Have you ever met a person who improves the energy in a room just by walking through the door? They’re the people you want to be near – the folks you lean a little closer to so you don’t miss a word. Invariably, they pull from a deep well of charisma to make everyone around them feel included. They command your attention and you willingly give it.
Content marketing should be like this. Too often, the opposite is true.
Making demands on your audience
As content marketing enters the mainstream in a flood of cheap content, good tools and no barrier to publishing, marketers and business owners are adopting an old-fashioned approach. They’re stealing techniques from the bad old days of advertising and carnival barkers, pushing unwanted messages to an audience that isn’t particularly interested. Not only uninterested, the audience is no longer captive to your demands. In an effort to push out your message, you end up offending the people you’re trying to influence. And it’s incredibly difficult to get them back.
On episode 143 of Brand Newsroom, I had a good rant about the abuse of drip email marketing. I won’t repeat myself but encourage you to listen to it here because it’s a technique used to demand attention:
Here is a great example of a drip email I received this week with a big wallop of demands. The subject line was ‘Seeking your response’:
I hope you are doing great. It is just a follow-up to draw your attention towards my previous email. I understand you might be busy with your priority tasks.
I would appreciate if you can go through an email that I have sent previously and share your thoughts.
Looking forward to a collaboration.
Why on earth would I respond? Would you? There’s nothing in this for me except a request to do the bidding of a total stranger. The writer is asking me for one of the most valuable things I have – my time. In return, I get a big fat nothing. It’s a demand for my attention without a single benefit to me, the audience.
Industry-specific demands towards customers
Certain industries lend themselves to demanding communication. I recently wrote in the Lush newsletter about a run-in with my son’s private school. Airlines are another industry where we get an awful lot of direction and not much love. United Airlines is on a red-hot run of PR disasters. Telephone and internet companies provide a rich vein of customer exasperation and vitriol. You only have to hang out on Twitter for an hour or two to know it’s a global problem. The level of frustration and anger associated with being a customer in education, telecommunications and air travel is amazing. You don’t want to invoke emotion like that for your business.
How to command attention with content marketing
If content marketing is about driving profitable customer action, there’s a mistaken belief that badgering people is an effective approach to meeting your goals. Here are better ways to command attention:
- Develop content that serves a purpose for your audience. This can be a buying guide, an infographic with compiled statistics around a specific topic, a white paper explaining a complex issue, a case study showing how another person benefitted from engagement with you or a blog post providing links to valuable research and websites. This is the sort of content your audience might not even realise they need – but you do.
- Segment your audience and databases to ensure you’re providing content that’s both topical and relevant. I may well be interested in how to stake out a tent in record time but not in the middle of winter. Don’t send me a childhood survival guide if I’m not a parent or my children are grown.
- Make me the centre of your universe. I don’t care about you, your business goals or what your company has accomplished. I truly don’t. I only care about how you and your products or services can help me. Put your marketing through the filter of my eyes.
- Do not nag. If you don’t get a response from an unsolicited email, don’t harass me with more requests. Pick up the phone or deliver something useful but don’t, for the love of all that’s holy, chastise me for not doing what you want me to do.
- Invest in quality. Pay attention to your spelling, grammar, word usage and punctuation. Get someone to proofread your copy or hire an editor. You’d be surprised how many people consider poor writing a deal breaker for business.
- Put on a charm offensive. Content marketing should be a courtship, not a one-night stand. How you approach your audience is as important as what you deliver. To quote Mary Chapin Carpenter in her song “The Hard Way”, “Show a little inspiration; show a little spark”. Make your audience feel like you really care about them.
- Deliver something different. Quoting Mary Chapin Carpenter again, “Tell me something I don’t know instead of everything I do”. There’s a plethora of same old, same old, same old content on the internet. Commit to making something different to fill a void.
How can you tell if it’s working?
What you want to achieve – what we all covet – is the undivided attention of your audience when your content arrives. Think of the moment a conductor raises his baton. The room goes silent and most people lean forward in their seat. The same is true of the best public speakers. The crowd quiets itself in anticipation. Performers are fortunate because they get immediate feedback. Applause, standing ovations, ticket sales and even booing are all helpful in determining success of their content.
For content marketers, keeping an eye on your subscriber lists is a great way to determine if your efforts are being appreciated – if you’re commanding attention. What is your open rate? How many click-throughs do you get? How many conversions do you get? These are all great ways, especially when analysed in combination, to determine whether you have the attention of your audience.
Another good way is to stop. When you don’t publish or schedule or show up at the expected time, does anyone notice? Does anyone complain? Do you get emails, phone calls or text messages trying to find out why? If you don’t, it could be because your audience isn’t finding enough value in what you’re doing.
Where to get help
I’m not for a moment suggesting any of this is easy. It’s not. But it’s something we do every day at Lush – The Content Agency and we can help you develop a content marketing strategy to charm the pants off your target audience. Get in touch and we’ll get you out of the demanding camp and into the good habits of commanding attention.