As marketers, we love trends. Taking advantage of industry trends is how marketers make a living. We analyze and criticize, and we often enjoy our banter, whether it's about the latest social channels or annoying buzzwords.
But how often do we assess negative trends in our industry? And do we truly dig down to find the underlying reasons for those trends?
Today, let's take a look at the common challenge of breaking through content noise and how that noise has led to two other challenges: our increasing reliance on paid advertising, and channel over-saturation. I've wrapped up each section with tips on how to combat these negative trends.
1. Content Noise Has Become Maddening
Take a moment to think about all of the ways that you can be contacted.
You can receive a call, SMS text, email, blog comment, Facebook post on your timeline, Facebook Messenger message, tweet, direct tweet, LinkedIn introductions and InMail, mobile app push notifications, Fitbit notification, Xbox Live voice message, Snapchat photo with a goofy filter...
The possibilities to earn your attention—and that of your customers—are seemingly endless. And they're still expanding.
As channels come and go, they create unique communities and thus varying best-practices for reaching them with content. But marketers tend to approach all these various audiences in the same way: They broadcast the same marketing message or "brand appropriate" dross across each channel.
There may have been a time when doing so was effective; however, platforms and networks have counteracted those efforts by building algorithms that serve up more relevant content to audiences.
As a result, organic reach across many popular channels has declined, and so marketers are reverting to the pay-to-play advertising model to reach audiences on those channels.
I often hear marketers say social networks and platforms, along with search engines and publishers, are greedy for ad revenue and are therefore preventing smaller organizations, which can't pay to play, from reaching audiences; however, by hiding crappy content, those platforms and publishers are protecting their hard-earned audiences from spam and half-assed marketing efforts.
To conquer content noise...
- Focus on empathy for your audiences: Serve them content that matters to them.
- Engage in more one-to-one relationships.
- Provide real value—and give much more than you ask.
- Participate in industry communities and build your "tribe."
- Share your content in a manner appropriate for each audience/platform, and focus on your storytelling.
- Offer transparency in your marketing efforts.
2. Expensive Shifts to Advertising (and the Public Backlash)
As a direct result of content noise, declining organic reach, and overall increases in competition, paid advertising has become more expensive—and much trickier to figure out for search engine marketers and pay-per-click advertisers.
With waves of consumer eyeballs switching from desktop to mobile, marketers are now chasing both audience channels and device platforms.
Campaigns spent testing new channels and optimizing for ROI across these new variables is likely an expensive and time-consuming venture. Yet, how do marketers even know that their advertising efforts are even being seen (let along paying off)?
The challenges don't stop there. Think about other advertising channels as well. Video on-demand (think Netflix, HBO, Hulu, etc.) is beginning to overtake television, and those who watch television fast-forward through commercials whenever they can.
Furthermore, programmatic ad buying often puts your campaigns in the trenches of the Internet—in areas where, if your ads aren't being blocked, you're lucky to reach a qualified buyer. (Oh, and a brief note about more traditional billboard ads: when was the last time you saw someone in their car looking at a billboard (or even the road) instead of their cell phone?)
To conquer these advertising shifts...
- Own intent-based and relevant industry searches (through SEM and SEO efforts).
- Create high-quality, empathetic, and valuable content; it converts better and keeps costs down.
- Experiment with campaigns across many channels to better determine your best tactics.
- Maintain an accurate reporting structure and relationship with your analytics efforts.
- Track KPIs closely and reassess strategy often (at least quarterly).
3. Over-Promotion and Channel Saturation Are Killing Your Effectiveness
Marketers maintain full plates and like to get things done.
And so efficiency is a marketer's best friend.
"You mean I can get three months of automated social content out of one whitepaper? Sign me up, please!"
Though I enjoy efficiency as much as the next marketer, let's pump the brakes a bit. Careless republishing, automation, and excessive scheduling can be greatly undermining your return on marketing. I'm not suggesting that those are necessarily bad tactics: They just need to be applied thoughtfully; otherwise, you may be spreading your marketing efforts too thin.
Let's say, for example, that you create a high quality piece of writing. You've researched your audience, optimized for intent-based keywords, promoted with influencers, designed a killer graphic, amplified through paid search, set up proper tracking analytics, and installed all the bells and whistles.
You happily report that your content acquired new leads, grew your social following, and even helped close a new client.
Terrific work! But you're now expected to do this three times a week...
Not wanting to let anyone down, you accept. You've got this. You have a process now—plus social, reporting, and scheduling tools to help you.
Though it would be optimal to create high-performing content three, five, or more times per week, for many organizations that velocity is not feasible. But they try anyway, and quality suffers.
Marketers end up throwing more money at bad content in an attempt to increase distribution and replicate performance from previous content efforts. As spending spreads onto more channels, more noise is created and costs are driven up.
To conquer over-promotion...
- Stop trying to do too much: Create realistic content processes prior to scaling.
- Develop a content team with members who complement one another's professional skillsets.
- Practice marketing moderation.
- Brains can beat budgets: Repurpose content authentically and thoughtfully for each audience.
- Identify content gaps and align content with your customer journey.
- Remember that quality will outweighs quantity.
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Have you experienced these trends in your marketing efforts? How have you conquered these challenges at your organization? Leave your comments below and reach out to me directly to discuss your wins, frustrations, or wild ideas that you're trying this year.