I've had my share of car buying experiences, most of which have been mental beatdowns. On one occasion, I was talking with a salesman who was really pushing me to buy.
At one point, I asked his team to run some numbers on what a particular vehicle would cost me every month.
"Am I going to get your business today?" he asked.
"Not quite sure yet."
"Well, I'd hate to have my guys run these numbers and do all of this work if you're not even sure about buying today."
"But...isn't that your job?"
It was clear this was much more about what he would get out of it than me, it and would be totally reasonable for me to have left right then.
This is one of the many reasons people hate the car-buying experience. They've had so many experiences like this that they practically expect the sales team to do what they can to benefit themselves over the consumer.
The same is true online.
People are used to misleading clickbait, disappointing content and corporate marketing that they've become cynical. Brands must find ways to break that cynicism by writing and producing content that clearly conveys a genuine interest in their audience - no strings attached.
If you've already sat in a car dealership for 2-3 hours, you may tolerate a little more selfishness because you've invested time in it. However, it's much easier to form a negative opinion and disconnect yourself from selfish content.
Getting to know everything about your audience and customer takes some time, planning and strategy. However, there are some things you should already know just by living the human experience:
Finally, when it comes to human behavior online - if you give them a wrong impression, they will instantly go elsewhere.
Here is a quick video sharing three examples of content that will look selfish to your audience.
Old-school and traditional marketing attitudes focused mainly on secrecy and rivalry when it came to competitors. It was easier during a time of captive audiences, and people expected to have brands compete for their attention via ads and commercials.
Now, things are different:
So what should today's marketers do now?
In this video, I explain how this works.
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I am a Harry Potter fan, and I own two wands - one that "picked me" at Olivander's (Universal Studios) and the one that belonged to Professor Snape. Most days, they sit on little wand stands in my office.
However, sometimes, I wish I could use them in my marketing work.
Specifically, I wish I could use it to remove some of the thoughts and memories about marketing that hinder many of today's businesses and marketing departments.
For the last several years, I've been talking to companies about avoiding the failures of forcing old-school marketing strategies into the digital marketplace.
Most of that advice is rooted in "traditional" or outdated thinking that is corrupting marketing departments today. That corruption is usually present for one of two reasons:
However, the internet wasn't created yesterday. In fact, it's been around long enough that some of the common digital marketing strategies we've heard over the years are becoming "old school" as well. So much so, that it's time to remove them from our memories and re-think our approach.
We Need to Write Blogs
I'm not saying get the idea of blogging out of your head. I am saying get the idea of blogging out of your head if:
Remove the thought that this is a promotional tool
When I look at many of the company blogs today, I find myself asking, "Why would someone read this, and what would it inspire them to do?"
Like social media, companies can take a very one-sided approach to their content and focus on how it will benefit them. Here's the problem:
You might be asking, "What kind of proof would validate their skepticism?"
Two of the top reasons would be:
What are some of the new thoughts and ideas that will serve you better today? Let's answer that by removing another old thought.
We Need SEO
When marketers started to really dissect what would help them in the digital marketing world, SEO was front and center. It was all about keywords and infusing them into your content.
However, people attempted to game the system, and quality started to suffer. Suddenly, thought leaders were telling marketers to quit over-stuffing their content with keywords. For one thing, some people were getting so bad at it, that it became obvious when someone was aiming for more keyword benefit than consumer value.
Over time, algorithms and consumer behaviors changed, making harder for keyword stuffing strategies to work.
Now, several years have passed, and there are 600 million blogs on the internet. Plus, it is estimated that 7.5 million blogs are published per day.
Remove thoughts that view SEO as THE strategy
If you're in a crowded industry where every company uses the same keywords, you could drive yourself crazy trying to win that battle.
For example - How often does the healthcare industry use the word "care," or does the university system use the word "student-centric" in their content?
However, that's not the only reason you can't think of SEO as a standalone "strategy" today.
Eli Schwartz, author of Product-Led SEO says, “If content is the product of a website, and the goal of the website is for readers to consume that content, … words for the sake of a word count or keyword goal is an utter waste of time. Product-Led SEO requires thinking of the reader and why they should spend their precious time enjoying the content.”
In other words, when we have to consider everything from consumer attention spans and skepticism, finding the content isn't enough.
Why are they going to read the content? What's getting them to take action or convert?
Instead of making it all about keywords and risk duplicating generic content that is all over the internet, consider focusing on customer questions or "spiky" content.
We Need to Obsess Over the Competition
If you're in a crowded space, you might find it way more beneficial to spend less time, energy, money and energy trying to outrank a competitor.
Instead, find ways to fill the gaps in your space. Think about what we've gone over in this blog, and then look at your competition.
You can gain a lot more impactful ground by filling those gaps through:
Remove thoughts about your competition as nothing more than a threat
Marcus once created a blog that featured his competition in a "top pool businesses in the area" style blog when he was in the swimming pool business.
