Arment Dietrich

Content Marketing: Too Much of a Good Thing?

By: Arment Dietrich | January 8, 2014 | 
82

Mass Confusion in Content MarketingBy Clay Morgan

At the end of November and into early December, my wife and I took our great nieces on a much needed vacation.

We started at New York City and worked our way up New England, finally spending some time in Boston and Cape Cod.

I’d never been to the Big Apple and was overwhelmed when I walked up on Times Square for the first time. It was amazing. There were store signs, billboards, electronic billboards, street hawkers, and other advertising everywhere.

It was visually stunning and incredibly impressive, but I actually remember only two advertisements.

One was a trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and the other was a sign for M&M World.

In this incredible display of eye-popping visuals, virtually all of it failed to make a memorable impression on me, beyond the public spectacle of it all. Not one sign resulted in a sale from us, though I did see The Hobbit.

We know there’s a lot of bad content out there, but there is a lot of good content, too. The maxim of creating good content cannot stand on its own. The ads on Times Square are all extremely well done, but like too much great content, they were lost in the overload.

Except for One…

It is around noon and we’re walking along thinking about where we wanted to eat lunch. Then I heard a voice.

“You looking for lunch? We have a great kid’s menu, reasonable prices, and no wait.”

When there are five of you, including three growing children, that is the perfect trifecta.

Clearly, the guy saw us checking out restaurants, saw the kids, and connected all the important dots: What will the kids eat, will we have to wait, and is it going to break the bank?

We ate at his restaurant, the Playwright Tavern.

That message may very well have been slapped up on a billboard, sign, or digital screen, but we missed it. Why did this guy stand out in the maelstrom of marketing messages?

The reason is simple. He was not talking to everyone. He was talking with us.

Why Spin Sucks Doesn’t

There are a lot of really good marketing blogs in the world. They all have great content, and an effective means of delivering said content. So, why does Spin Sucks consistently rank as one of the best?

Gini Dietrich gives it a personal touch. She shares a ton of what would usually be private information – both personal and professional. She responds to your comments. She engages in conversations and listens when you disagree. She has some fun with it, and shows a bit of spunk and personality.

In fact, she communicates through the blog in such a way that many people, who have never spoken to Gini in real life, feel they are close friends.

The blog is like that restaurant’s hawker. Just as he took an experienced look at the landscape (three young kids, two tired adults!), and spoke directly to us, delivering exactly what we needed, “Hey, we have a great kids’ menu. No waiting.”

Gini does the same for her community. She finds out what people are up to, what they’re working on, what they want to learn about, and speaks ‘directly’ to us all.

Her digital connections, both on the blog and her social channels, reaches people the same way the guy from The Playwright Tavern does.

A Personal Touch in Content Marketing

I have a strong belief: As the amount of good content increases, other factors are going to have greater influence on whether or not your content is read.

One of those is distribution. The other is what you do after the content is distributed.

We talk a lot in marketing about “engagement” and “conversations.”

I hate both words. I don’t want to engage you and I don’t want a conversation. I want to sit down, have a beer, and chat about how A&E handled the Phil Robertson controversy, or why teens are shying away from Facebook.

I don’t remember my first Spin Sucks comment. But I do remember vividly thinking, while the blog made some good points, something was missing. So I typed a few words, hit “post comment”, and went back to work.

A little while later, I received an email that there was a response to my comment and lo and behold it was Gini. However, it wasn’t a stuffy “Thank you for responding.” It was a real reply, just as I’d get if we were in a restaurant discussing some matter.

It made an impression.

I became an active reader and commenter. I liked the blog so much, I went to work for the company.

Sorting Out All that Content

How do we make sure our content gets seen through all the clutter?

The bad news first: Your content can’t be good because good is no longer good enough. It must be exceptional, and then some.

  • Take a unique or niche approach. In the past couple of weeks, there have been about 400 billion blog posts about how to achieve all you want in 2014. About three are worth reading because that’s how many have something different to say.
  • Narrow down your topics.
  • Find a real problem not being adequately addressed elsewhere, and solve it. This requires being observant and really listening to your audience and potential audience.
  • Ask. I say this all the time and yet so few people do it. What content would you like to see? Would you like more video? Do you prefer to receive it in your RSS feed or via Twitter? The simple act of asking does wonders for your marketing research.

That’s what the street hawker outside that restaurant did. Surrounded and awash in a sea of marketing, one guy got through the clutter simply because he talked to us about no waiting, reasonable prices, and a kid’s menu — exactly what we were looking for at that moment.

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82 Comments on "Content Marketing: Too Much of a Good Thing?"

