‘Killing Marketing’ to Save It

The book “Killing Marketing,” the latest from Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose, says this: “We must kill marketing that makes a living from accessing audiences for short bursts of time so they might buy our product.”

Millennial marketing
“BMXr’s,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by micadew

The book “Killing Marketing,” the latest from Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose, says this: “We must kill marketing that makes a living from accessing audiences for short bursts of time so they might buy our product.”

It continues: “We must rebirth a new marketing that makes its living from building audiences for long periods of time, so that we might hold their attention through experiences that place us squarely in the initial consideration set when they are looking for a solution.

“This is the marketing of the future. It is achieving a long-term return on the one asset that will save our business: an audience.”

The book is wonderful — I highly recommend it. It’s chock-full of ideas about how to transform the marketing department from a cost center to a profit center. It details multiple ways to pull direct and indirect revenue from marketing, once true engagement with an audience has been established. In their words, it will transform your marketing into something more powerful than “the art of finding clever ways to dispose of what you make.”

But specific to the selection quoted above, for me it’s another spark of thought about the downside of personas based on demographics.

If you’re personas are demographic- lead rather than interest-led, then you’re setting yourself up for selling in short bursts of time. You’re not going to be able to establish a long-term relationship with an audience based on who they are and what they truly care about — because you simply won’t know what those things are. And you won’t create experiences that hold an audience’s attention for future consideration.

To truly build audiences for long periods of time, we need to start with interests and preferences rather than demographics.

To employ a far overused example …

Red Bull doesn’t define its audience as “Millennial males who want an energy drink.” The brand understands its audience by defining all of the facets of interests in a lifestyle of adventure — from edge (extreme) sports to music to fashion to travel and so on. And then Red Bull provides that audience with access to that lifestyle, through publications, events, social media content and more … and it sells some energy drinks, as well.

If Red Bull did the former (define a demographic), it would’ve been able to effectively place an ad for an energy drink on channels where Millennial males might be. And the brand would’ve sold some drinks, and perhaps captured some people who would continue to buy Red Bull through the years. But the brand affinity it would’ve created would’ve be thin, at best. And it’d be in a constant cycle of reloading short-term audiences. That’s a losing game.

Instead, Red Bull tilted toward the latter — personas based on interests. But … how did that happen?

Maybe the brand started with an idea like: “We see opportunity to engage the ‘extreme sports lifestyle audience regardless of age, location, etc.’ in a whole new, deeper way.” Or, perhaps Red Bull carefully observed its initial audience — the short-term customer audience it had when it first went to market with the drink — and asked questions like:

  • We see Millennial males are a big part of our initial audience, but what’s behind the demographic?
  • What commonalities does that portion of the audience share with the rest of the audience?
  • What is it that our audience — in aggregate — is telling us they care about most?
  • What information are they craving most?
  • And is anyone else providing that information? Access?

I wasn’t there, so I don’t know. And most of the stories we hear about Red Bull’s content marketing successes don’t focus on the starting point of audience understanding. But I imagine it was more along the lines of not resting on an initial, demographic-lead audience understanding. I imagine the brand had a short-term audience, but decided it didn’t want to have to constantly reload. Good for Red Bull!

Smart marketers will take note and do the same. They’ll dig deep. They won’t rest on the easy, starting answer. They’ll get past the simple, demographic personas, and they’ll start thinking about interests that transcend demographic as the path to building a long-term, engaged audience.

In short: Demographic-led personas lead to decent targeting and short-term sales. Simple ROI. Interest-led personas lead to engagement and brand affinity for the long-term: Simple ROI plus customer lifetime value.

Zooming In, Zooming Out: 2 Focal Lengths for Better Audience Understanding

Instead of a scientist measuring a particle, imagine you’re a marketer and the red dot is your audience. You really want to know who they are, so you try to get close.

I truly admire artists like Keith Haring. He created an iconic style that’s known across the world — even by people who don’t know the artist’s name. And when I think about creating an iconic, signature style like that, I imagine artists have an idea that they simply can’t shake. And they keep trying, over and over, to create the perfect expression of their vision. Only with each iteration, they are creating something that may be based on the same idea … but each expression is entirely new unto itself. And is its own version of perspective.

