We live in a very noisy digital marketing world, to say the least.
If, for example, U2, one of the biggest rock bands in history, had to resort to their massive Apple giveaway stunt to “break through the noise,” as lead singer Bono said, it’s safe to say that our world is over-saturated with content.
But it’s not just the music industry. In 2013, a study by the San Diego Supercomputer Center of UC San Diego made a startling observation: “…by 2015, the sum of media asked for and delivered to consumers on mobile devices and to their homes would take more than 15 hours a day to see or hear. That volume is equal to 6.9 million-million gigabytes of information, or a daily consumption of nine DVDs worth of data per person per day.”
It’s no wonder then that more companies are turning to content marketing. A May 2015 survey in Australia and New Zealand revealed that 64% of businesses there plan to spend more on content marketing in 2015. That number is likely similar, if not higher, in the United States.
With so much content competing for attention, two principles in particular will help you stand out from the hordes.
The Magic of Simplicity
Sparse, clutter-free user experiences are the order of the day. And this certainly applies to B2B markets, as The Examiner observed in a May 2015 article while reporting on the SVForum Marketing and Social Media Forum:
To gauge buyers in B2B markets, experience has led the [SVForum] panelists to develop concepts of simple, short, flowing, and clear messaging . . . So how can you simplify your marketing? Take the approach of removing elements, words, phrases, or visuals; simplify the format; use clean and simple images or infographics, while still being able to communicate your message.
Simplicity doesn’t just apply to visuals. Copywriting needs to be clean, crisp, and efficient. This means a short, punchy style, small paragraphs, a ruthlessly concise and intuitive organization of ideas, and scannable formatting (bullet points, headers).
It also means one-sentence paragraphs.
(One-sentence paragraphs add an emphatic tone, and they contribute to the sense of visual sparseness.)
The Magic of Empathy
Brian Tracy in his book “The Psychology of Selling” summarized the mechanics of empathy in marketing perfectly: “Professional selling BEGINS WITH ‘NEEDS ANALYSIS.’ Every customer’s favorite radio station is WII-FM. What’s In It For Me. What does product DO. Not what it IS.”
Tracy goes on to explain that businesses buy for two primary reasons: the desire for gain or the fear of loss, with the latter one being the most powerful. An effective marketer takes the time to analyze the needs of potential clients as they engage with them, until she knows with certainty which primary motivation — the desire for gain or the fear of loss — is most important to the potential client at any given moment.
Did they just experience a disastrous security breach, and they’re looking desperately for ways to avoid repeating that mistake? In this case, fear of loss probably dominates. Did they just experience an exhilarating breakthrough in their business, and they feel that the world is their oyster? Then the desire for gain is likely their mindset.
But you can’t know these things if you don’t ask open-ended questions and try hard to understand where the company is coming from and what they’ve gone through recently. Create opportunities to listen to their story: offer free consultations that don’t have a pushy marketing format, where it’s more about them and not about you. Engage with them in places online and in the real world where they like to talk shop — not to aggressively pitch to them but to ask questions and get to know their story.
Better Listening Skills Go a Long Way
Of course, the more you engage with potential clients with this empathetic approach, it helps to have good listening skills. Good listening is simpler than we think. In fact, Fast Company — citing a study from the University of Maryland — suggests only one thing to transform your listening skills: as you listen to someone speak, change your “doing” mindset — i.e. planning what you’re going to say in response (as they’re still talking) — into a “thinking” mindset. As Fast Company explains:
When you listen, you put yourself in a thinking mindset. It gives you a chance to really try to understand what is going on around you. When you focus on planning your next contribution to the conversation, you enter a doing mindset, and you don’t think through the events carefully. Give yourself that chance to think.
One Final Thought: Don’t Be Afraid to Test Things Out
The other part of empathy in marketing is a bit more aggressive: test your product or service with a small sampling of your potential clients before unveiling it to the whole market. Give them a say in your product development until you achieve perfect Product Market Fit.
Of course, there’s a scientific method to the madness — namely A/B split testing — as The Examiner explains:
Using the concept of A/B split testing can help marketing to get a feel for what would win with customers and what will be ignored or less attractive. A/B testing is a randomized experiment with two variants, A and B, where one is the control and the second is a newly introduced treatment that might affect a user’s behavior.
Though when you’re testing an online experience, the method is slightly different:
In testing online user experience design, the goal is to identify changes to content or navigation or flow of web pages that increase or maximize an outcome of interest, such as click-through rate or the length of time a user has spent on the content (on the page).
Looking for more great reads? Check out these related articles:
- Spruce Up Your Content Marketing Strategy This Fall
- Good Content Marketing Requires Good SEO
- Content Marketing During the Holidays
- Killing It with Content Marketing and Structured Data
- Content Marketing: How Much is Too Much
- How to Use Malcolm Gladwell’s Theories for Content Marketing
- The Key to Customer Engagement Through Content Marketing
- How Much Does Content Marketing Really Cost?
- Content Marketing: Why You Should Write Blog Posts in a Series
- What Does Content Marketing Cost? You Decide.