The past few months have seen a pretty intense debate about "content shock," the idea that consumers are rapidly reaching saturation with respect to content consumption. Originally postulated by Mark Schaefer here, content marketing thought leaders have diverse opinions on this topic, best summarized in Heidi Cohen's recent post. Some think content shock is a myth and others see it as a harbinger of doom for content marketers. I think what we're missing is not so much the overwhelming volume of content out there, both good and bad, but the way it's delivered, the context of content publication, that's currently under pressure.
Think about content from an inbound marketer's point of view. Our first goal is to attract qualified buyers to our lead conversion "hubs" with great top-funnel content. By "great," I mean content that's both interesting and useful to our buyer personas and has sufficient perceived value to stimulate a click and a form conversion. Granted, if your content doesn't meet these all-important criteria, you have no shot at attracting buyers (other than through more direct means like advertising).
Where we get off the rails is on the delivery side of content. The purest, least "outbound" approach is a simple call to action placed within your owned media—website, blog and social profiles. Then there's email, which in theory is delivered only to people who opt-in or subscribe. And yes, there's earned media, where we are able to convince thought leaders and content curators to share our content with their audiences. Last, but not least, are all of the more intrusive ways to deliver content, like all forms of digital and print advertising, direct mail, telesales, etc. Nowadays we group all of this stuff under the term "multichannel marketing." We usually try as many of these channels as we can afford and see what works best. So what's the problem?
When was the last time you counted how many emails, how many calls to action, how many ads and how many social shares you placed in front of each potential buyer in your database? The argument goes that you need to saturate the "airwaves" in order to get any one person's attention because their attention span is short and the likelihood of them seeing any one touch is remote. What really happens is we all get bombarded by emails or native ads following us around, and we get tired of being on the receiving end of all this marketing.
We marketers tend to focus on inbound results, not user touches. Wondering why your email opens never get above 5 percent? Chances are, you're sending way too many of them. Content is not the problem, it's the frequency with which you "pitch it" to your audience that kills conversion rates. I will grant you, some emails, ads and landing pages convert better than others, but I think we all know what the real culprit is: touch shock—too many touches. It's starting to really get to us content consumers, and we're getting tired of the pushy marketing tactics.
It's time to review our outbound marketing policies and double down on creating better, more relevant content. In order of priority:
Above all, put yourself in your visitor or contact's shoes. What's the right rhythm and cadence of content to engage with them? You want to reach a comfortable number of touches and consistently add value to your conversations with them. With this approach, you can avoid Content Shock and Touch Shock at the same time and turn happier contacts into loyal customers.
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