Some would think that was crazy, but the competition shared his blog.
Also, if your competition wrote or produced an insightful piece of content that adds value to something you're creating...add it! If it's a link, make sure it opens in a new window so the consumer doesn't leave your site.
It's about value. If you're so invested in providing value that you would link your competition in your content - that doesn't go unnoticed (assuming the consumer even knows or cares that it's from a competitor).
If you can remove these and other fading, old-school thoughts from your marketing mind, I think you'll find that it opens you to a whole new world of possibilities in the digital marketplace.
In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Dumbledore shares advice about dwelling on the past in ways that can distract him from the present and future:
"It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live."
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Why do marketers continue to debate whether or not "short attention spans" matter? At times the debate sounds like an argument about whether or not the trend even exists. Most of the arguments against it don't resonate with me.
I saw one that said they don't matter when it comes to blogs or long-form content because Google still indexes long-form content.
Well, good for Google. Now, when someone clicks on the article, can you guarantee they will read the whole thing?
Another argument says if your content is good enough, they'll watch/read/listen to it all. That has some merit, but are we still talking about attention spans?
Let's consider video for a moment.
I recently sat in on a session about a successful YouTube formula and the importance of keeping someone engaged in your YouTube videos. Even as the presenter bragged about his stats - his analytics showed a 36-minute video that averaged 9 minutes of viewing time.
I don't know about you, but when I'm searching for something (like an answer), and I see a video that might give me what I need...the FIRST thing I check is the length of the video.
If it looks like it could take 12 minutes to answer one question - I may not even watch.
Or I might skip, skip and skip in hopes of landing on what I need.
The content might be awesome - maybe even worth watching the whole thing - but I just need my answer.
My attention span will not hold for that long if it takes 7+ minutes to get to the answer - even if the content makes me laugh and cry like an exaggerated reaction video.
Can those who argue against the attention span question say it's never mattered when they found content?
If they stopped watching something (or skipped ahead), skimmed a long blog or turned their attention someplace else, was it ALWAYS because the content wasn't good enough?
Did they ever stop reading something and then say, "Well, Google showed me this...so, I need to read the whole thing!"?
Could it be an issue of time, place, situation or other factors?
I think the bigger problem is we discuss this topic like it's a "Yes" or "No" question.
So what do we do?
In the video below, I share an article I found that dismisses the "people have shorter attention spans of goldfish" proclamation and takes a deeper look at the state of marketers and attention spans.
In the movie There's Something About Mary, Ted (played by Ben Stiller) picks up a hitchhiker (Harland Williams) who pitches his brilliant new business idea: 7-Minute Abs.
He says, "Think about it. You walk into a video store, you see 8-Minute Abs sittin' there, there's 7-Minute Abs right beside it. Which one are you gonna pick, man?"
If that wasn't enough, he had a plan if people still liked 8-minue abs:
"If you're not happy with the first 7 minutes, we're gonna send you the extra minute free. You see? That's it. That's our motto. That's where we're comin' from. That's from A to B."
Whether you've seen the movie or not, you're likely smiling or laughing because the idea is pretty silly. For one thing, you have to ask yourself - How much of a difference will one minute make?
That's a reasonable question.
While it's a silly idea, many businesses are wasting a lot of time applying that thinking to their content strategy. They look at what their competition is doing and try to beat them with a better spin, message or concept.
That approach is likely worse than the hitchhiker's video store comparison strategy. Instead of focusing on a better way to get better abs, it's healthier to cover the areas of the body they're not talking about and provide your "better abs" methodologies in different ways.
In other words, don't build your content strategy with ideas focused on what you're competition is doing, instead focus on what they're NOT doing.
Expose Weakness in the Competition
Since you're likely not looking to stand out in the video store space, let's think in terms of contemporary content. Maybe they're spamming their 7-minute abs content on Twitter with repetitive graphics and CTAs.
The last thing you want to do on your Twitter feed is promote your similar offering in a similar way, with the thought that it just "sounds" better.
These days, if a competitor is top dog in an industry, they are likely to be complacent in their content and/or social media strategies. They probably have a lot of it automated because they're Number One and feel they can just keep cruising without any effort.
Two critical things to remember:
1. The landscape is consumer-controlled, and the key thought leaders and experts are telling businesses to focus on relationship marketing.
2. As Mark Schaefer points out in his book Marketing Rebellion, despite research as far back as 2009 pointing to the consumer disruption in traditional marketing, many brands still haven't made enough effort to evolve their strategies.
I've also heard Mark encourage people to differentiate themselves through what their competition is failing to do (as opposed to copying them). He said, "If you're Number 2 in your industry, you shouldn't be doing what Number 1 is doing."
