Avalanche of Dreck...Are you part of the problem?
Apr 10, 2018
I recently re-read a post written by Ruth Stevens for Target Marketing magazine....http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/post/get-off-the-content-hamster-wheel/#comments-container"Get off the content hamster wheel."
I love the hamster video. Regarding her comments about the content hamster wheel, I call it an "avalanche of dreck." But, let's face it, it's not going to stop; because, it feeds the digital beast. We stopped worrying about quality the day digital took over from print and broadcast media...the day anyone sucking air became a writer, photographer, videographer...aka "content creator," including the leader of the USA.
And to make matters worse, former print only publications that are now part of the digital content revolution are just as guilty as the man in the street. We used to have professional publishers and editors who controlled content (a word which I hate) quality. With everyone being their own creative genius, publisher, editor, that control is gone.
To make matters worse, those same publications now produce daily content, even hourly content vs. weekly or monthly content. Back in the "old days" when Target Marketing magazine (for example) arrived once a month, you knew that the magazine was filled with valuable information and the magazine was a keeper. Now? But, I'm not picking just on Target Marketing Magazine, it's the publishing (make that content) industry along with the man in the street.
Overall, I agree with Ms. Steven's comments and suggestions for marketers using and developing content, but I'm not optimistic that it's going to change. The digital beast demands feeding. And, our friends running the technological side of this revolution just keep developing more and more ways to deliver content...so expect even more of it. As for us, the consumers of that content, we are just going to have to look harder and harder for quality.
On the content production side of the equation, how does this affect us the marketers?
Well, in the first place, we need to be cognizant of the fact that we’re part of the problem. We’re all trying to make more noise than our competitors in the battle to be heard, seen and read. How many days a week are you going to keep telling me that if I only respond today, I will get 50% off if I respond by midnight?
Some marketers mail me so frequently that I wonder if they ever analyze the results of their mailings. Best Buy for example hits me at least once a day with some offer. I've gotten blurry eyed by their email and they are all beginning to look alike and pretty much sound like the same offer. Yeah, they have a lot of categories of merchandise, so they have plenty to choose from as they mail me daily. They are not alone.
In the old days of direct mail, with the resources and time required to prepare a mailing, a marketer was a lot more circumspect about what went out the door and marketers actually did testing of a program or offer before they hit their entire list, or printed or broadcasted it for the entire universe to consume.
Another thing is that marketer, direct marketers, would mail low responders less frequently than the rest of the list. If Best Buy is following that practice, I’d hate to see how much email a good customer receives. By good, I mean a customer who actually responds to all of these mailings and buys something.
In the old days, we not only mailed low responders less frequently, but we developed special offers and promotions to get them to respond. We didn’t just send them what we were sending to the best performing segments of our list.
But today, there is no direct or immediate financial impact to mailing an underperforming customer just as much as a performing customer or posting as much content as you can produce. Hell, you just mail the entire file and post content as many places as you can. The theory being of course that one order may well cover the cost of one mailing (or post) if not make a profit. The breakeven barrier for digital media is just so much lower than for traditional media/channels. Email is a lot cheaper than postal mail, pennies vs. thousands of dollars.
So, we develop bad habits and mail, mail, mail, post, post, post, when we should be doing everything to prevent email / content overload. But, we like Tom who has his own YouTube channel continue to add to and share the avalanche of dreck, not just via email, but through all the other digital channels and media.
As I said, it’s not just email where the dreck is building up, it’s every form of digital marketing, communications, including what everyone loves to call inbound marketing, which is meant to engage not sell a customer/prospect. [Another pet peeve of mine…who comes up with these nonsensical terms?] If you create it, post it, it’s outbound, whether you’re asking for an order or not. Call it education, public relations or anything else, it’s still selling or sales supporting.
We, as marketers, come up w/ these wonderful ideas to make our pitch more personal, more human, when in fact, we’re treating people more and more like stats. I'm speaking of, let’s let everyone in the company post to the web, create their own content, make it more human, more personal, engage with our audience.
