This blog is designed to improve the number of positive reactions from your consumers by understanding why they ignore "safe" or conventional content and why so much of that content is created.
They say imitation is a form of flattery, but in the world of consumer relationships, we need additional context.
If there was ever a place where consumers typically don't view imitation as a form of flattery, it's content and marketing. After all, we're not trying to flatter the people we're imitating. We want to engage and inspire an audience.
But why does so much content look and sound the same, and why do people create so much overlap? Let's examine some examples.
The Podcast Example
At last year's Podcast Movement, I attended a session featuring new research on what listeners loved and hated about podcasts. A couple of items on the hates/drives them crazy list was coupled an openness to make an exception if podcasts would do more to differentiate themselves. Specifically, they said:
Like many blogs today, you'll find a lot of overlap in topics, but the consumer will value something of high quality. A lot of podcasts are still doing the bare minimum when it comes to production quality, and listeners make quick judgments on that. So, deciding to put more effort into production quality can be a differentiator that listeners appreciate.
Meanwhile, if your selected podcast topic is in a space filled with similar-themed podcasts, listeners might give you a try if you do things differently - like provide unique insights or go deeper than the typical talk.
Creativity and Value
My first podcasts were focused on movies, television and fandom. This started in 2011, and there were tons of podcasts centered around these topics. Most podcasts simply involved an opening, followed by people talking about a movie, TV show, or other pop culture topic, and then it would end.
I could do that too, but why would anyone add me to their listening routine? I figured the creators listened to other people and designed their show based on what they heard.
It was as if their approach was to copy that because "that's how podcasts sound" instead of thinking about how to stand out while competing for attention and engagement. I went on to make a few successful shows that were known for their quality and unique presentation, including:
Geeky Meeting Show
One show opened with a "Meanwhile at the Hall of Justice"-like opening narration where listeners were invited to a fortress to join the hosts for an assembly of geeks meeting. It was like a city hall meeting, only the agenda was about what was happening in geek culture. However, there was always something happening at the fortress. So, it was part story (with music and sound effects) and part talk show.
A Geeky Game Show
Imagine ESPN's Around the Horn only with nerd culture as the central theme. Three nerds (me and two others) competed to become The Geek Supreme (inspired by Sorcerer Supreme) by sharing opinions and competing in challenges for points.
The show ended a few years ago when the scorekeeper couldn't participate anymore. Yet, I received an email from a former listener last week who told me they missed the show and wanted to know if I could recommend any other podcasts like it.
I couldn't think of any.
Think about that kind of impact:
I would think content creators and marketers would want their consumers and customers to feel the same way about their content.
Today I host a marketing/communication podcast, and I don't have to tell you there are plenty of shows in the marketing space. When I first started listening to marketing podcasts, I wasn't getting any actionable insights or enough depth on topics.
I don't just follow a question list. Instead, I use a list as a guide, knowing that the conversation could change as the discussion progresses. Active listening in an interview can be a differentiator in a podcast interview. Not everyone does that.
The Non-Profit Example
My path to podcasting was inspired by 3.5 years of work at the North Texas (Dallas/Fort Worth/Denton) NPR affiliate. I was hired in 2007 to boost radio lagging fundraising drives by revamping all messaging, content and strategy.
I entered a world known for its copycat and repetitive messaging - not just at this radio station but practically all stations that held on-air drives. Along with coffee mug gifts, here are common themes and phrases you would hear on several stations:
These were the types of things listeners might hear every hour, and even when listeners wouldn't respond, they would continue to say these things. I also remember talking to a local talk show producer about how listeners know the station will never go away, but pledge drives still said "it might" if money isn't raised.
Now I could write an entire blog about the messaging, content and strategy changes that turned lagging drives into record-breaking drives, but we're talking about something else here. Instead, I'll share something that was a game-changer.
The Resistance to Donating
Even after effectively changing some of the on-air messaging, there was still some resistance to donating.