Now … I’m not an artist. I certainly don’t have an iconic style. But I do have an idea that I can’t get out of my head. I keep returning to it over and over again. Because I know there’s a lesson for marketers in the idea. So once again, I’m diving into The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle — a scientific principle I’ve used in many presentations before.

In the simplest terms, the principle establishes this: There is a limit to the ability that you can understand both the exact location and the exact momentum of a particle in motion.

There’s an equation that goes along with the principle, and it includes things like The Planck Constant, central to quantum mechanics. But for the sake of this marketing article, we’ll focus on this visual expression of the idea:

John Lane artIf you’re trying to measure the precise location of the red dot, you’d want to get as close to it as possible, to plot the exact X and Y axis — down to the deepest decimal. “The fifth nine,” if you will.

If you’re trying to measure the exact momentum (to understand how fast the dot is moving from one spot to another), you’d take a view from the top, open end of the cone — so you’d have context to measure the location in relation to other objects at varied times.

To get better understanding of one aspect — location or momentum — you lose the ability to focus on the other.

Now, instead of a scientist measuring a particle, imagine you’re a marketer and the red dot is your audience. You need to know both to be successful. You need to get up close to connect. You need to see the bigger picture to create a lasting relationship. To truly understand your audience, you’re going to need to zoom in and zoom out.

Zooming In: To know your audience,  you try to get close. (At least I hope so. But for most brands, it’s more like close-ish. As close as they can get without actually talking to that audience. But that’s a different post.) You should want to do this to ensure you’re going to set up camp on a channel with a storyline that will resonate greatly.

Zooming Out. To ensure the money you’re spending on that channel and that storyline is well spent — that it isn’t wasted on a trend that passes in a hot second — you need a more broad view. You need to see all the different influences on your audience that you can only get from a broad view.

Marketers’ Most Recent Answer to Solving the Riddle of Getting Both Perspectives Is Big Data

But here’s the even newer wrinkle (and why this principle is back in my head again): The growing reliance on Big Data is actually best for the broad view. And relying on big data is steadily pulling us marketers farther and farther up the cone. It’s allowing marketers to better see where people were, and where they might be headed. But it’s taking us farther and farther away from understanding the individuals within our audience. It’s creating — and even causing us to crave — an abstracted view of our audience rather than a precise view.

The Answer to This Problem Is: More Small Data!

Small Data is gathered by actually reading the comments on Instagram posts. Not just the comments they leave on your post … but the one they left on their best friend’s post yesterday. Within that comment — that comment gained through super-tight focus — are the keys to communicating in their language … to connecting with them based on a challenge, need, value or passion that that individual is expressing.

Small Data is gathered by talking to your audience. You ask for input or invite it, rather than always pushing your message. Once the input flows in — whether via suggestions or questions — you don’t stop after a two-line conversation. You cultivate the third, fourth and fifth exchanges. And then you incorporate your new discoveries based on the conversation into your storyline and lexicon. (This is qualitative input, not based solely on the Big Data algorithm breakdown of the exchange.)

Small Data Is …

Yes, Big Data is good. The bigger picture — the momentum and direction — is important. But Small Data — the highly-specific details gained by tight inspection and interaction — is just as important (if not more so) to building engagement.

So take a lesson from science! Think about the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Deliberately take two views of your audience — by zooming in to Small Data, zooming out with Big Data, and continually repeating the process. Your marketing will be better for it.

Straightforward Steps to Achieving Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. In marketing, empathy is the code word for understanding your audience’s needs, desires and communication preferences so well that your marketing is tuned perfectly toward meeting those needs and desires, and inciting action. At least … that’s the goal.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. In marketing, empathy is the code word for understanding your audience’s needs, desires and communication preferences so well that your marketing is tuned perfectly toward meeting those needs and desires, and inciting action.

At least … that’s the goal. In reality, marketers are challenged on a minimum of a three different levels:

  1. Do we truly have the capacity for empathy, or do we just like to say we have it?
  2. How can we best achieve empathy?
  3. If we’ve achieved empathy, are we actually expressing it? Are we providing value to our audience based on that common understanding? Or are we still pushing product and employing a couple of words to make it sound like we have empathy?

Let’s make the correct assumption that we should have empathy at the core of our marketing. So … how we do achieve empathy? And how should it shape our communications?

Empathy requires truly understanding our audience.

