vlad dracula

Dare to be Like Dracula: The Mesmerizing Power of History & Horror

Vampires look like humans. Some so beautiful they hypnotize people.

Three such mesmerizing vampires seduced a lawyer from England, Jonathan Harker, when he visited Castle Dracula for the first time.

It’s not until after Harker escapes from the female vampires’ deadly spell that he realizes Dracula, his host, only wants one thing: human blood.

Bran Castle

Bran Castle, also called Dracula’s Castle. Stoker may have used it as inspiration for his book.

This fictional story is from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, written in 1897 and renowned all over the world. Today, the book’s basis in history and connection to real people and events is what fascinates me most.

Because it uses fiction to tell the truth about a brutal 15th-century ruler, Vlad the Impaler. He and Dracula shared a thirst for blood, one while defending Transylvania and the other while trying to survive and grow the domain of the undead.

This idea of fiction being used to shed light on the truth is key to all good storytelling. Whether you’re writing a novel about vampires or a blog post about your business, the ability to educate and entertain your audience is powerful.

Here’s how you can incorporate history (fact) and horror (fiction) into your marketing strategy to capture and hold your readers’ attention.

Inform with the facts

Without Dracula, Vlad the Impaler’s life and bloodthirsty reputation might have remained largely a mystery.

The fact Vlad’s father’s name was Vlad Dracul and he became known as Draculea, “Son of Dracul”, is no coincidence; the ruler’s name and his cruel punishment tactics (impaling his enemies on stakes), were the perfect inspiration for Stoker’s vampire.

Vlad the Impaler

Vlad the Impaler

Knowing this gives Dracula another dimension. The vampire becomes more real because of Vlad and thanks to the Wallachian prince, readers are more invested in Stoker’s bloodsucking creature.

As a business, think about your different dimensions. Give your audience everything they need to know to make an informed decision about your product or service.

Using your homepage, landing pages, blog, newsletters, social media — all your content channels — set the scene, describe every benefit of your offering and paint a real picture of how your reader’s life will be transformed by your one-of-a-kind workshop, sustainable clothing line, etc.

There are a number of ways to do this including:

  • Sharing the story of how your organization came about
  • Telling your community exactly who you are (reinforce your core values)
  • Describing exactly what your thing does (material, look, feel, etc.)
  • Explaining how their life will change for the better (testimonials, case studies, research)
  • Providing them with something of value: a solution, an answer, expert advice

Think of what is relevant to your community right now. Pinpoint the stage they are on in their customer journey and produce useful content that they care about and can gain something from.

Give them Vlad. Just try not to scare any customers away.

Entertain with fiction

This is where the terrifyingly good content comes into play.

It’s the wolves howling outside the castle and the paleness of Dracula’s skin. It’s the blood from a shaving cut that causes the vampire to pounce on his house guest.

Dracula_by_Hamilton_Deane_&_John_L._Balderston_1938

Poster for a production of “Dracula” by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston.

In Stoker’s case, the gory details and bone-chilling plot twists are what entice the reader, leaving them wanting more.

Most likely your content won’t grow its audience by frightening them (unless you run a haunted house), but if you incorporate the elements below into your blog, newsletter, social posts, you will draw in and engage with your readers:

  • Use eye-catching headlines that clearly state the value readers will receive in exchange for their time
  • Create a bond with your community by being passionate about your product and speaking from your heart
  • Satisfy readers’ desires with a series of blog posts on a popular topic. Then package it into a free e-book!
  • Give a new perspective on your industry. Be different than your competitors.
  • Make sure your call to actions pop on the page and are easy to understand
  • Choose compelling images and user-friendly designs

Remember that your content marketing should imitate fiction in its power to captivate an audience, make them feel a special connection to the story and persuade them to keep reading. Your content shouldn’t ever be fake, fabricated or untrue.

Virginia Woolf put it succinctly: “Fiction must stick to facts, and the truer the facts the better the fiction… “

People want the facts, but they also want to feel and experience something. That’s the bloody truth.

via Giphy

Old Station House B&B

A Bed & Breakfast Guide to Attracting New Visitors to Your Site

The sun was setting as we walked up to our bed and breakfast in Broadway, a charming village in the Cotswolds.

Andy opened the door with a warm handshake and a smile, welcoming us inside so we could drop our bags before he gave us a tour of the house.

Starting in the entranceway, he gave us a brief history of the house,  which used to be the station master’s house in the early 1900s. This is the exact location, he explained, where the steam railway’s operator lived and managed the train line.

Inside the Old Station House

View from inside the Old Station House B&B.

By the door, Andy pointed out some flashlights that we could borrow at night and just inside the door he showed us a table full of brochures and guidebooks on Broadway and the surrounding countryside.

As Andy led us through the breakfast room, living room and up to our bedroom, my boyfriend and I immediately felt welcome and at home knowing exactly where everything was and how everything worked, from putting in our breakfast order to indulging in a nightcap before bed.

He pointed out the obvious (“Here’s the snack bar”) and the not so obvious (“The hallway lights are on a timer”), leaving no questions in our minds. Little did he know, but Andy was perfectly exemplifying how your website’s content can attract more people and convert more prospects.

Using Andy as our guide, here are three benefits of being as clear and transparent with your site’s visitors as possible. 

Your readers feel welcome

During Andy’s tour, he told us since we were staying in one of the smaller rooms that we could spend as much time in the living room as we’d like. 