Because even with some of the most powerful messages, many listeners liked to prove to themselves the radio staff couldn't "get them." In other words, they knew our job was to get people to donate, and they liked the idea that donating was something they decided to do on their own. This type of psychology isn't limited to non-profit donors or public radio listeners - consumers put up similar walls to anything that sounds like a sales pitch.
So, I met with the membership team and got a list of people who donated multiple times a year. I invited them to the station and interviewed them about why they give and think others should do the same.
I edited their interviews into 3-5 minute audio pieces that could be played during pledge breaks. While there was some overlap in their answers, everyone had a unique way of answering the questions. Each one had their personal story of listening, love and support.
It's even more interesting to consider when you think about the importance of testimonials, storytelling and social proof in marketing today. Listeners called the station to express how much they loved hearing the stories told by their fellow listeners and supporters.
Some of the more successful concepts and strategies came from ideas that broke away from fundraising drive messages and content that listeners were used to hearing.
The Video Content Example
Like podcasts, it's been amazing watching YouTube become a search and content powerhouse. It used to be more of a fringe idea, but now all kinds of businesses and content creators have a presence there.
And you'll see an absurd amount of overlap in style. Some of the most prominent examples are:
I see new people entering the TikTok space all the time and often see them doing what everyone else does.
For example - If they give advice, they have to do that thing where a graphic appears with a tip written on it, and they point to it.
I see the graphic when it appears. Why does the content creator have to point at it?
Because they've seen others do it? Well, that's not a good reason, is it?
Is Content Imitation Rooted in Psychology?
Content imitation and repetition isn't just limited to videos and podcasts. It's also all too common to see companies follow into similar blog content traps. There is a ton of repetition in written content, and with every copy - the reasons to read drop dramatically (maybe below zero).
Maybe people look at what others are doing and copy it because it's "safe" without realizing the drawbacks of blending in. Maybe there's a fear that doing it different might mean doing it "wrong."
The irony is you risk copying things that are becoming increasingly "wrong," annoying or predictable. Ethan Beute and I discussed how this contributes to digital pollution on Get the Message.
Maybe people copy others and just don't realize it.
Psychologist Dan Gilbert coined a term that might fit - it's called kleptomnesia. He says it's when you "generate an idea that you believe is novel, but in fact, was created by someone else. It's accidental plagiarism, and it's all too common in creative work."
Wharton Organizational Psychologist Adam Grant explains it this way:
Kleptomnesia happens due to a pragmatic, but peculiar feature of how human memory is wired. When we encode information, we tend to pay more attention to the content than the source. Once we accept a piece of information as true, we no longer need to worry about where we acquired it.
This reminds me of the psychology that might explain an unwillingness to evolve marketing terminology. The brain accepts an acceptable view of something and then decides it doesn't need to consider anything else. This is known as habituation.
Favoring Innovation Over Imitation
Blogs, podcasts and social media posts are all in the marketing mainstream, and consumers experience a lot of overlap. So, if we really want to talk about what's "safe" and what defines a practical approach - it's better to focus on innovation over imitation. Be mindful of the repetition in content and common traits that annoy consumers.
Training for "The Norm"
Trent Greener, Moz associate and Head of Digital for iSpot.TV points out that people grow up wanting to be normal (kids who are viewed as "different" aren't always treated well). However, even if adults recognize the importance of being unique, it doesn't always translate to their business mindset.
"While as marketers we are all acutely aware of the importance of differentiation, we've been trained for the majority of our lives to seek out the norm."
The "norm" can be determined by what everyone else (even the competition) is doing. Then, when the consumer walks into a room, everyone does the same dance.
Catching the Copycat
Video Strategist Virginia Kerr says she caught herself copying content when she started and immediately changed course. She advises others to be a content creator instead of a copycat creator.