“You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around it.”
— Harper Lee. “To Kill A Mockingbird”

Certainly this wasn’t written with marketing on the brain. And Harper Lee’s words are not even the origin of the idea. But I’m going to terribly twist the thought to our ends and say it’s a great statement about what it takes to truly understand an audience. And currently, most marketers aren’t taking this tact when they say their gaining an understanding of audience.

Because, usually, the process marketers take (dubbed persona creation) involves gathering just about everyone into a room to talk about the audience…except members of the audience themselves! Which means marketers come together to discuss their biased beliefs of what an audience thinks, feels, wants and needs.

We’ve even gone so far as to try and talk ourselves into believing that’s the right way to do things by quoting other people — like Henry Ford (“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”) or Steve Jobs (“A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”).

I would posit that those dudes were smart enough to know how important it is to know what people are asking for. And that, if the whole story is told, Henry would’ve heard “faster horses” and interpreted the thought as “a more rapid means of personal transportation.” Therefore he knew what his audience truly needed, even if it wasn’t in the form the audience thought it might come in. That’s understanding people far below the surface. That’s empathy. (I’ll give Steve the same kind of credit.)

If you’re going to truly understand your audience, then you have to spend time with your audience, and hear what they’re saying beyond just the words used.

How do you spend that time? Here’s three straightforward ways.

Straightforward Method 1: Observe

I guess you could call it stalking … but not the creepy “get yourself arrested” kind of stalking. As audiences are now creating plenty of profiles, content and commentary, those signals become the easiest entré into understanding who your audience really is, as individuals. Simply observing the language used (including shorthand like emojis), the commonalities of self-description and other surface cues can help you better understand the tendencies, needs and wants of your audience.

As an example, take a look at my actual Instagram profile. You’ll see several things that might be important to you, as a marketer. If you’re selling bourbon or beer, you’ve got the info straight from me that I’m a part of your audience. Likewise, if you’re selling marketing technology, I might be a good target, too. Now, that’s a bit too easy…especially if I’m already following your beer brand, this is just validation that I’m actually interested, but it’s not really new information.

If you go a bit farther, though, you’d find information that builds from that validation point, and gives you some interesting angles to work into valuable content for me (and others like me in your audience). I’ve been spending time at the pool … I play golf … I proudly promote my Raleigh community…so on and so forth. And I haven’t even delved into the photos I’ve liked from others – to start to build a picture of who I influence, and who influences me. Or followed myself (in this case) to other social networks to see what I’m posting.

One way to build empathy for your customers.

As a marketer, you can build some pretty amazing interest graphs of your audience that go far beyond demographics. And those interest graphs become the sparks of new content that is driven specifically by what I’m already engaging in. (Like: “Best IPAs To Drink Poolside.”) This is gaining an understanding of who I am, what I like, what I do and what I think. This is building empathy.

(A note on demographics: We marketers love the idea of personas. But I not-so-secretly hate personas. Because the commonly accepted version of personas are based on demographics. And empathy cannot be defined by demographics. One 44-year-old digital marketing expert is not just like another. But if you concentrate on demographics and don’t dig into the individuals behind the averages, that’s what you’ll be led to believe.)

The Upstream Healthcare Audience Puzzle

In healthcare marketing, it’s often assumed high-visibility, consumer-facing communications are the primary areas of focus. But the healthcare ecosystem is complex, and there are multiple upstream influencers who determine the total number of consumers eligible to come to your hospital or physician network for treatment.

In healthcare marketing, it’s often assumed high-visibility, consumer-facing communications are the primary areas of focus. After all, the response rates to these campaigns drive the Return on Investment (ROI) metrics shown in quarterly reports. But the healthcare ecosystem is complex and there are multiple upstream healthcare influencers who determine the total number of consumers eligible to come to your hospital or physician network for treatment.

Changes in influencer priorities or relationships can dramatically decrease or increase your pool of commercially insured prospects. So, a strategic approach to marketing requires being mindful of these upstream stakeholders, crafting aligned audience-based messages and conducting focused outreach that keeps your brand as a ‘must have’ in their decision-making.

Where Upstream Healthcare Influencers Come Into Play

For example, let’s say there’s a long-established manufacturer in your market with 500 employees. It’s considered one of the best places to work because of advancement opportunities and good pay, so people stay a long time. Because of that, the workforce’s average age has drifted up into the 40s. Some still use maternity services, but the claims history now includes more high blood pressure related encounters, hip/knee replacements and oncology care.