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KJoqitoe
KJoqitoe
2 years 6 months ago
CynthiaDAlba
CynthiaDAlba
2 years 6 months ago

There is a lot of “noise” out there. Everybody yelling to get attention. In my world, it’s BUY MY BOOK! But when you’ve thought thousands (even hundreds of thousands) of authors clambering for sales, it’s hard to be heard. But I’m hearing what you’re saying. You were at the end of “target marketing” in New York. The man was talking TO  YOU about a subject YOU were interested in at that time (dinner with the kids.) Now to figure out how to use that advice in my world. 

Nice blog, Clay

jasonkonopinski
2 years 6 months ago

What makes your experience so interesting is that, in general, restaurant hawkers and sidewalk marketers are shouting at everyone who passes by, in hopes of a nibble. 

In the Facebook thread on this post, Laura Stocker mentioned that she’s witnessed the same restaurant hawker in action — and his personal messaging fills the restaurant day after day.

Lisa Mozloom
2 years 6 months ago

I love the simplicity of this piece and what strikes me the most, especially about your Times Square analogy is that if WE, as marketers, feel overwhelmed, imagine how our target audiences feel?   We must always consider what we can we do to simplify the connection?

Howie Goldfarb
2 years 6 months ago
Great post ClayMorganand you are very astute. What people forget is when everyone does the same thing no one wins. You have to be crafty and unique. I used to blog about standing out from the clutter and used Time Square photos I took as an example. The problem is standing out can easily get you off brand. Like TV commercials. When VW did that cute kid using the force for the Superbowl everyone LOVED it. Including me. It was the number 1 viewed ad on YouTube that year. 40 mil views (which in perspective wasn’t very many considering I… Read more »
belllindsay
2 years 6 months ago

So. Much. NOISE! I loved this story so much – the fact that in the midst of this ridiculous onslaught of technology, a simple “guy on the street’ got your attention – and your money. People forget that **personal** is still so bloody important! Making sure your content is personal is difficult – what with large audiences and the anonymity of the Interwebs – but it’s not impossible. Know your audience, and *listen* to what they are saying – even better – listen to what they AREN’T saying. Then deliver.

Liz
2 years 6 months ago
I love this post. It’s difficult to be heard when the white noise is so loud but more often than not, taking the personal approach works. I think that one thing that folks easily forget is that virtual requires personal to sustain and maintain a relationship. Without the personal, it’s just another face in the digital crowd. As an aside, NYC was my playground growing up. The Times Sq of that era is distinctly different than the Times Sq of today. So when I read this analogy, in my mind’s eye I see the Marlboro Man smoking on a billboard.… Read more »
Howie Goldfarb
2 years 6 months ago

ClayMorgan

susancellura
susancellura
2 years 6 months ago
One of the attractions/beauty of Times Square is all those advertisements. Of course, you are correct in that it’s too much if the brands actually want to make a sale. Sometimes it’s like there’s a “me, too” mindset in areas like that, but hey, I’m not going to judge. I don’t like all the “trendy” words, but it is amazing that if people or clients don’t hear them, they think you don’t know what you are talking about. That’s why, as you point out, you need to know your audience, identify their needs (by asking them or being an expert… Read more »
ClayMorgan
2 years 6 months ago

CynthiaDAlba Auntie! Glad to see you here.

I think you do this well, actually. You have a base of people who have purchased your previous books, enjoyed them and want more. You keep them engaged – they feel like they get to know you whether you are appearing at a conference or talking with them via social media. Your approach to marketing, like my boss’, feels personal.

susancellura
susancellura
2 years 6 months ago
Oh – and one other thought. Today on the radio I heard that if a person graduated in 2004, this would be the year for the 10-year high school reunion. Yet there was a bunch of chatter about not going because you’ve kept up with everyone on Facebook. BUT, you can’t have real conversations about what you’ve been doing over the past 10 years with old friends. Sad. They are missing out if they don’t go. Have a drink, sit down, laugh, reconnect…it’s much more fun to laugh WITH someone in person versus laughing AT a comment or picture on… Read more »
ClayMorgan
2 years 6 months ago

jasonkonopinski Laura Stocker Jason, there were plenty of street hawkers on the Square and most of them had an approach that ranged from annoying to threatening. 

There’s a backside too. The hawker delivered. The food was good. The bill came in a little better than I expected. They had a good kid’s menu. The waitresses doted on the girls.

ClayMorgan
2 years 6 months ago

Lisa Mozloom Good point about simplification. It’s a way of putting it I had not thought about.

ClayMorgan
2 years 6 months ago

Howie Goldfarb I love the Darth Vader kid commercial too, but have never stepped foot on the lot of a VW dealership. 

“Location, your store sign (or landing page), customer service and product will trump all marketing you ever do.”  So very important!