Embracing the Dynamic
In a great article explaining the engagement and customer benefits of dynamic content, Chris Mulvaney (CEO of CMDS) sums up what happens in the customer's brain when they keep seeing the same things.
Embracing Creativity Over Conformity
To be clear, I'm not suggesting you have to be 100% totally original, and you can't let someone else's idea inspire you. However, as you do this, you should know how to put your stamp on it and understand what ideas won't align with your business.
In other words, you don't have to dance because that's what you saw people do on TikTok.
Gary Vee suggests taking control of TikTok before it takes control of you. His TikTok video team focuses on finding "trends" but not "conforming" to them. Even better, get on some early trends before everyone starts doing it - like dancing or pointing at graphics.
Remembering Experiments and Accidents
Remember, experimentation is a big part of attempting to connect with your audience through content. When companies spend money on experimentation, they make that money back (and then some) when something really works!
Sometimes accidents can inspire a better way to communicate and connect. I remember reading a marketing story about a guy who accidentally posted a personal picture on his company's Facebook page. He was responsible for Facebook content and thought he was on his personal account.
The photo was an old childhood picture, and by the time he realized he posted it on the wrong account - it generated the most engagement of any post the "company" shared. Before then, they did what they saw other companies do - use Facebook as a promotional and advertising billboard.
Their engagement was non-existent.
However, this accident changed how they approached Facebook content, and it was a game-changer.
Don't forget the story about the guy who randomly decided to video himself riding a skateboard while drinking Ocean Spray and listening to Fleetwood Mac. It boosted Ocean Spray's (and Fleetwood Mac's) sales and stock.
It shouldn't necessarily move marketers to create videos of someone skateboarding with their products. Still, it should inspire them to break out of the typical, stale and repetitive content that fades into the consumer's background.
Understanding what causes us to communicate or create a certain way helps us develop better ways to connect with our audiences. If I can help you, contact me today.
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It is estimated that there are over 600 million blogs out there today. As you think about how much that could grow in 2023, consider how AI-generated blog content will contribute to that trend. If you're looking to launch or improve a blog for your business in 2023, it can seem impossible to compete with all of that content.
At least that's how you should look at it.
Despite all of that content, your blog can still build trust, inspire reactions and generate sales. However, it is very easy to fall into the void of endless blogs that consumers ignore.
The key is avoiding the two big traps:
1. The Obvious Marketing Trap
2. The SEO Keyword Trap
To help you avoid these traps, let's take a closer look at them.
The Obvious Marketing Blog Trap
I am continuously amazed how many brands are comfortable with generic and duplicated content. Now, when I say duplicated, I don't mean they're writing the same thing over and over in different places. I'm talking about writing content that everyone else in their space is writing.
For example, I've worked with SAAS companies in the contact center space. Speech analytics is a big part of today's product solution. So, they write blogs about it. If I search some common speech analytics topics on Google, here are some of the blog topics I see:
How Speech Analytics Can Benefit Call Centers
Benefits Of Speech Analytics For Customer Support Call Centers
The Benefits of Speech Analytics for Call Centers
10 Unique Benefits of Speech Analytics in a Call Center
Benefits Of Speech Analytics For Customer Support Call Centers
6 Benefits of Speech Analytics For Contact Centers
8 Impressive Benefits of Speech Analytics
Top 8 Benefits Of Using Speech Analytics For Your Business
The Value of Call Center Speech Analytics
If you're planning on launching a blog or writing new blogs in 2023, do you think you need to write one on the benefits of speech analytics?
At this stage, what's the point?
But you might be asking why (or how) did so many repetitive blogs get written in the first place?
The simple answer is: Because marketing.
A marketing mindset can create walls that keep marketers from recognizing a lot of important details. This is one of the reasons why I recommend changing marketing into a sparketing mindset.
A marketing frame of mind is already thinking about promotion and selling a product.
In fact, if a marketing department or business views the blog as nothing more than a broadcasting and promoting tool, the trap is already set.
