“I felt a disturbance in the force.”

Star Wars is arguably the greatest movie franchise of all time. You would think it has nothing to do with content marketing – but after watching the latest edition and revisiting the original – I couldn’t help but the link the two topics together.

From the earliest humans inscribing their stories onto stone walls to the modern era of computers and digital publications, content marketing in some form or another has always been with us. The concept of delivering specific content to a specific audience is not a new phenomenon.

Much like the story of Star Wars: an unbeknownst hero overcomes adversity to defeat the forces of evil. Also not a new concept, but rather one retold in a number of guises passed down from generation to generation.

This similarity of being around for long a time is not the only thing that I believe binds them together. I can identify five key themes that help link the story of Star Wars to content marketing and more importantly, how to better achieve a positive outcome.

1. Planning

“We have no time for sorrows, Commander. You must use the information in this R-2 unit to help plan the attack. It’s our only hope.”

Star Wars revolves around plans and/or planning. The Deathstar was built to a set of plans, someone stole these plans, Leia hid these plans, Luke and Obi-Wan had to deliver the plans, the Rebels made a plan from the plans, the empire made plans to retrieve the plans – needless to say, ‘plans’ were extremely important. In the end, it turned out the Rebel’s plans were better than the Empire’s plans.

Much like content marketing, everything begins with a plan. You cannot achieve or overcome adversity without a proper and well-thought planning stage. What are your key objectives? How will you measure success? How much budget is required? What forms of content do we need to develop, outsource or syndicate?

A strong plan is fundamental in achieving desired business objectives but ensure it has been put through a rigorous examination with collaboration from a number of team members to give it the best chance of being successful. Don’t be a Governor Tarkin, who thought he knew better than anyone else and ignored very sound advice:

“We’ve analysed their attack, sir, and there is a danger. Should I have your ship standing by?” “Evacuate? In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances.”

As Obi-Wan Kenobi said, “In my experience, there is no such thing as luck.”  A solid plan from a solid planning process will turn luck into expectation.

2. Targeting

“Stay on target, stay on target!”

Kudos to fighter pilot Gold Five, even with his surroundings falling away, he still saw the importance of staying true to his course.

The Empire also knew the importance of targeting. Destroying Alderaan was no stab in the dark – it was a well-thought-out strategic piece of content delivery. Destroying Alderaan sent a clear message of the product/solution they were selling – it may have been a big planet-destroying gun, but it certainly got the message across to the intended audience.

Much in the same vein, do you know who your target audience is? If you deliver a crushing piece of content will it have the desired effect? Profiling your audience is vital; or as we like to put it – building out the buyer persona.  This is critical in ensuring that you maximise the desired effect of your content. Content should be written for the target audience in mind, a CFO needs different content to a CIO – much like the rebel leaders took more from the destruction of Alderaan than the farmers of Dantooine.

Knowing your audience is a key principle and a sure way of ensuring a better return on your investment. You need to ask the following questions:

  • Who are the decision-makers?
  • What keeps them up at night?
  • Where do they like to consume their content?

Unless you’re like Darth Vadar who has this ability – “I sense something; a presence I’ve not felt since…” – a hunch will not cut it. Only research and proper investigation will truly give you all the information you need in order to target content to the right audience.

3. Positioning

“Use the force, Luke.”

In the climactic scene where the Rebel army attacks the Deathstar, Obi-Wan Kenobi advises to put away the computer targeting device and to “Use the force, Luke”. Why could he do that now, at this crucial moment, when the entire fate of the Universe rested on this one shot? Well, it’s because he knew what stage of the Jedi lifecycle Luke was at. He had been nurturing him to this point, with lots of thought-provoking, inspiring content. He provided proof – in the ultimate sacrifice, he even used himself as the best case study of how powerful the force was. Luke had been taken on a journey, from understanding the problem to a more intrigued user and ultimately to a sold participant in the ways of the force.

Content marketing needs to follow the same path. You can’t start at the end game. Imagine if the first thing Obi-Wan said to Luke at the start was to put away the equipment and trust your instinct? No chance he would have done that – he would have used the computer, missed the shot and most likely joined his father and condemned the universe to years of persecution.

