Let’s just get this out of the way first. I’m fully aware that it’s 2021 and The Sopranos ran from 1999-2007. Writing a marketing article inspired by this over-a-decade-old HBO series might seem a little out of left field, but I figure that living through an entire year of social distancing and self-isolating gives me a free pass on the timeliness of this pop culture reference. With that said…
I have spent the better part of the last month and a half marathon-watching all six seasons of The Sopranos. Following Tony Soprano and his family (and his “family”) through his exploits as a mafia boss in New Jersey has been a great way to pass the time this spring, but I’ve surprisingly found some hidden gems of knowledge in the story, too.
Sure, Tony’s daily life as a waste management consultant doesn’t look a lot like mine as a content marketer, but there are some big lessons I’ve found to be true for both of our lines of work.
So, grab some gabagool and an espresso, and allow me to indulge a bit. (Minor spoilers ahead, but I promise not to reveal any major plot points or whackings.)
And, if you’ve never seen an episode of the show, you’re ok, too! You don’t need to have seen it to understand these marketing lessons.
1. Speak the right language
One of the most fun parts of watching The Sopranos has been adding a few new vocabulary words to my regular rotation. For example, when I realized I was out of coffee beans the other morning, I unironically let an “Ah, marone…” escape my lips.
How does this relate to marketing, you might ask? You gotta speak the part! The show’s script is full of Italian sayings and authentic slang, and the characters seem that much more genuine because of it. When you’re creating content for your audience, you need to talk the talk, so to speak.
- Dedicate time to audience analysis — how is your target audience talking about their industry?
- Work this language into your marketing messaging, such as segmented emails or ad copy
- Aim to connect to your audience on their level
[Read More: How to Gain Trust from Readers with Credible Content]
2. Know when to put the pressure on and when to hold off
One of the reasons why Tony makes for a great mob boss is that he is strategic in his decisions. Yes, yes, yes, sometimes his emotions get the better of him, but a lot of the time, you can see the gears moving in his head as he doles out advice and assignments to his crew of made men. Sometimes you have to concede in certain situations to keep everyone happy. I mean, think of all the politics Tony had to play when Johnny Sack became boss of New York.
As with Tony’s career, marketing professionals also need to know when to avoid the hard sell and when to put the pressure on. Let me explain.
What I mean is don’t forget the stages of your buyer’s journey. If you’re creating top-of-the-funnel content with a goal of awareness, realize that it isn’t the time and place to be totally brand-centric. However, if you’re working on bottom-of-the-funnel messaging, you can and should be more assertive and direct on how your company can specifically provide value.
[Read More: How to Avoid the Hard-Sell in Your Sponsored Content]
- Chart out your customer journeys and map out content that fits into each stage
- Determine funnel-appropriate CTAs for every piece of content you publish
3. Evolve with the times, but stay true to your values
As the show progressed from the Y2K era to the mid-00s, viewers watched as the characters updated their phones, their fashion and their views on society (kind of). For example, Tony’s therapy sessions are a huge part of the show and are often critiqued as something abnormal for someone in his position.
But at the center of it all, what was important to them in 1999 was the same as in the last season. Things like family, history and tradition.
Especially in this last year, marketers have learned that evolution is mandatory, but only if it’s truly in line with their brand’s core values. Consumers are smart to see which companies are only giving lip service and which are actually taking the time to make change where needed, be it with pandemic-related adjustments or a new focus on social issues.
- Work with the stakeholders in your company to define your brand’s values and agree on how you’d like your company publicly represented
- If you do plan to make statements on current events or social issues, be ready to show proof of what you’re doing to follow through
- Keep your customers in mind when evolving your marketing — how can you adjust your strategy to better serve your client base?
4. Know the importance of family
The Sopranos focuses on two families — Tony’s immediate blood relatives and his chosen “made” family — and it’s clear that both segments of his life are what drives his every decision. (And of course, there are always crossovers in his two families that help muddy the waters. Looking at you, Uncle Jun.)