In our example, speech analytics is a key part of a SAAS contact/call center solution. So marketing defaults to content that explains to the consumer why they want the product.
The problem? That's not how you spark interest in a product.
Just ask Guy Kawasaki, who explained in his book Enchanted why this approach failed when he worked on Macintosh Computers.
"The fundamental flaw of our approach was that we did not understand what potential customers were thinking. Indeed, we believed they should leave the thinking to us"
The real solution went beyond thinking (like a marketer).
"We were so enchanted by our own product that we could not understand why everyone else did not feel the same way. That’s when I learned that one must understand what people are thinking, feeling, and believing in order to enchant them."
In the blogs I listed, they all want to tell potential customers about the benefits of speech analytics. But what if the potential customer already knows about the benefits? Why are they going to read ANOTHER blog about that topic? If they've seen more than one already, it will probably seem stale or generate a "been there, done that" reaction.
Even worse, many of the blogs are probably written with a very similar style, tone and format because writers likely base their approach on other stale business blogs that they've read. It's almost as if they think, "That's just the way you do it."
Plus, if the content had a salesy/promotional tone that conveyed an interest in making money over serving the consumer, why would they think reading a blog with a title like:
Benefits Of Speech Analytics For Customer Support Call Centers
would it be any different than reading:
The Benefits of Speech Analytics for Call Centers
The Value of Call Center Speech Analytics?
It reminds me of my first advertising job back in the early 2000s. I worked for a recruitment advertising agency, and print ads were still a big thing back then. Our office had a "Wall of Shame," and it featured ads that used tired and cliché marketing headlines.
The most common headline that got the biggest laughs and eyerolls:
Come Grow With Us
It's as if marketing departments all over town felt that's what you write when hiring. Forget how much it's been used or whether it seems tired and cliché to the reader - that's what you write!
The worse news - I still see this headline used today.
I think cliché is a good word. Brooke Sellas uses it in her book Conversations That Connect. The context is focused on social media, but the reasoning can definitely be applied in a blog or other content context.
She said customers are "tired of cliché content that feels like more noise; just fluff and regurgitation; replication and redundancy."
Marketers are also customers and consumers. Why aren't they tired of it?
It's time to get tired of it and avoid the trap.
The SEO Keyword Trap
Even though it's 2023, my wife still uses an iPod Nano (created in 2005) to stream music and podcasts. Her way might seem outdated, but it still provides some value because it still does the job. The Nano just doesn't offer the same value to most people.
SEO is the same way today.
When you look at our contact center SAAS blogs, you see many of the same words, and we can bet the copy will also feature many of the same words. That's because the marketer mindset thinks more about old SEO ranking concepts and perceived business advantages and less about reader value.
SEO can still do some good, but it isn't providing the same value as it did ten years ago. One of the key reasons points to something we've already talked about - there are millions of blogs out there.
In 2012, it was estimated that there were 42 million blogs (compared to the 600 million now). Back then, thought leaders were answering questions like - Is social media a threat to blogs?
An SEO report from 2016 told readers that Google was blocking more attempts to game the system by killing keyword-stuffing and low-quality content spamming (though clearly, some haven't noticed).
Things have changed even more since then.
Due to the explosion of content and other trends, SEO has lost some relevance.
People are noticing changes in SEO for the SAAS industry.
Google is focusing on the user not only on finding content but their overall experience when they find it. The release of Google's Helpful Content Updates encourages an emphasis on "people-first content." They also advise avoiding search engine-first content that:
3. Summarizes what others have to say without adding much value
How You Can Create Meaningful Blogs in 2023
Now that you know how to avoid the traps, let's examine what you can do with your blog. Your first steps should include:
1. Learn more about your customers and potential customers
2. Look at the competition and focus on what they're NOT doing
3. Find out what people are talking about (and not talking about) in your industry
4. Make connections with like-minded professionals and thought leaders
5. Show personality, and get away from that stiff style that everyone can copy
The Customer Focus
I've seen instances where a marketing team puts extensive time and effort into creating content that explains and promotes something they think is necessary, only to have it not resonate. In one particular case, a member of the sales team said the potential customers he talked to didn't care about what marketing promoted. All they cared about was cost, support and flexibility.