If the people working for us were Ansel Adams, Steven Spielbergs or Tom Clanceys, they wouldn’t be working for us. But, yet we expect them to produce wonderful content. Some of us actually train our staffs in five easy lessons how to become writers, cinematographers and artists.
Yeah, every now and then one of them produces content that goes viral and we all look like geniuses because we facilitated it. The one out of a million. Meanwhile, the pile of dreck continues to grow.
Quality vs. quantity, the argument goes on, but don’t expect the purveyors of the technology to support the former rather than the latter. But, we as marketers, who use this technology need to.
What do you post and mail? When do you post or mail? How much do you post or mail (both frequency and quantity)? These are questions we need to pay more attention to. We need to control at the very least the content we put out.
Here’s what Ruth has to say about keeping your content relevant, which is only ½ the battle.
“Tailor your content to the market need, by analyzing your customer’s buying process and buying roles, and developing a library of content assets to help them solve their problems” [We called this marketing collateral targeted at our audience in the old days.]
“Be disciplined about new content quantity. Do you need this item? Will it fill a gaping hole in your asset library? Stand up against the pressure to generate content for content’s sake.” [Perhaps if we had to pay for the production/creative costs associates with printed collateral, broadcast, etc, we’d do a better job of this, meaning if the cost was higher.]
“To feed the SEO beast, repurpose existing content instead of relentlessly creating new. There are zillions of options for clever reuse. Good quality content is likely to have an evergreen capability to serve incoming prospects over time.” [Agreed, although I have mixed feeling about feeding the SEO beast. It’s a strange thing called direct marketing where I actually, be still my heart, target my best prospects for our products/services rather than trying to compete in the SEO wasteland. Example: a search for direct marketing consulting firm produces 1,890,000 results. So much for targeting. And adding just USA bring it up to 2,130,000, not down. Do the best job you can, but don’t obsess on it or spend a fortune on it, because Google changes their search algorithms every other day.]
“Cull your content regularly. It’s hard, I know. We all fall in love with our creations. It might be a good idea to bring in a third party to assess your library, and give an objective opinion on what can stay and what needs to go.” [Yep, we do have a habit of just letting the content pile up since it’s only memory which is a cheap commodity, getting cheaper.]
“Choose your content distribution channels carefully. Joe Pulizzi — who should know — makes a compelling case for limiting yourself to a few key communications vehicles, and doing them really well.” [It’s called targeting, putting your content where your audience is likely to be looking.]
These are definitely some things that can help you keep your content relevant and appealing to your target audience.
Perhaps the biggest problem with content is that it’s so easy to produce. If we had to operate with the resource, cost and time constraints associated with creating marketing collateral for traditional channels, we’d apply the same standards and practices to what actually gets produced.
A good habit to develop would be asking yourself the question, would we distribute this content if we had to devote the resources and controls that we use for other media/channels? If the answer is “yes,” then it make sense to produce it, if the answer is “no,” then you should save yourself time and effort by not contributing to the ever increasing pile of dreck we call the web.
Dudley Stevenson, founder and CEO of DWS Associates, has over thirty-five years’ experience in consumer marketing, business-to-business marketing, and direct marketing, including developing, planning, and implementing go-to-market strategies. He's also the author of "Marketing Direct: Breaking Through The Clutter." Working with organizations ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies, he and his team have helped clients such as IBM, Sony, Neiman Marcus, Arizona Highways, Marshall Field & Co., Mrs. Field’s, UNICEF, and Patagonia implement successful direct marketing programs. A longtime member of the Direct Marketing Association and the American Marketing Association, Stevenson is also a sought-after speaker. He’s given hundreds of presentations and workshops on marketing and direct marketing. His “Marketing Planning 101” workshop alone has reached more than 100,000 marketing and sales professionals.