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.