Get to know your customers and potential customers by:
The Competition Factor
Don't be one of those companies who spends too much time trying to do what their competition does - only better. Instead, find gaps in their content strategy and fill those gaps.
If they fall into the traps we've covered here, that's a huge opportunity!
Like SEO trends changed, consumers have changed how the competition should fit into a content strategy. For example:
Sometimes, others in your space will create something great (or better than you), and sharing that provides value. It also shows your consumer that you are so dedicated to giving value, you'll link competitors in your content.
Consumers want to see your humanity and proof you're in the business of serving your customers over anything else. This is one of the great ways to prove it.
The "Not Afraid to Say It" Factor
Does anyone in your company have an opinion about something in your industry? Is there something that needs to be discussed in your industry, and can you start that conversation? Do you have a unique perspective on an industry trend?
Take a stand, and don't be afraid if someone disagrees. This is one of the ways thought leadership can make SEO have a greater impact on your business.
Which do you think someone in your audience or community would rather read:
Another post on why they should want speech analytics or something thought-provoking that makes people want to learn more (and learn about how you're different in the process).
The Connect and Collaborate Factor
Social media isn't a powerful marketing tool because you can promote stuff on it. It's a powerful marketing tool because a "social" presence can supercharge your marketing efforts. If you build a community of engaged customers and advocates on social media, they'll do some of the marketing for you.
It's even better when you find thought leaders, influencers and respected professionals who align with the opinions and values of your organization.
Build relationships with them and invite them to contribute to your content. The process might look something like this:
I would definitely have interest in a blog like this over one that I expect to see from a company in any industry.
The Personality Factor
I almost wanted to call this the human factor because some might confuse the idea to simply mean creating a style. However, a company can choose a "style" that sounds stiff, corporate, soulless, salesy, selfish and typical.
I've seen what some branding guidelines might call a "friendly-style" tone with copy that could easily be read as a commercial. Again, companies might use this style because they've seen other companies write that way.
Think more like you're writing a letter to some friends - friends you're trying to help. Inevitably you want to generate an emotional response that makes them feel good about your efforts. Later, that emotion can become a reason to buy something from you.
If that is the goal:
If I can help you develop meaningful blog content that resonates with your audience, let's talk.
There is so much psychology around words, and we all understand why.
Words have power in many ways, including the weight behind interpretation of meaning and generation of a response. You've likely heard advice encouraging people to quit thinking about "negative" words that hold them back from "positive" words that inspire meaningful action.
For example, it's easy for someone to automatically view a layoff as a "job loss" by focusing on the idea of "loss." This could negatively impact motivations to make something good come out of the situation. So, viewing the layoff as a path toward a "new opportunity" can empower better motivations and create greater outcomes.
That's why motivational speakers encourage people to change their words to change their lives. For example, Tony Robbins says, "The human brain likes to take shortcuts. It conserves energy – and it also keeps us stuck in patterns that don't always benefit us."
The Harvard Business Review points out that our brains tend to stop paying attention when they think they've seen enough of something and know everything they need to know.
"This phenomenon — the general neuroscientific term is habituation — probably points to an efficient way in which the brain operates. Neurons stop firing once they have sufficient information about an unchanging stimulus. But this does not mean that habituating is always our friend."
So, what does this have to do with the business of marketing?
Today, many businesses need help making meaningful connections with their consumers. This is because consumers demand more from them now than they did 20 years ago. And even if a business knows it needs to evolve, it may struggle.
Why is that?
It could be the words marketers use to define their work - words that have been used so much the brain doesn't think about them anymore. For example:
It may be time to get marketing brains to think about them again.
