How many email marketing messages do you see in a day? How about ads on Facebook, Twitter and other social media streams? If you don’t use ad-blocking software, go ahead and add all the banner and sidebar ads you see during a day. Then consider all the billboards you see on your daily commute and the TV spots you watch while catching up on your favorite shows. What would you guess your number would be? Most people assume they see a few hundred ads a day, but that’s not accurate.
We see thousands.
Of course, not every ad makes an impression; most are incidental glimpses we catch while heading into the office or while fast-forwarding on our DVRs. Even those minimal exposures, though, lead to marketing immunity. Just as we tend to tune out constant background noise, we suppress the mental noise ads create. If you’re like most people, you decide within a second and a half if you’re going to open an email, save it for opening later or delete it unread. You take only a few seconds longer to decide whether to read an article or bounce off the page. That’s a tiny window for content marketers to hit – tiny, but not impossible. If your audience likes you, they’ll keep reading.
Your content matters because it’s the only thing that sets you apart in the long term. Your customers have become immune to most advertising gambits; they’ve seen the hype literally thousands of times before. Even if they give in with a click, they quickly move on if they feel they’ve been suckered in with a click-bait title or subject line. They stay only if they feel they’re getting something of value from what you’re serving them. Here’s how you can give your customers content that keeps them in place and sets your message apart from advertising clutter.
Make It Easy
The best content goes straight from readers’ screens to their brains without getting snagged on poor grammar, bad spelling or ugly word choices. Your audience has limited patience for your content, and if they expend half of it just wading through awkward English and clumsy typos, they aren’t going to have much left over for listening to the message itself. Give your readers a break and hire content writers whose English skills don’t get in the way of the story you want to tell your audience.
Use Your Voice
Louis Armstrong and Lana del Rey couldn’t sound more different, but they have one thing in common: They’re unmistakably distinctive. Good content informs, but great content also entertains, and that’s what having a distinctive brand voice can do for you. Coming up with a content marketing strategy that reinforces who you are with a strong, memorable voice sets you apart in a large crowd of companies competing for a limited audience that’s increasingly immune to conventional marketing tactics.
Inform Your Readers
Too often, content marketing forgets the content and focuses on the marketing. The point of what you publish isn’t to disguise advertising as content but to give your audience useful information. Content marketing moves away from the old concept of positioning a product as the only solution to a problem described in the ad and toward genuinely helpful information that turns a blog into a destination site.
Respect Your Audience
You know advertising when you see it, and so does your audience. They don’t mind a plug or two when it makes sense and is honest, but they do object to feeling tricked. Some companies falter close to the finish line by developing useful, relevant content and later hiding advertising inside it instead of putting useful information available and clearly branding it. Content marketing is still marketing, and it’s fine to let your readers know who’s bringing them the information they want – but not if all you’re bringing them is a different kind of ad. Your dog might be fooled into swallowing a pill if you smear peanut butter on it, but your audience is smarter than that; be honest with them and don’t use content to conceal ads.