ClayMorgan
2 years 6 months ago

belllindsay Personal is. Relevance. I mean, if it isn’t relevant to me, I’m not going to pull my wallet out and at the end of the day, the bottom line is the bottom line.

ClayMorgan
2 years 6 months ago

susancellura I will agree. Seeing all that at Time Square was cool. Of course, after I got over the cool factor, my mind started asking “does all this work?”

I have a vague memory of car ads, but I’m not in the market for a car. If I were, one of those may have stuck in my mind. Relevance, I believe is more important than ever, and because of that, marketing has to get more and more personal.

creativeoncall
2 years 6 months ago
I think content overload will  be a (or the) big theme of 2014.  It’s been building for a while… Mark Schaefer wrote about it this week, though is hardly the first.  He also spoke, as did David Armano at Edelman when I interviewed him last fall, of how it’s all becoming a paid game again.  Well, yes, the field is crowded, it was never really “free,” and the more personal the messaging and attention, the better.  The smartest content players – the ones still playing in 2015 and beyond – will be those who figure out the most creative ways… Read more »
MikeSchaffer
2 years 6 months ago

Great points here, Clay! We are definitely overloaded with content and data, as everyone wants a piece of our brainspace (and bank account). The truth remains that “old school connectivity” is even more important now because it differs from the norm. My dry cleaner knows my name. And while there are likely less expensive options (like, learn how to iron a damn shirt), that personal touch keeps me going back there. The one-on-one communications model works for small businesses; the challenge moving forward for large companies is to adopt as much of that philosophy as possible.

ClayMorgan
2 years 6 months ago

MikeSchaffer I like the old school connectivity.  You can’t do it for everything, but as I told someone recently, a honest-to-goodness letter, mailed, via USPS, with a stamp, can make quite an impact in a world of email and Tweets.

corinamanea
2 years 6 months ago

Great post Clay. Loved the story. In the end it´s about being human and treating your clients/customers/audience like humans, not robots. It´s about making them feel special, not one of many. I think you just have to care for your audience or customers. Because if you care, you put the extra effort in delivering something special just for them.

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
2 years 6 months ago

There is a giant echo chamber out there where people write about the same 5 topics over and over again with little distinction.

The moment where you reach out and let your reader know that they are more than just pixels on a page is where you begin to really convince them that you see them as more than just a potential pile of money.

It is powerful.

I hate the echo chamber, boring, dry and life force sucking.

RobBiesenbach
2 years 6 months ago

Ah, I remember my first visit to Times Square. The three-card monte and shell games and the places offering live sex shows. That was the late 70s, I believe and it was quite eye-opening for a kid!
With that in mind, I thought your story was going to take an ugly turn. Very often those hawkers steer you to someplace terrible, so I’m glad it worked out!

biggreenpen
2 years 6 months ago

RobBiesenbach (side note) I lived in NYC 89-92 and my second job was next to the Port Authority (LOL but it was legit — I typed up summaries of the news!). I had to get from Grand Central to my  job across 42nd Street. I can verify that it was still “eye opening.” When I go back now I’m incredulous at how much different it is. I’ll bet Clay got drug to the super Hello Kitty Store on 42nd with all those girls along if it’s still there. 🙂 🙂

biggreenpen
2 years 6 months ago
ClayMorgan MikeSchaffer so completely agree on the letter!!!! I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when the recipients of my Snail Mail My Email project creations got their letters (and I hope they forgive my rudimentary “art”). http://biggreenpen.com/2013/12/01/in-praise-of-snail-mail/ But Clay this was a great piece for all the reasons you mentioned. With our program (health insurance for uninsured children) time and again we’ve learned that we can put up all the billboards, bus cards, tray liners at fast food etc etc etc but nothing is as effective as a neighbor who says “it’s a good thing” (and nothing as destructive… Read more »
biggreenpen
2 years 6 months ago

Howie Goldfarb ClayMorgan I could stare at this image all day long and be happy …. <3 NYC

ClayMorgan
2 years 6 months ago

RobBiesenbach It turned into a very satisfying lunch for us!  And I LOVED the Square, even with all the marketing and the more aggressive hawkers. The kids got a kick out of it too!

ClayMorgan
2 years 6 months ago

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes That repetition, the save 5 topics as you mention, is I think, more than anything, what gives content marketing a bad name.

ClayMorgan
2 years 6 months ago

Not really relevant, but my wife took a lot of photos in Time Square and I still think this is by far my favorite. Just sayin’.

lizreusswig
2 years 6 months ago
Really enjoyed this post, ClayMorgan and it does seem to be on many minds currently. Content overload certainly isn’t new, but I think it’s becoming more pronounced as more people recognize the benefits and jump in.  Personally, I’ve pared down my regular reading to just a couple of blogs that I know & love (like Spin Sucks).  I originally came here because I met Gini IRL and, like you, I found this community to be personal, fun and full of supportive folks who I enjoy. As you point out, the problem for both the established and the new content developers, is reaching… Read more »
jasonkonopinski
2 years 6 months ago

ClayMorgan belllindsay Relevance and value are really difficult to wrap your head around from an audience perspective, because marketers often suffer from myopia when it comes to understanding what works and what doesn’t because of personal experience or bias. 

