[Just the other day, Enrico Marchetto and I submitted our publisher all the chapters of our next book on marketing in a digital world. The book is scheduled to come out in a couple of months; in the meanwhile, here is a very small preview]
As the gap between the available content and the time virtually necessary to consume them widens, the competition for people’s time and attention becomes fierce. To win them, it becomes necessary to commit more and more resources to increase the perceived value of our contents in the eyes of potential customers.
Anyone who started a blog before 2010 knows how much less effort was required to maintain the interest of the readers, even with short posts as comments to links. This kind of posts is now published on social networks, as bloggers tend to write only when they have an elaborate consideration, an in-depth review, a well-documented case to share. They are well aware that they need something substantial to attract attention.
Creating content is an increasingly expensive investment, not only because better content requires more work and greater competence. We also need to take into account the growing cost of distribution: it is no longer possible to count on organic visibility, but we must invest time and money to make our content relevant for the audience. It is essential to boost content visibility and use distribution channels, even if that implies management costs.
The required investment increases, while the desired results in terms of visibility, appeal and audience involvement, inevitably tend to diminish. Is this approach still worthwhile? For this investment to make sense, it is necessary to go beyond the perceived value threshold of our target audience, which is constantly subject to an ever-growing amount of external stimuli and inputs.
It is not ‘to the audience’ that we need to talk, but ‘about it’: any newsletter that triumphantly titles ‘Our company turns 20’ is inexorably destined to oblivion, if not to a merciless ‘mark as spam’.
For each piece of content we produce and distribute – and for each combination “distribution channel/moment in which the content will be delivered” – we need to make sure that the audience we address can answer positively to the question “Is this worth paying attention to?” This happens only if that content generates some significant value for them, at that precise moment.
The contents we publish online can be found and used as a search result answering to a request that is usually expressed as a question. Search engines like Google will show this content in their results page as a satisfactory match to the search.
More often still, we deliver our content in push mode, as e-mails or as sponsored Facebook posts, and this becomes an unexpected presence in the daily lives of people: hence the need to be the more significant and relevant.
What follows is a checklist of the possible reasons why our potential customers should or could consider what we submit them as interesting and useful. Could at least one of these be their spontaneous reaction?
When we come up with our content layout, subdivided by themes and including the time-frame and the format for each topic, it is essential to remember that each of our outputs will be sorted by relevance, and that the perceived average relevance of our content will heavily influence the visibility of the subsequent contents. So, if our subscribers feel that 7 or 8 out of our 10 newsletters are worth receiving, they will continue to read us. Maybe they won’t always read the newsletter thoroughly or focusing on every detail, but we can be sure that they will at least open it, and they will forgive us the 2 or 3 times in which our e-mails are irrelevant to them. If the ratio is reversed, our messages will soon end up in the oblivion of unopened mails, eventually ending in the Spam folder.
If it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for you. Or not? Every target, every context, every relational environment is unique and it is impossible to draw conclusions that can be shared, let alone be universal.
It is possible, however, to outline a method, an approach that is non-self-referential and centered on the company. A strategy should focus on the customer and the clear idea of the value that the company products and services can provide to that customer.
A good starting point is the profiling of the personas, followed by the ‘value proposition canvas’ (see Osterwalder et al.) to identify customer archetypes, a framework for the alignment of the company’s values proposition to the ‘customer jobs’, that is the actions for the (potential) customer to overcome their difficulties and achieve their goals.
It is essential to check this alignment against the competitive advantage rate, according to the VRIO (Valuable, Rare, Inimitable, Organized) model. This Value/Person relationship will be the core of the strategy, and the other elements are:
The evaluation of activities and resources leads us to an estimate of the costs. These must be proportionate to the expected results, which are estimated based on the appropriate KPIs.
Assessing the activities to be performed and the resources needed to complete them will show us if we have all the resources to perform such actions. Then, it is essential to carefully redefine the core of our strategy, avoiding the elimination of some of the planned actions that may be pivotal for the achievement of a big share of the set targets.