And while you might not (and should not!) require a blood oath or sacred ritual to invite your customers into your company’s “family,” you should start considering your current clients as a vital part of your marketing strategy.
The marketing flywheel describes the last phase of the customer’s lifecycle as “the delight phase.” This is where marketing works — while in alignment with the sales team — to continue to nurture this relationship, even if the deal is already closed. These clients will in turn become influencers for your brand, through word of mouth, case studies or partnered events.
[Read More: The Case Study Template]
- Create a culture of sales and marketing alignment within your organization, starting with your leadership team
- Brainstorm different ways to continue to engage with your clients post-purchase, such as exclusive content, co-branded webinars or spotlight opportunities on your website or blog
- Spend time on industry research to discover different ways you can continue to serve your customers, aka “what are other companies doing or not doing?”
5. Always celebrate the a-ha moments
“I get it!” Tony’s exclamation, aimed at the Las Vegas sunrise in the Mojave Desert, is heard at the end of an intense final-season episode.
Whatever character development that Tony was struck with, we as the audience are left in the dark watching him in his moment of revelation. However, that “a-ha moment” is a celebration nonetheless, and I couldn’t help but feel inspired by how happy Tony looked in that scene. I mean, how often do you see that look of relief and unfiltered hopefulness on our anti-hero’s face?
Being in marketing sometimes feels like a series of trial and error. The industry is always changing, our customers’ needs are always shifting, and the way people engage with us online is constantly upgrading.
With every ten new tactics we try, a handful are bound to fail. And that’s ok! That’s how we learn. But… when something does win? Don’t let that slip by. You get it! You have unlocked another part of reaching your audience, whether with a video on social media that goes viral or a gated piece of content landing quality lead after quality lead. And that’s a good feeling.
- Include a “good news” section in your team meetings — shout out your wins or the successes of others
- Keep track of these “a-ha moments” for the future and analyze them in any campaign wrap-up meetings. Why do you think that this tactic was a success? Can you scale it?
- Reframe your view of an “a-ha moment” — like I said above, marketers fail often and that’s not a bad thing. Seeing an idea fall flat might lead you to view your goal in a different light.
6. Don’t skimp on the gabagool
Anyone who’s watched The Sopranos knows that the gabagool is the good stuff.
And when you’re in marketing, you gotta give the people what they want. The gabagool; the good stuff.
OK, what the heck am I saying? Is this just an excuse to write “gabagool” in a B2B marketing article a dozen times? Maybe. But, I do have a point!
This last lesson I learned from Tony was to never skimp on the gabagool. Always have a pound in your fridge. (Or live on your blog.) Create meaty (!!!), useful, genuine content and your audience will remember you for it, and you’ll gain more traffic and more brand credibility. This post, which is part of our Quality Content Series, gives a step-by-step guide on how to create comprehensive content.
When we talk about brand content, the second definition is most relevant. When you can demonstrate knowledge of the industry, users will see you as a trustworthy, authoritative source. They’ll keep coming back to learn more.
Comprehensive content should:
- Present a new idea about your industry that only you can explain.
- Go in-depth on a sub-topic of a more general theme.
- Leave the reader feeling well-educated on the topic.
- Answer their search query.
- Create content that’s hard to produce, such as ultimate guides, industry research or gated resources
- Don’t just rattle off a blog post for the sake of publishing something new; make sure there’s a reason for creating this content, as well as a formed post-publish plan
- Do audience analysis! You can’t give your audience what they want unless you truly understand what problems they’re trying to solve and what information they’re searching for
Just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in…
Thank you all for letting me indulge in writing a Sopranos-themed blog post in 2021. (I’m speaking directly to my capo here.) However, you have to admit that these takeaways are definitely useful when living life as a marketer today. Maybe Tony, Paulie, Sil, Chrissy and crew were visionaries, or maybe these lessons are timeless.
Have you noticed any marketing lessons in the media you’ve consumed during the era of social distancing? Do you think I’ve gone off the deep end? Do you want me to write about Mad Men next? Or more importantly — do you want to know more about how content marketing can grow your business? Let us know!