The cost of claims to the insurer rises to over 85 percent of total premiums paid by employer and employee. Months ahead of open enrollment, the insurer proposes a significant rate increase to the broker the company has relied upon for years. The company’s CFO strenuously objects because the increase would squeeze its margins, forcing it to raise its own prices or cuts costs elsewhere.

The haggling between employer, broker and health plan begins in earnest and trade-offs are explored. These usually involve changing benefit structures, but in some situations, the manufacturer will change insurers completely or move to a narrow network product.

If your doctors and hospitals are ‘high performing’ and remain in-network, this can be a growth opportunity. For everyone else, that workforce and all those dependents just became unpersuadable through consumer advertising — they simply won’t pay out-of-network rates to come to you.

I’ve seen these volume shifts undo the progress made through consumer-directed outreach.

How do your physicians, hospitals — and your marketing — influence this chain of events?

Yes, much of it is based on hard data about per-encounter costs, clinical quality, chronic illness management and readmission rates, but negotiations also have a perceptual side. What’s the awareness and perception of your organization among these influencers?

Here’s where a marketer’s expertise can help:

Existing Patients/Members

Help your organization achieve quality and patient engagement goals by using your knowledge of persuasive techniques to improve shared-decision making efforts. According to Health Affairs, patients who are not engaged in their care incur costs up to 21 percent higher than patients who are very engaged.

Additionally, even small improvements in medication adherence, appropriate use of the Emergency Department, handwashing and post discharge follow-up appointments with Primary Care Physicians can pay off noticeably in quality and cost metrics.

A marketer’s understanding of patient experience mapping, consumer psychology and communications tone can support patient and staff engagement efforts. Touch base with clinical and case management leaders and offer your help.

Employers

In the U.S, half of health insurance coverage comes through employer-sponsored plans. The yearly determination about benefits is a serious discussion that involves human resources/benefits, as well as finance/administration.

Does Your Copy Have a ‘Human’ Voice? Or a ‘Copywriter’s’ Voice?

The other day I got an email from someone I hadn’t heard from in a while. The subject line was a casual “Hey Gary.” Wow, I thought! I haven’t heard from this person in a long time, so I eagerly opened the email. But in a split-second, I realized this wasn’t a personal email. It was an autoresponder. And it didn’t sound like the person I know who sent it. It felt like it had been written by a copywriter.

The other day I got an email from someone I hadn’t heard from in a while. The subject line was a casual “Hey Gary.” Wow, I thought! I haven’t heard from this person in a long time, so I eagerly opened the email. But in a split-second, I realized this wasn’t a personal email. It was an autoresponder. And the voice didn’t sound like the person I know who sent it. It felt like it had been written by a copywriter.
business_personalThat experience jarred me into wondering about my own copy: Does it sound human? Do I capture the right “voice” of either the sender or the organization?

Sometimes copy gets lost by overthinking it, making sure every “t” is crossed and “i” dotted. Sometimes the tone gets lost through input from other marketing team members, rounds of approvals, and review for compliance, where the tone degrades into being less human and more unnatural — to the point of being distracting or off-putting.

So today I share a few thoughts about copy’s “voice.”

I’ve come up with a scale that might help guide you to the “voice” or tone of copy for you. It’s a scale of 1 to 3. One is the most casual. Three is the most formal. You might find there are more than three for your situation. These are examples of how you might greet someone, ranging from a close friend, to casual acquaintance, to someone you’d meet for the first time:

  1. ‘Sup my brother/sister?
  2. Hey there, <name>! How are you?!
  3. Hello, <name>, nice to meet you.

In the example email from a friend I cited earlier, the subject line was a casual “Hey Gary.” But the tone shifted, once the email was opened to a more canned, more formal, “Hello, nice to meet you” approach.