Maybe these words provided everything they needed long ago, and it's time for new ones.
What if we could change those words in ways that can turn struggles into successes?
Let me explain what I mean.
Change "Marketing" and "Marketing Strategy"
The Oxford definition of marketing is:
"The action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising."
The Oxford definition of marketing strategy is:
"A plan of action designed to promote and sell a product or service."
The emphasis is on promoting and selling - the very things that annoy today's consumers. Even if marketers know things need to change, the exact words marketing and strategy have inherent connotations that can keep their mindsets focused solely on self-serving goals and turn consumers (people) into numbers and wallets.
As such, plans are developed to get specific amounts of money and generate stats. Just knowing a job is rooted in a selling and promoting construct can create barriers between marketers and human beings. If the brain is limited by outdated concepts rooted in selling, promoting, money and stats, it will be reflected in their communications with their audience.
In turn, this creates challenges and frustrations for businesses and consumers.
New Terms: Sparketing and Relationship Foundation
Consumers hate the number of promotions and advertising they are bombarded with daily. To cope, they will do everything from skip, fast forward, ignore or pay extra money to remove them.
Too many marketers spend time trying to intensify efforts and force ads on them anyway. On social media, studies show consumers hate to be told what to do ("click," "buy," "come to our sale," etc.), but we still see plenty of that on the internet.
So, it's time to stop the "marketing" and start the "sparketing."
That's right. Marketers need to become Sparketers.
Instead of a marketing strategy focusing on what needs to be done to get consumers to realize they need something or achieve a numerical goal, let's work on a relationship foundation.
Dr. Jenny Palmiotto is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist known for effectively using well-researched treatment methods, including Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Relationship Development Intervention (RDI), Behavioral and Brief Models. She says three qualities essential for creating a healthy, enduring relationship are respect, friendship, and trust.
Marriage has been an excellent analogy for the modern marketing era because many companies try to get consumers to buy (accept a marriage proposal) before building a relationship (going on some dates).
So, let's apply Dr. Palmiotto's essential qualities and apply them to marketing.
Respect - Respect the consumer's intelligence and their ability to know when you're trying to trick them with clickbait, SEO-stuffed blogs, gated content traps and more. Also, respect them enough to ask and answer questions, and avoid dictating what you think they need to know.
Friendship - Consumers want relationships with the people at a company. This is demonstrated in why people follow brands on social media.
Trust - Consumers want to see a genuine interest in addressing their needs through a relationship that builds trust over time.
These three qualities can spark the consumer's emotional and logical responses that go into making a buying decision.
Side note - Sparketing Strategy could also work as a replacement term.
Change: "Lead Nurturing" and "Conversion"
I'm not saying "lead nurturing" campaigns are doomed to fail. However, it can fall into an unhealthy emphasis on numbers that disrupt opportunities to build relationships. Ethan Beute explained the issues this causes in email campaigns during our conversation on Get the Message.
"And then all of a sudden, it takes new stat updated. It's 15 touches to get a prospect reply. And now it's like 21. And then what's the logical conclusion? Are we going to get to 65?"
He points out that businesses focus on more of everything, including touches and posts. This looks like a classic case where the brain tells people they need to succeed by constantly focusing on the numbers.
That leads to increased odds of getting blocked and ignored. It also contributes to what he calls "digital pollution." If more businesses added that term to their terminology (as something to avoid), it could dramatically improve consumer results. So instead of focusing on numbers, sparketers can focus on people and long-term success.
Ethan said the key to a change for the better is focusing less on how much is achieved by aligning the odds of success with extensive lists of names and spending more time on getting the most out of quality engagements.
For example, he says if a goal is ten deals from a list of 8,000 people by automating all of the touches or closing ten deals or ten transactions, try spending human-focused time and energy cultivating better lists and messaging by making more personal, specific engaging touches.
