.
I, the stubborn fool, continued to ignore content strategy as I believed that I was penning the next great American novel, and Google would immediately recognize my talent, shoot me to the top of every search I’d want, and probably give me a key to the city.
You can probably tell where this is going.
Illustrative storytelling only gets you so far when it comes to content marketing.
So reluctantly, I started to infuse more content marketing strategies into my pieces.
Updated H2s. Shorter paragraphs. Lists! All merged together with vulnerable personal narratives. If I was going to have to write for robots, I would do it my way.
And, of course, my wife was right. Over the next six months, my pieces slowly started climbing their way up onto the first page of search results.
The best part wasn’t just that strangers were reading words I had written, but the messages and positive feedback sent to me. By including the content marketing strategies, I managed to get my narratives in front of the audience I wanted.
Soon, my formula began to take shape. Staggered essays: part personal narrative, part content marketing, and all pieced together like a completed puzzle by the conclusion.
The Distinction Between Artful Writing and Memoir Marketing
Writing a memoir requires vulnerability. Before we chat about how to implement a nonfiction narrative into our marketing strategy, there are a couple of distinctions to note.
First, be precise in the truths you tell. Just because you’re writing a nonfiction narrative does not mean you should tell your life story.
Bouncing off of that statement, we should also define what I mean by vulnerability.
I don’t mean sharing every explicit detail of your life, especially in the first paragraph. You have to be careful of oversharing as it could push people away from reading your piece.
There’s a thin line between telling your truth to resonate with an audience and pushing them away.
To avoid crossing the line, first, make sure that your personal narrative relates in some way to the content you’re producing. If you’re writing about yourself just to write about yourself without a connection to the larger story you want to tell, the content will not flow.
Second, don’t say anything to your audience that you don’t want them to know. Sounds obvious, right? Comedian Mike Birbiglia once said, “You can only protect so many people with your writing.” That’s true, be aware of the stories you tell and how they affect other people.
Once something is on the internet, it’s hard to take it back.
Of course, though, when you intertwine nonfiction narrative and content marketing together correctly, you build relationships.
And the key to successful marketing is your relationship with your audience. And to deepen that connection, you need to show vulnerability and build trust.
This isn’t a marketing strategy for every company: it benefits the bold, the businesses willing to put themselves out there.
3 Ways to Implement Memoir Marketing in Your Content Strategy
You’ve got a story to tell, a product to market, and you’re ready for the next step: implementing memoir marketing into your content strategy. Just know, one blurb, video, or audio clip can multiply into various types of content.
Before implementing memoir marketing into your next content marketing meeting, make sure that it’s right for your marketing plan’s goals. If so, here are a couple of options to try out first.
1. Long-Form Fractured Narrative Essays Alongside Traditional Content
Imagine an essay that starts with a personal narrative about becoming a content writer that weaves back and forth between memoir and traditional content, building trust while instilling a new way of thinking about marketing.
Okay, you caught me. I’m talking about myself (as if I haven’t enough already).
The fractured essay has been featured in nonfiction and fiction pieces for decades. Authors merge memoirs and history lessons so that when you get to the end, there’s a satisfying conclusion.
Not so much in content marketing as the artful skill of beautiful sentences frequently took a backseat to write for an algorithm. I say, why not do both. Content writing requires as much talent and is just as artful as any other form of writing, so blending these styles makes for a unique, powerful experience.
2. Email Marketing Letters
One of my favorite email newsletters is a brief rundown of the author’s life (i.e., what he’s watching or listening to), a couple of pieces of news, and a curation of the top-performing message board posts of the week.
It’s simple, personable, and informative.
This is a strategy a lot of coaches or folks selling courses use. By connecting to their audience via storytelling, they build relationships with their current and future customers.
Let’s be honest with ourselves; what email are you more likely to read: one that’s just a bunch of adverts or one that feels like a conversation.
Probably the latter.
For your next email campaign, think of a way to share a part of your story with your mailing list. Find a way to relate it back to either a product you sell, a website you own, or a service you offer. Doesn’t need to be too in-depth (besides, who’s going to read over 2,500 words on marketing, right?), but just personal enough to make the reader feel like they know you a little bit better.
3. Memoir Marketing Intermixed with a Variety of Content Types
As a writer, I obviously spent most of this piece discussing the art of writing memoirs and content. But my example of Tony Robbins stands as evidence that memoir marketing works in a multitude of content types.
Think about any famous Youtuber. It’s often “Day in the Life” content that builds relationships. Or Instagram. Pictures of beautiful landscapes captioned with #ad.
Memoir marketing already exists in all of these platforms but you have something everyone else doesn’t have: your truth. No one else knows your story like you do.
More than likely, someone shares a similar experience, but not your narrative. Put it out there on a podcast, a quick Instagram story, or be bold and share it at a conference.
Your truth, no matter how it’s shared, is essential to building a strong connection with your audience.
Less than an hour ago, I shared an early draft of this piece with my wife. She told me, “This reads like your manifesto.”
And I guess in a way, she’s right.
Actually, let me backtrack. She’s always right.
I wanted to create a piece of content that was a love letter to memoir, content marketing, and storytelling.
If you want to know the end of the story, it’s here.