Content Marketing World 2017, “A World of Stories,” challenged conference attendees from the U.S. and around the globe to rethink the way we use content to promote our services as solutions our clients and prospects need. In the content we write, do we take the time to first connect with our audiences and empathize about their needs before we start selling? This theme was echoed by speakers throughout the three-day conference, including the professional services industry lab I attended following the main sessions.

As he led the session and breakout groups, Jonathan Kranz, principal at Kranz Communications, pushed us to flip the order in which we present problems, solutions and needs. As we wrote, rewrote and polished copy, a few themes surfaced.

Empathy and Understanding

Does your content immediately acknowledge your intended reader? You really can’t begin to offer solutions until you identify with a challenge up front. Why would someone want to read a success story, a blog or an e-book that in no way relates to an immediate need, challenge or pain point? As Kranz emphasized, your message needs to be, “Let me tell you about you” rather than “Let me tell you about me.”

Consider the difference in the following opening lines that Kranz provided.

  • NO: Imperious Inc. is the leading provider of commercial real estate relocation services…”
  • YES: Moving a business may not be easy (empathy). But with the right talent, tools and experience, your next move can be a lot easier.

In this consumer example, which do you think would make the reader want to know more? In the second example, the intended audience will most likely feel understood and appreciated. Once that happens, Imperious Inc. can describe its solution.

Reverse Storytelling: The 3D Effect

As CPA marketers, we often tell our audiences our stories in reverse order. We introduce our solution in the beginning and then connect it to something we think our clients need. Instead, Kranz suggests, flip your story by empathizing with an evident need, or desire, your client has.

Next, present the danger. What will happen if the reader doesn’t take action to address the immediate need? Then, and only then, can you present the final D, drama! This is when you can finally sweep in with a flourish to explain how your solution can put an end to the danger. How are you resolving the threat, obstacle or challenge? In other words, how are you overcoming the danger?

Make it About Them

What I most took away from the three-hour, interactive session was this: Bring your audience in from the very beginning by making your message relatable. Examine your copy to see how many “us” or “our” statements there are in the opening versus “you” statements. There really shouldn’t be any until you are well into your copy. As Kranz advised, “Turn narcissistic, company-focused rhetoric into copy that’s about your buyers—copy that reflects their goals and priorities.”

Resist the temptation to march right in with how you can save the day. Be specific about the danger and help them understand how you can help them achieve their goals. Make sure you acknowledge who your reader is, demonstrate empathy with their priorities and provide solutions to their problems.

Do you need help fine-tuning your content strategy to meet the needs of your readers? We welcome the opportunity to speak with you. Please contact Cindy Spitz at 440-449-6800 or email

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