When re-thinking the process, Ethan says it's about lifetime value as the thoughtful approach to a hundred or a thousand people instead of the automated machine-driven system to 8,000 or 10,000 people to get the same initial closes, number of closes, and the same value.
How comfortable would you feel knowing someone said they're trying to convert you to something or put you through some form of conversion?
In most cases, probably not very comfy.
In pop culture, I think of the 1980s sci-fi series V when the aliens "converted" humans to their side through extreme psychological torture. The Oxford definition for conversion is:
"the proportion of people viewing an advertisement and going on to buy the product, click on a link, etc."
So the psychological torture of spamming people with ads in hopes that it makes them do something that benefits the advertiser, right?
That might be a bit extreme, but I do think ads can sometimes make consumers feel like this.
New Terms: Value Cultivation and Validation
Instead of a term sounding like the company is nurturing something for its own benefit, value cultivation is about a genuine effort to prove value and spark more impactful responses and actions. As Ethan said, the change can empower long-term value in a way where the consumer is always engaging and coming back when they need something.
Instead of efforts to convert someone, companies can work to prove they're worth the consumer's time, money and loyalty through validation efforts.
This is about trusting the consumer to know value when they see it, and the company knows how to communicate proof that they have the consumers' best interests at heart.
Change: B2B/B2C and Branding
You've probably heard thought leaders like Marcus Sheridan or Heather Garcia-Meza say that marketing isn't B2B or B2C. What kind of visuals can these terms create when our brains think more about it?
It's not hard to imagine the barriers these concepts can create. It can actually cause a real problem on social media. As consumers want to keep in touch and build relationships with brands on places like Twitter, it feels odd when a consumer thinks they're talking to a logo.
Putting branding on the list might surprise you. However, I will say it may not be as disruptive as some of the other words.
What I'm talking about is an overabundance of branding rules or structures. If you couple that with some of the problems caused by other words on my list, you might be piling up the consumer challenges.
Website A/B testing specialist Chris Dayley has conducted tests with website colors that are so over-branded that they blend so much that color-branded CTA buttons get lost.
Instead, a CTA with a completely different color generates better responses. Even though it doesn't "perfectly match" the brand colors - it stands out.
And remember what Ocean Spray learned from Nathan Apodaca. He created something that wouldn't have fit their "branding" per se, but it did wonders for their sales, stock and awareness.
Two good reasons for branding are to help consumers recognize a brand and associate it with certain qualities. However, if those qualities include building relationships, having conversations, being people-focused, showing humanity and standing out, a different word may be needed.
New Terms: P2P and Distinction
So Marcus and Healthier have said it's about being P2P.
P2P makes a lot more sense and is less likely to create communication barriers - as long as you change your approach with the new word. Don't say you're P2P and take a "talk to the wall approach" to communizing with the Ps.
P2P is person-to-person. You could also make it H2H (human-to-human).
Meanwhile, instead of thinking about branding, you could focus on distinction.
The Oxford definition of Distinction is:
"Excellence that sets someone or something apart from others."
With this, a people-centric sparketing department can communicate to consumers how they're different without over-branded content that looks extremely redundant.
A Big Step Forward for People and Businesses
Imagine if businesses could change their marketing terminology and experience the same dramatically positive changes that Tony Robbins and other experts discuss every year. I absolutely can because even the most fundamental challenges and results are present in the situation.
We're talking about a business setting, but it still involves humans with brains that can get stuck and benefit from a change. Teacher, author and founder of the Genius Institute, Giorgio Genaus, provides simple advice that improves life for businesses and consumers:
Genaus says, "Reframe your thinking, and you'll be surprised with more realistic and helpful statements. Although it will take time and practice to retrain your brain, eventually, those self-defeating thoughts will become less and less frequent. Just like they say, a little progress, no matter how small, is still progress."
This sounds like a significant first step for a business that either knows they need better results from marketing or have been trying to change, but something is still holding them back.