It was distracting. And disappointing. These unintended — but very real — impressions overwhelmed whatever impact was hoped for about the message content. So my advice is this:

  • Know your audience. When you know your audience, you’ll know if your voice can be casual or formal. Settling on the appropriate voice can be based on past transactions, the type of product or service you offer, or what you know about your customer’s age, demos or behavioral data.
  • Distinguish the level of relationship and product awareness. The voice of a subject line of an email, and headline of any copy (website, landing page, letter, etc.), should be based on the awareness and relationship your prospective customer has with your product or its category.
  • Choose the right type of lead. The relationship and awareness (or lack thereof) dictates if you should use a direct lead (offer, promise or problem-solution) or an indirect lead (secret, declaration or story). I’ll share more about these six lead types in a future blog post.
  • Be consistent. Don’t shift from one voice type to another within the same promo. If the copy has been significantly edited, be sure to read it aloud so you can hear if the voice is consistent throughout.
  • Be consistent across channels. If you’re using email, make sure the voice is consistent from the subject line to the email body, and from the email to the landing page, and yes, consistent all the way through the order page.

Finally, let someone read your copy who is unfamiliar with what has been written, to make sure the voice is appropriate and, probably most importantly, that it sounds like it was written by a human.

Just curious: do you feel my “voice” in these blog posts is appropriate? I invite your feedback.

Gary Hennerberg’s latest book is “Crack the Customer Mind Code: Seven Pathways from Head to Heart to YES!,” available from the DirectMarketingIQ Bookstore. For a free download with more detail about the seven pathways and other copywriting and consulting tips, go to Hennerberg.com.

Small Blog, Big Strategy

It’s incredibly tough for even the biggest brands to master content marketing. So what about small blogs? How are they staying relevant today? Microtargeting and interest-based awareness have changed digital strategy and these tactics are now home to small bloggers.

Kia Street blogIt’s incredibly tough for even the biggest brands to master content marketing. So what about small blogs? How are they staying relevant today? Microtargeting and interest-based awareness have changed digital strategy and these tactics are now home to small bloggers.

Let’s call “small” any blog with more than five active content contributors and at least a few published posts. Sound like you? Keep reading for more of my take on how to amplify your blog’s online presence. If you site has yet to be born, refer to this easy-to-digest explanation on the first steps of getting a website — securing a domain name.

kia street blog graphicDevelop Reasonable KPIs

No matter how big or small the budget, there are plenty of ways to get your content out there. For example:

  • Be at the top of results when users search for you on Google
  • Maximize reach and awareness of new posts immediately after release
  • Drive and sustain website traffic via Twitter and referrals
  • Focus on what is most important to your business: such as user acquisition, overall awareness and user engagement.

This allows you to divide and conquer with paid search, native advertising, social media and affiliate marketing. Consider this perspective when developing your own KPIs.

Aggregate Your Audience Data

What does your audience like on each channel? What do they care about?

Ask your audience data a lot of questions to help you dive further into who your readers are, how they use the chosen platform and what type of content they respond to most. Now see if you can match your blog’s content to the trends found within your audience data. This can help you understand if you’re offering the right content for your audience.

Think of your analysis as instant market research. Your audience data allows you to truly map out your customer’s journey. Some marketers are innovating this concept entirely by creating content paths to match their content marketing goals.

Identify a Content Strategy

Once you’ve solidified your goals and target audience, examine your strategy. Nix any initiatives that don’t contribute to your ultimate mission. What is it that you ultimately want your audience to do? The answer to this question should drive your content marketing strategy.

Experiment With Social Tactics

Experiment with targeted content that is engaging and personalized. Be transparent and interesting to your users. Here are a few simple ideas to make this happen:

  • Host a live Q&A panel on Periscope featuring your editorial staff;
  • Let the audience choose the topic of your next blog post via Twitter polling;
  • Find, attend and capture industry events with Instagram Stories.

Depending on your audience and the theme of your blog, there are many ways of standing out to both followers and non-followers, alike. Play with and test different tactics for best results!

kia blog post chartLearn, Try, Repeat

The best piece of advice for any small blogger is to learn, try, repeat. Here are three principles for riding the trend waves of your industry:

There are tons of sources that can provide you with the training you need to be successful in content marketing. Use them!

You can never go wrong with experimentation, but you can definitely go wrong without it. Don’t be hesitant toward failure.

Digital changes by the second — and so do the needs of your audience. Remember to periodically optimize content to fit the needs of your users.

Learn, try, repeat: It’s the most effective way for small blogs to sustain authority and relevancy in 2017 (and beyond!)