Knowing what stage of the buying cycle your customers are at is another fundamental principle that will lead to a greater return on content marketing investment. Whether a customer needs to build trust with you, needs more proof of capability or requires solution-based offers is essential in putting the right content in front of the right user at the right time.

This is especially true in B2B, where the buying journey is longer and much more considered. You need to be front of mind with the right message to help the customer make their own way through your buying funnel.

4. Measuring

“You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon? It’s the ship that made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.”

Han Solo was keen to prove the value of the Millennium Falcon. He was certain that the entire universe had heard of it and was surprised when anybody said otherwise.

Han is channelling the first pillar of measurement: reach. Are you attracting an audience, or more importantly, the right audience? Have you been able to effectively get your brand or proposition into the market? A number of methods should be used to ensure your brand is associated with the right topic and importantly we need to have an easy and effective way of measuring this. Growth in visitors, growth in views, impressions, downloads, click-throughs are just a few to keep track of.

Engagement is the second pillar of measurement. The Empire gauged its progress by the number of systems that joined its cause. Perhaps the fear of being destroyed was a good motivator but when you really look at it, the Empire had one serious branding and content strategy in play. Those grey outfits, the gleaming white of the stormtroopers, the imperial red outfits, the triangularly shaped star cruisers – it was all one big ‘look how fabulous we are’ exercise.

The stories they curated – which were shared far and wide through the galaxy – were a well thought out content strategy. This propaganda had the primary aim of allowing people to interact and more importantly engage with the brand. Who else had a presence in every star system? This was not by accident – the Emperor was one of the best content marketers going around.

The rebels were by no means slouches in this space – they were experts in the final pillar of measurement – conversion. It was all about numbers for the rebels:

  • Is our message memorable?
  • Are we changing perceptions?
  • Are we driving new recruits?
  • Are people aware of us?

Luke, Han, Chewie (the three main protagonists) all were converted by the Rebels via different ways and through a number of tactics:

  • Rewards: “It is for me, sister. Look, I ain’t in this for your revolution, and I’m not in it for you… I expect to be well paid. I’m in it for the money.”
  • Tradition: “Yes, I was a Jedi Knight, the same as your father… You too must learn the way of the force.”
  • Guilt: “You needn’t worry about your reward. If money is all that you love, then that’s what you’ll receive.”
  • Loyalty/love: “You think the princess and a guy like me…”

The rebels threw everything at these guys in order to convert them.

5. Continual Improvement

“You can’t win Darth, if you strike me down I will become more powerful than ever.”

Even in death, Obi-Wan was striving to get better. Much like any content plan, it must stay in perpetual motion, evolving and morphing into what is required to help you achieve your desired outcomes. Luke went through a rapid ascension in trying to learn about and unlock his potential. The drive should always be there to do better – there is always room for improvement.

“Great kid, don’t get cocky” – even after blowing a tie fighter out of the sky (his first success) Luke was scolded by Han to keep a level head. Much in the same vein with your content results, you shouldn’t be ‘cocky’. That one successful piece does not mean you can rest on your laurels – you must take the learnings from this success and start applying across all existing and new campaigns.

Continual improvement involves assessing all previous four points and ensuring that each is optimised and is regularly updated to ensure the success of any content marketing strategy.

In Closing

“Who’s the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him?”

Content marketing is not a set-and-forget exercise, it needs to be continually optimised to ensure it stays relevant, lifts engagement and ultimately delivers more qualified leads.

Your own success is driven by your own experience. It’s a dynamic process; one of building, testing and optimising. Your customers are constantly evolving and therefore so too must your program. You can’t completely base your success on what works for others – take the best parts, apply them to your situation and ‘continually improve’.

By putting the right structure and process in place you can develop a successful content marketing program, one that will drive revenue and deliver a positive return on investment.

With that in mind – “You’re all clear, kid, now let’s blow this thing and go home!”

Star Wars guide to content marketing ROI

Shawn Low
Shawn has more than 15 years of content and marketing experience, working both client- and agency-sides. His diverse career has seen him work across both the B2C and B2B segments, as well as with start-ups. As Head of Content and Social for Green Hat, Shawn will drive effective content in order to meet strategic, commercial and business needs.