If you're both creating similar content and distributing it in a similar way, how does that help? Instead, think of ways to take advantage of weaknesses in your competitions approach. Examples include:
If your competition doesn't engage in conversations with audience on social media - you should do it
If your competition doesn't repurpose content to reach more people - you should do it
If your competition doesn't produce videos or podcasts - you should do it
Suddenly, you'll find yourself gaining new followers, customers, prospects and advocates in a way that might get your competition's attention. However, by the time they respond, it will be too late to connect with those people.
Show More Courage Than the Competition
Marcus Sheridan (The Sales Lion) provides invaluable insights into taking advantage of a competition's weaknesses. You may wonder what he means by talking about what others don't discuss in your space.
Well, one example is writing a blog about what your product or services cost.
You may think - We can do that! We have to control that narrative. We have to wait until they contact us to discuss price because then we can provide assurances while making our pitch. That's dangerous. It could scare people off.
Yet, there's the opportunity:
Marcus says no - if you can explain WHY it costs a little more.
Talk to your audience. Answer questions. Be transparent. Build trust.
Get Results Faster Than the Competition
If you're in crowded space, it can be tough to compete in the realm of SEO. However, your 7-minute abs strategy could be focusing more time filling gaps in the content, communication and messaging in your space.
In the time it takes to write tons of content in an attempt to move up a rank, you could be having conversations on social, understanding customer challenges, providing answers and building trust in a way that generates a faster (and perhaps greater) impact.
Your can demonstrate a lot more value to your audience by turning your focus away from doing what they do (only better), and filling the gaps in your space where they can find you, talk to you and trust you. That's how you flex your muscle.
If I can help you develop content ideas or strategies to help take advantage of your competition's weaknesses, contact me today.
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According to Forbes, the growing interest in podcasts is not slowing down. Here is a quick list of stuff.
Why should you start a podcast for you business?
What mistakes should you avoid?
What steps should you definitely take?
How will you grow audience and generate business?
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Imagine you attend an event covering a topic that is very important to you. Let's also imagine you chose to attend because you were seeking to get something meaningful from it.
Maybe you went because you want to learn something new.
Maybe you went because you want to learn how to take action.
Or maybe you went to get energized about something that means a lot to you
Perhaps you attended the event for all of these reasons.
Yet, while you're there, you have to sit through someone who is there to promote themselves and thinks everyone should be excited about him.
After all, this doesn't represent what you want or what you're seeking to find.
In the 1988 film Coming to America, there was a big crowd at a local Black Awareness Event, and you have to think they all wanted something of value from it (including some of the "good stuff" from McDowell's).
Yet, they had to sit through a musical performance from a local actor who played Joe the Policeman in an episode of That's My Momma. Despite everyone's (minus one big fan) lack of interest, Randy Watson thought everyone should be excited to hear him and his band perform.
Randy is an iconic character from the film, but he also presents us with a great analogy about a common mistake people make in their content strategy.
The Tease Wasn't Very Special
When Reverend Brown said he had a "special treat" for the audience, they probably expected better. When users are looking for value online, one of the most frustrating things they experience is clickbait.
In other words, they see a headline that makes them think they found something of interest.
So, they click on the link.
Then, they're disappointed to find that the content features a company talking about (or frequently linking) to itself or a brand promoting their product.
Randy Didn't Know His Audience
Randy didn't get the reception he likely thought he would get. So, he thought he could boost the reaction by telling the audience that they looked lovely.
However, it generated the same response.
That didn't stop him from promoting his band and telling people how great they sound:
"They play so fine. Don't you agree?"
He Never Changed His Act
While in front of his audience, all Randy managed to do was:
Then, despite lack of engagement, he stomped his feet and yelled out the name of his band:
At the beginning of his act, the lack of response should've sent a signal that his plan wasn't going to work with his audience. He could've adjusted and spoke to the them about something they care about or tried something different. Yet, he persisted in making it about him and his band.
A lot of brands will do something like this in their content, and you'll see it on everything from their websites and social media to their emails and blogs.
It's all about them, and they might as well be stomping their feet and screaming the name of their company at you.
Additionally, despite a lack of meaningful amount of clicks, shares and responses, they don't change their strategy.
If that's your strategy, you'll need all the prayers Reverend Brown can give you.
When I landed my first ad agency job, it was all about print. We were a team of three, and our main client was a big healthcare company. We were on the phone every day placing ads in newspapers and magazines while writing copy for flyers and brochures. Some of you may read this and ask:
How well did that work?
What's a newspaper?
It's true. Not only was is that some old school marketing, but the content was almost always company-centric. It was all about how great it was to work for them.
Times have changed. Now the messaging has to be audience-centric, and you have to reach them in multiple ways. However, a lot of companies haven't learned that yet.
Print may be old school, but a lot of companies still ask people to read a lot. While blogs, print collateral and other copy-driven content are still relevant, you can't put all of your eggs into the text basket.
In this video, I explain:
Watch now to learn more.
Other references in this video:
Watching and Listening Are the New Reading
Donald Miller: Weighing Your Audience Down