When Marketing and Politics Collide

America is politically obsessed right now. Each day there is at least one and often several news items that lead to a cycle of finger-pointing, name-calling and outrage. It doesn’t matter which party or candidate you endorsed, where you live or where you get your news — emotions are running high all across the land. What does this politically and emotionally charged climate mean for marketers?

Politics and marketingAmerica is politically obsessed right now. Each day there is at least one and often several news items that lead to a cycle of finger-pointing, name-calling and outrage.

It doesn’t matter which party or candidate you endorsed, where you live or where you get your news — emotions are running high all across the land. What does this politically and emotionally charged climate mean for marketers?

There have long been companies and business models defined by a cause or a philanthropic purpose. For instance, Tom’s Shoes is one of a host of buy one/give one modeled retailers that have a clear purpose built into their brand. But that’s different than consumer brands taking a stance on a timely and divisive political issue.

Well known corporate entities and brands like Starbucks, Nordstrom’s, Lyft and Amazon have all taken recent public, political positions — up to and including boycotts and legal action. Research from Morning Consult reveals the support behind that kind of activity — at least among young adults. Another study from J. Walter Thompson Intelligence further validated and quantified that finding, citing “Americans are […] overwhelmingly supportive of brands that take stances on issues: 78 percent agree that companies should take action to address the important issues facing society, while 88 percent agree that corporations have the power to influence social change.”

Does political activism help a brand with conventional brand metrics? Maybe. The Super Bowl LI ads that had a political message appeared to create more buzz, engender more sharing and had higher recall than non-political ads aired during the same game but reviews are mixed on whether these ads were effective at creating emotional connections, building brand favorability or purchase intent. Longer or deeper commitments to that strategy would presumably produce different results but that is not clear as yet and different, additional metrics must be considered when examining the effect of a political stance.

The decision to embrace a cause or take a political stance has potentially significant impact on market perception and brand performance. That impact could be positive or negative and requires a thoughtful approach to what must be a long term commitment.

Know Your Audience

We’re a nation split right down the middle on many critical issues so taking an action or position is a chancy endeavor unless your audience is well understood and unified on that particular issue. Even so, the threat remains that some will see a vocal and public position as unwarranted, in poor taste, or simply outside of the realm of a brand’s responsibility or authority.

For some niche or lifestyle brands it’s natural to take a stance on social or political fronts that relate to the brand’s value proposition. Their audiences accept and even expect it. That assumption should be validated with prior research of course, and be sure to factor in any potential backlash from broader populations exposed to ads. In general, the universe of active, political brands is expanding as consumers increasingly look for more than a transactional relationship with their favorite brands. If a consumer is going to emotionally connect to a brand, they want to know they are in sync on important matters. Social media has given both brands and consumers the tools to connect on multiple levels.

That deepened brand relationship tends to happen after brands have done the hard and time-consuming work of establishing a clear brand voice and messaging platform based on consumer information, insights and feedback. In the future, more of that work and messaging will likely be around issues, causes, and policies to help develop recommendations around social and political activism. This is not familiar territory to most marketers and they may need to reach out to consultants to help them understand and frame their options.

Corporate Responsibility

What is a brand’s obligation to enter the dialogue? There are a dizzying number of issues to consider as the link between politics and business issues is becoming more direct and more visible to consumers. The decision is unique to each company but colored by an inherent lack of control over the final message.

Brand messaging is picked up and replayed in both traditional and internet media outlets and then by consumers themselves. Consumer statements are often laced with approval or condemnation and then further exaggerated by the bubbles of self-validation that social media networks and news/opinion curation encourages. This generates an exaggerated reaction to any action or statement as the sling-shot effect of the Internet magnifies both the reach and impact within certain, connected populations. So a little potentially goes a long, long way but not always in a predictable direction. Corporate responsibility and communication officers have never been more challenged.

How to Lose an Audience in 10 Days

In the spirit of “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” my colleague Caitlin and I came up with the following four ways to make your audience hit the road and run into the arms of your very handsome competitor.

A couple months ago, my colleague Caitlin and I were discussing marketing over Pad Thai, and she threw out the idea of a post themed after the Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey gem, “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” There’s a reason I hang out with Caitlin … she’s a smart cookie.