Change the words + change the thoughts = empower the improvements.
New Terminology is Subjective
My first social media job was working for a training company. Instead of giving me a dull, overused and common social media job title, my boss called me the Social Learning Evangelist. That sounded more impactful and helped me get into the right mindset about my job.
While I made some new suggestions on marketing terminology, I understand my new words may only resonate with some. In that case, create your own versions of new terms or think about words that would change how your company culture thinks about your most important audiences.
That is the most significant change of all.
If I can help you develop new ways to connect with your consumers, feel free to reach out to me so I can learn more about you.
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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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While it's imperative to create conversations with your audience on social media, most of the "humanizing" advice revolves around the content. However, if we really want someone to reply or engage with our brand, does it create a barrier if consumers feel like they're talking to a logo?
I think it does (especially with a significant presence of tweet bots). It may not be a huge challenge for the big and globally-known brands, but what about the rest of the world? I thought about this for a while and came up with an idea:
What if your social media manager could be the face of the brand on platforms like Twitter? This would require a simple tweak in the photo and the title/name space on the platform. If you try this before your competition, it could be a differentiator.
How does it look? Check out this short video to find out.
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Developing a social media strategy for a small business can be challenging, especially if you have limited time, resources and people to make it work. When you consider the number of social media platforms, choosing the best one can be stressful - but it doesn't have to be.
When businesses first started realizing there could be marketing opportunities using "social" media, the strategy was was just to figure out how to create a profile on all platforms and start promoting.
However, that was before:
Nonetheless, it can be overwhelming to figure out where to start, but let's simplify the process by starting with deciding which platform is best for you.
Learn About Your Audience's Preferences
A few years ago, I was working through an online Social Media Marketing Certification program from Northwestern University. The lead instructor, Randy Hlavac, shared a story about a question he got at a conference.
A new social media platform had just launched, and a couple of attendees asked him if they should put their business on it.
He asked them if their target audience would be on that platform.
They said no.
They answered their question.
You can find plenty of reports on which demographics are on what platform, including this 2022 Social Media Demographics report from Hubspot.
Create Opportunity in Your Space
Many small businesses would have an immediate advantage when they launch their social media pages - if they chose to utilize it. It's incredibly likely others in your space view social media platforms as advertising billboards while putting all of the rest of their attention on SEO ranking and automation.
As Mark Schaefer points out in Marketing Rebellion, most marketers aren't evolving as the marketing world changes.
"They think they are because they’re attending conferences about artificial intelligence, blockchain, marketing automation, content curation systems, social media war rooms, virtual reality, voice search, and other technologies changing the business landscape."
Couple that with his insight on old SEO optimization vs. new competitive advantage opportunities, and suddenly - a social media strategy becomes less stressful.
Once you find out where your audience consumes content, find ways to create engagement, relationships and community. If you can do that, your audience will ignore the automated sales pitches of your competition and trust you with their needs and challenges.
Ideally, they'll turn from customers to advocates who talk about your brand on social media. When that happens, they're doing some of the marketing for you.
If I can help you develop a social media strategy for your small business, let's schedule a time to talk about your business and specific challenges (free of charge).
Just reach out, and we'll schedule a time that works best for you.
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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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I began building my experience in audio production in 2007. I was hired by the North Texas (Dallas, Fort Worth, Denton, Sherman) NPR affiliate to create content and messaging to help improve radio fundraising drives.
My production work included everything from short audio stories and testimonials to live and pre-recorded fundraising shows with popular names. When I left the station in 2011, I launched my own podcast.
While I had experience producing high-quality radio content, I still learned some podcast lessons the hard way. However, once I figured some stuff out - I couldn't wait to use what I learned to help others.
It was important to produce podcast content that stood out even back then. Today (with the increased saturation of shows), it's essential.
I talked with Lyndsay Philips about creating a show that stands out on Leverage Your Podcast.
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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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