A few months ago, I got the worst speeding ticket ever. I’m still too embarrassed to say how fast I was driving, the number of demerit points I got and the fine I had to pay. I can’t tell anyone, not even myself, exactly how it all happened.
What I can safely say is that I have learned important lessons in mindfulness and marketing. Meditation, regular mental check-ins and driving no faster than the speed limit are now the marks of mindfulness in my daily life.
Interestingly, I have found some valuable take aways that are applicable to my professional work as a marketer.
#1: Know what your readers already know. Reframe the way they think about what they know.
I was driving on a highway and a service road I know very well. Until that day, I had never seen a speed trap and never assumed that there could be. Familiarity and boredom led my mind to think of other things – the presentation I had to deliver in 40 minutes, although I was only 15 minutes away from my destination.
I recently read that the average attention span is now only 8 seconds. People get bored with what they already know. But reframing the way they think about what they already know changes the way they think about their problem. And reframing the way people think makes them willing to consider alternative solutions.
As an example, Martin Grosskopf challenges investors to think differently about divesting fossil fuel assets from their portfolios. In a recent article, he recommends that instead of being too concerned about where a company falls within a particular Global Industry Classification Standard sector, institutional investors should focus on whether the company provides products or services that have a positive environmental or social impact and offers a financial return on investment.
- Content marketing that challenges conventional thinking and presents realistic solutions, will likely prolong readers’ attention, build engagement and create purchase consideration.
#2: Details can become distractions. Be clear about what you want readers to know and to take away.
When I was preparing the cheque to pay the fine, I noticed that the police officer had entered the wrong date in one of the many spaces on the ticket. Although I was tempted, I could have contested the validity of the ticket, but I chose not to. Why? Win or lose, either way, the key lesson of mindfulness would have been lost in an arduous legal process requiring significant investment of time, effort and money.
If you have been able to extend your readers’ attention span beyond 8 seconds, do avoid the temptation to overload the reader with too much information. Showcasing expertise and knowledge does reinforce credibility, but it can also alienate potential clients. The key take aways can be lost in the mother lode of information and details.
- Clearly understand potential clients’ pain points and offer solutions:
- As a rule of thumb – offer no more than 3 to 5 valuable take aways.
- There are exceptions – for example, if you are describing a series of steps that leads to a desired outcome, a longer list of take aways may work very well. As an example, check out Neil Patel’s post 17 Hacks for Writing Killer Articles in Half the Time
#3: Interruptions are meaningless unless there is value or consequence. Agree on what engagement looks like.
On reflection, I had three opportunities to slow down before I was stopped. I overtook three cars whose drivers were respecting the speed limit. They, in my view, were interrupting the rhythm of my driving on a familiar route on which I gave no thought to the possible consequence of speeding or the value of going with the traffic flow.
Today’s marketing technology tools allow us to identify and contact anyone who shows an interest in our digitally delivered content. Under pressure to prove ROI, marketers devise tactics that are intended to create and build engagement.
Tactics ranging from retargeting site visitors to capturing contact information in return for a downloaded white paper or eBook. What usually follows may be regarded as interruption – calling with a sales pitch, a series of e-mails and follow-up calls every four to six weeks. From my own experience, this approach is fairly commonplace particularly among IT vendors and it can be a real turn-off. The download of an eBook, the posting of a favourable comment or an interaction of any kind, should not be interpreted as readiness to purchase.
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There is a big difference between interruption and engagement. Interruption is about getting into people’s faces. Engagement is all about getting into people’s hearts, showing that you care and want to help.
- Engagement is a sustained series of valuable interactions in which the needs of the potential client are carefully understood and addressed, eventually leading to a business relationship.
Three rules of engagement
Like driving, content marketing requires a clear line of sight that leads to a destination. Along the way, there are rules of engagement.
- To avoid boredom, challenge your readers to think differently.
- Be clear on what you want your readers to know and to take away.
- To add real value, agree on how you will engage with potential clients.
See the BIG picture. Focus on what’s important.