If you’re not familiar with the film’s plot, advice columnist Kate Hudson pitches the idea of all the crazy things a woman could do to make a man leave her in 10 days. Across town, advertising playboy Matthew McConaughey makes his own bet: that he can get a woman to fall in love with him ahead of a major event. Antics ensue, and needless to say, Roger Ebert was not a fan of this romcom.

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
You mean, like a decent movie script?

So in the spirit of “How to Lose a Guy …” Caitlin and I went back and forth a bit, coming up with the following four ways to make your audience hit the road and run into the arms of your very handsome competitor:

1. Sending Mixed Messages … Does Your Audience Even Know You?

Inconsistent messaging — across  your brands and/or channels — simply does not fly. It’s like dating a dude who’s all over the place. And you know what they say: If he’s sending mixed messages, he’s just not that into you.

When you let your audience know you’re just not that into them — unlike the 20-something woman who cries to her besties over ice cream that “He seemed so into me, but then he stopped calling!” — your audience is not going to stick around trying to figure out what went wrong.

2. Just Like Forgetting to Make Reservations, You Forgot to Optimize for Mobile

How many times do you have to read that mobile isn’t just the “future” anymore? HELLO! It’s here, and consumers expect your website and content to be mobile-optimized. Do you expect the mobile-optimization fairy godmother to show up, fix your site and then leave? Well don’t hold your breath.

Well you failedWant a concrete example? Then consider this year’s Super Bowl — so much of the Big Game played out on the mobile and social (I actually watched the game on my ancient iPad because I don’t have cable!).

And let us not forget Gatorade’s special Super Bowl Snapchat filter (which received 160 million impressions).

If that’s not enough, then take it straight from the mouth of Google:

In the USA, 94 percent of people with smartphones search for local information on their phones. Interestingly, 77 percent of mobile searches occur at home or at work, places where desktop computers are likely to be present.

3. Punching Above Your Weight

This never turns out well, and for marketers, this is more specifically the misstep of being inauthentic. Your audience can smell fake a mile away, so don’t be fake.

Sure, we all want to be relevant and timely, but if there’s a situation going on that your brand does not fit into, do not shoehorn it in. Because it never, EVER works (and then you get made fun of — or worse — on social media).

4 . ‘Please Stop Calling Me …”

“Thanks for the great date … I’ll call you,” she says.

Except, ok, she doesn’t right away. So … you call her. No answer, so you don’t leave a message. You call back later. Same deal, but this time you leave a voice mail … and then you do this 42 more times over the course of a week.

Stop It!No, really. Stop it. If you abuse your communication channels, be it phone or email, your audience is going to think you’re spamming them, when in your mind, you’re just really eager and excited. Like a puppy. Doesn’t everyone like puppies?

Set up a preference center and honor it. Communicate with your audience when they want it, and respect the fact that some people will be chill and accepting of all varieties of communication across channels, while other consumers are more selective. And that’s ok.

I love youIf you can’t manage to handle the four points above, well, I hate to say this, but your audience is going to wiggle out of your arms faster than that cat. And they’re going to take their money with them, too.

 

 

Killer Content Strategy in 2 Hours

To efficiently get your team to a killer content strategy you need a common framework that can be applied to all your content decisions, as well as a simplified planning process that connects your approach to your audience and business goals.

MeetingTo efficiently get your team to a killer content strategy you need a common framework that can be applied to all your content decisions, as well as a simplified planning process that connects your approach to your audience and business goals.

The Conversation Framework

We often talk about digital content as a storytelling medium, but that assumes a one-sided relationship with one storyteller and one or many listeners.

I prefer to think of it as a conversation that may include stories. In a best case scenario, your content resembles an ongoing dialogue with your audiences that you can learn from over time, just as a good conversation requires listening and thoughtful reaction.

If you think about content planning in this context of a natural dialogue you will find there are certain elements that impact the direction and elements of the varied kinds of conversation that we all engage in day to day:

  • Depth of relationship: You talk about different things and in a different cadence and tone with strangers or new friends than with those you know well.
  • Frequency of touch point: Catching up with a long lost friend takes on a different flavor than conversing with another friend that you see more regularly.
  • Passion point: If you have something in common with someone that can often become the central theme of your interactions.
  • Attention: Is it a passing opportunity to chat or do you have uninterrupted hours to spend together?
  • One-to-one or one-to-many: Are you addressing a group or having a private conversation?
  • Utility: Is the focus on getting something specific accomplished?
  • Conversation initiation: Are you initiating the conversation? If so, you carry the burden of the setting the clear direction, pace and tone.
  • Intent: Are you trying to persuade? Entertain? Educate? All require different approaches and info.
  • Channel conventions: What’s accepted and commonplace in some channels may not be in others.
  • Format: Content can take many forms including visual, audio, interactive, etc… and the format will influence the structure and flow of the conversation.
  • Language or tone varies based on norms for the intended audience: Certainly age and other demographics but also take into account regional flavor, language preferences or degree of formality.
  • Investment: Depending on how important the interaction is to your goals you may invest your time or other resources more or less liberally, including using paid media to maximize reach.
  • Content authorship: Are you using your own stories and content or sharing something that someone else created?

You can quickly see how these and many other subtleties impact the flavor and flow of our conversations and how they could also influence your content choices. Once you have that conversational framework in mind you can get through the actual planning pretty swiftly.

Simplified Content Planning Process

Now to break down the two-hour planning process into managable 30-minute chunks.

Ford Cuts the BS and Focuses on Trust

In my opinion, the quickest way to customers’ hearts — and wallets — is to be authentic. Partnering with Pitchfork Media, Ford has created a series of Web videos in which female artists, like Elle King and Betty Who, get together and have honest conversations about what’s important to them … while driving around in a Ford Focus.

Elle King and Betty Who In FocusA couple of weeks ago, as I scrolled through my Facebook feed, I came across a “Suggested Post” from Ford featuring a video of Elle King and Betty Who. I’m a fan of Elle, so I stopped scrolling and watched, despite my usual disdain for all things “suggested” on social.

The video is just under three minutes, and these two female musicians discuss things near and dear to my heart: body image issues and body positivity, being authentic and creative, pushing the limits that people set for you as a woman. I watched the entire thing, realizing that, yes, Elle and Betty are driving around Brooklyn in a Ford Focus, but the car is not the focus (pun intended) of the video.

Instead, it’s these two bright, talented, articulate women talking about life, talking about issues that I deal with, too. And what kept me watching was the conversation they were having … an honest conversation between two friends. I loved it.

https://youtu.be/yc3yhpDFl8s

It’s not until 2:41 in the video that you see the words “Ford Focus” come onto the screen. Then there’s a quick shot of the traditional Ford logo, followed by Elle mentioning that if you want to listen to the entire conversation (yes, they recorded a fabulous 20 minutes!), go to infocus.pitchfork.com.

By 2:50, there’s about 9 seconds of video of a gentleman telling Betty, still in the driver’s seat, about the assisted backup camera in the car. But that’s it.

Ford used 9-10 seconds of a 2 minute and 59 second video for its product, and left the remaining 95 percent of the video in the hands of Elle and Betty.

Better yet, here are some of the Facebook shares I found of this video:

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 9.59.43 AM

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 9.59.23 AMNow, are these people talking about how they want to go out and buy a Ford Focus? No, and that’s ok. They’re talking about Elle and Betty’s conversation, about how much they like the musicians.

What Ford did right here was to partner with Pitchfork, a Chicago-based online publication know for its coverage of indie music. Pitchfork was able to make the connections with the musicians, Ford provided the cars, and the end result is some really stellar content marketing.

I can’t say whether or not this will help sell cars, but so far there are three episodes, all with this focus:

We’re in an unprecedented era of female artistry — women are changing the landscape in music, art, literature, and more. In Focus brings together two brilliant female artists to share their experiences, get to know each other, and honestly discuss all the things that are important to them.

These videos will attract a female audience; they will possibly help Ford earn the trust of this audience; and if nothing else it will get people talking. I know I have been … aside from this post, I’ve already mentioned the Elle and Betty video to several of my female friends.

Good job Ford and Pitchfork. You know who you’re trying to reach, you’re giving me content I care about — from people I admire — and you’re not trying to cram in a hard sell for your car.

Oh, and it helps that your website is pretty freaking gorgeous.

Now, in comparison, you have the Matthew McConaughey ads for Lincoln … and the ridiculously funny spoof ads from SNL.

https://youtu.be/NcGhLcVqxf0

Needless to say, if SNL is spoofing you, there might be a problem. And for Lincoln, the bigger question is how do you expect to make an honest connection?