I hate popup ads with the fury of a thousand suns, but, dangit, they work really well in some applications. I don’t use Pinterest (except when ginidietrich sends me bacon-related pins), but I will continue to recommend it to clients if their product/service aligns.

jasonkonopinski
2 years 6 months ago

ClayMorgan I should have used this image in the post. Daggumit.

Word Ninja
2 years 6 months ago

lizreusswig ClayMorgan ginidietrich I was just starting to write a similar comment to Liz’s so will say DITTO on overload, pared down reading, meeting Gini, this community and a MEETUP!! Loved how you worked in the NYC encounter, perfect, Clay.

lizreusswig
2 years 6 months ago

Word Ninja ClayMorgan ginidietrich Great Minds…! 🙂

JRHalloran
2 years 6 months ago
I’m glad you brought up these two examples, Clay!  I was also immediately won over by the good interaction on this blog, not just from Gini, but from everyone on it. I was also taken aback when I learned I was the centerpiece for a #FollowFriday session a few weeks ago.  (I have to say, Gini knows how to make a newcomer feel quite welcome)  The personal touch to that made me felt like I belonged somewhere (which is one of the essential human needs, if any of you study advertising).  The guy who spoke to your family directly in… Read more »
JRHalloran
2 years 6 months ago

ClayMorganVery nice shot!

EdenSpodek
2 years 6 months ago

ClayMorgan You make me want to go back and visit NYC, right now! 

I’m looking forward to more posts like this from you in 2014. Maybe this is taking to simplistic a view but at the end of the day, a personalized, targeted touch is important. You don’t need to be someone’s best friend but you do need to figure out how to help them and let them know you have a solution. Relationships matter.

I also have a soft spot for you. I’m a niece who was raised by my aunt and uncle for a few years during my teens.

EdenSpodek
2 years 6 months ago

Oh, and next visit there, I’m sure we’ll all be on the lookout for The Playwright Tavern. Thanks for the tip.

ctgirlonthego
ctgirlonthego
2 years 6 months ago

JeffSheehan clay_morgan SpinSucks this is a very good article #simple 4 the not so #simpleminded

BillSmith3
BillSmith3
2 years 6 months ago

ClayMorgan  Thank you for a great post, I think over time content will be more personalized and targeted. I also think quality over quantity has to be stressed because crap content could be just as much a disservice as no content at all. 

Now you have me wanting to visit NYC too, I  stay away from Times Square when I do visit, too much of a tourist trap for my taste.

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
2 years 6 months ago

ClayMorgan I agree. Some of it happens because the low hanging fruit is easy. If you write about blogging you will always have some traffic because so many people are desperate to do better.
But it comes with one hell of a bounce rate, unless you provide something more than the standard fare of “write great stuff and be useful.”

ClayMorgan
2 years 6 months ago

JRHalloran You nailed it!  He noticed, offered a solution, and just as importantly, his solution delivered.

ClayMorgan
2 years 6 months ago

EdenSpodek Awww… I’m glad to hear it.

Our nieces have been with us since April, and it doesn’t look to change anytime soon. As I told a few people, they can stay the next 16 or 18 years if they need to, but much longer and they might wear out their welcome.

ClayMorgan
2 years 6 months ago

BillSmith3 Thanks Bill. I believe more targeting and personalized content will help the good stuff differentiate from other good stuff.

I loved my short trip to NYC. And I’m not knocking Time Square – it was ultimately cool.

ClayMorgan
2 years 6 months ago

lizreusswig We had a BLAST in NYC!

ClayMorgan
2 years 6 months ago

corinamanea Thanks Corina! And that is important – if you care about your customers they’ll care about your business.

roshiahmed6
roshiahmed6
2 years 6 months ago

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clay_morgan
clay_morgan
2 years 6 months ago

ctgirlonthego JeffSheehan SpinSucks Thanks for reading the post today. I’m grateful!

clay_morgan
clay_morgan
2 years 6 months ago

JeffSheehan SpinSucks Thank you for tweeting out my blog post this morning. http://t.co/sOmUAz2QSY #marketing #content

clay_morgan
clay_morgan
2 years 6 months ago

corinamanea SpinSucks Thanks for the tweet out!

clay_morgan
clay_morgan
2 years 6 months ago

susancellura SpinSucks Thanks for tweeting my post out this morning Sue! I’m grateful to you.

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