Oh, and the light in the bathroom, he made sure to tell us might not turn on completely (it’s only happened once or twice) but the light above the mirror should be bright enough if needed.

Fireplace

Our favorite feature of the house.

His explicit instructions and homey tips for our stay put us completely at ease.

To provide this sense of comfort to your audience, use straightforward headlines on your blog posts that tell readers exactly the benefits they will receive by clicking through. Also, make sure your landing pages have uncomplicated titles, use clear language and a clean layout with ample white space.

It’s easy for customers to find their way around

Shortly after our arrival, we knew exactly where we could find things, and if not we knew we could ask Andy. The first morning, we even knew to put the long spoons we used for jam in a tall, clear glass so they wouldn’t leave sticky spots behind.

Everything was intuitive and easy to follow.

That’s what your website should strive to do — seamlessly lead your visitors from one page to another while providing them with the information they need to learn more about your service and purchase your product.

You can do this with the headline and layout suggestions above along with call-to-actions that pop out on the page, an easy way to contact you directly and user-friendly navigation.

These guidelines also apply to things like your business’ social media posts and newsletters — always aim to make your outreach messages clear with unambiguous directions so that your readers know exactly what to do next and are therefore more inclined to click to learn more.

A return visit is more likely

The night before we left the bed and breakfast, Andy reminded us that the steam railway reopens in March and when the weather is warmer, the village is buzzing with things to do.

He also told us he’d be happy to pick us up from the train station next time and if we wanted to go on a new hike, he would drop us at a footpath in the town nearby and show us which pubs and gardens to stop at along the way.

Inside the bed and breakfast

Train station touches were found around the house.

In other words, he gave us many reasons to come back. And I’m certain we will!

So when thinking about how to get visitors to return to your site, think about what you can offer them: free expert advice, exclusive deals and discounts, an online course, downloadable templates. Be creative! Put yourself in your visitors’ shoes and ask, why would I go here and not somewhere else? 

If you get stuck, remember Andy and his wife, Jenni — the perfect hosts. They made us feel right at home by giving us a carefully thought-out tour, precise instructions and multiple reasons to plan a return trip.

All photos by Alex Chirita.

Fields of lavender

How to Grow Your Content Strategy Like Lavender

Walking through lavender fields in south London last weekend, I was filled with happiness.

The beauty, the sight, the smell was all a delight.

This new experience wandering through rows of lavender got me thinking — is it possible to give your audience a similarly positive experience through content?

Turns out, yes it is.

Lavender has three qualities that make for an exceptional content marketing strategy.

1. Grow gradually

Just as lavender takes one to three months to sprout, it will take time for your content to attract and engage new readers.

As a business, you will use different types of content across a range of online channels (your website, social media, newsletters, etc.) to draw in prospects, interact with followers and encourage them to take a specific action.

None of this happens overnight and no one piece of content magically makes your company successful. However, knowing which content is used to produce specific outcomes will help you gradually grow your business.

Here’s a quick rundown of content types:

Attraction content helps build a following.

It’s content that:

  • Communicates the value your reader will get in exchange for their time
  • Is free to consume
  • Specific, relevant and eye-catching

Bee pollinating lavender

Your content should attract readers like lavender does to bees

Action content motivates behavior.

It’s content that describes:

  • What your business stands for
  • What your product or service does
  • How you solve your audience’s problems
  • A clear next step for your reader to take

Authority content illustrates your expertise.

It’s content that:

  • Helps your audience by offering solutions
  • Shows you are a leader in your field
  • Your audience can trust
  • Encourages other people to link to and share

Affinity content creates a bond.

It’s content that:

  • You and your audience agree on
  • Your reader believes in and likes
  • Is passionate, genuine and important tor your brand

2. Nurture your evergreen

Lavender is an evergreen plant, able to last years after its flowers are dried out. This quality also makes lavender a very versatile shrub. It can be used as decoration, perfume, a deterrent (to pesky mothballs), in tea and much more.

That is the goal for your content: to be long-lasting and to offer a number of solutions.

Always think about how you can extend the shelf life of your content and adapt it across different platforms. Ultimately, you want any future visitor to be able to use, learn and benefit from your content in some way.

You could create a video, for example, on how to use your service and publish it on your  YouTube channel. Or write a blog post series on one topic and turn it into a podcast (or vice versa).

The possibilities are endless; just remember that evergreen content will benefit your readers long after it’s published.

3. Prune at set times

While it’s recommended to prune lavender soon after it’s been planted and once a year following that, you’ll want to look after your blooming content strategy on a more frequent basis.

There are multiple ways to tweak and improve your content plan as you go:

  • Analyze the metrics to see which content performed the best
  • Collect user comments and answer their pain points with solutions
  • Ask your audience for feedback, using a customer survey for instance
  • Listen to what your prospects are saying on social media

The great thing about content is that it is adaptable and easy to adjust throughout all stages of your marketing strategy.

Taking the time to evaluate what is working and what isn’t, is crucial. It lets you see what resonates with your audience and in turn, gives you the insight to grow worthwhile relationships with your customers.

So, the next time you feel stuck in your content creation process, take a deep breath and imagine you’re in a field of lavender. Its purple leaves now represent much more than a soothing remedy.

Celeste in lavender fields

Lavender is good for the soul … and your content strategy!