“21 Essential Tactics for Your Next Email Campaign”
“The Epic Guide to Search Engine Marketing”
“15 Things You Must Do Now to Get Website Hits”
“Adapt According to this Ultimate eBook or Die”
Feel like you’ve received an email with at least one of these subject lines in the past few weeks?
I do. And though the copy says I can’t afford to pass up the chance to read such an “exciting and authoritative” new piece of content, chances are I promptly deleted that email.
The self-proclamation of “astounding content” is everywhere you look, and to be honest, it’s tiring, if not annoying. Even worse, we have all probably perpetuated the trend at some point.
Content marketers, we can do better.
The volume of content being created and touted on digital channels has increased substantially. On the surface, this is a good thing: People are investing in the creation of (theoretically) useful content that could help their target audience members, and they’re doing their darndest to get it in front of said audience. The problem is that everyone else and their mom is doing the same thing.
The solution? The thinking seems to go: Start hyping your content more to stand out. Label it in such a way that people can’t help but recognize how comprehensive and helpful it is. Let it scream, “Read me!” from inboxes, landing pages and social posts across the digital realm. Your audience won’t possible be able to miss it.
Except they do miss it. Gladly. Why?
There are a few reasons.
- When everything is described as “unique” or “epic”, nothing seems to be. There is serious dilution of language going on these days, and adjectives meant to define only the most extreme, singular examples of something are often being applied to the mundane. This bastardization of language leaves us, from a semantic standpoint, with nowhere to go, and it makes us skeptical of every claim of awesomeness that we encounter. It’s a rhetorical arms race, and we’re all losing.
- Under-promising and over-delivering is rarely a poor choice. When you describe someone as being the “ultimate guide”, however, you risk doing the opposite—building up an unrealistic expectation of what is provided. You sacrifice a bit of your source credibility in doing so, and in turn, the brand affinity you were trying to foster is instead diminished. Let your content speak for itself instead of risking audience disappointment.
- People don’t like to be told what to do. When I read that I “must do ______ now!”, my immediate impulse is to prove the author wrong by doing the opposite. An “essential” eBook? Please… I doubt I’ll be fired if I ignore the content altogether. If you let your content speak for itself, however, and I find it useful, I may choose tell someone else that I found it essential to understanding a certain topic… and that word-of-mouth recommendation will likely go much further towards establishing the content’s—and publishing brand’s—credibility. Chances are that I’m not the only one thinking this way.
“So”, you may wonder, “how am I supposed to get my content noticed if the hype train is off-limits?” It’s a good question, as your decision to be more mindful about the way you label your creative outputs won’t make the rest of the noise in the digital space die down. The all-too-common answer of, “create amazing content!” has probably already crossed your mind, so let’s move to something more practical.
A coworker and I had the privilege of sitting down with “content marketing godfather” Joe Pulizzi a few months ago to talk about common hurdles for content marketers, and he reminded us of a few truths of the trade that apply here.
- Focus on making one channel great, building up an audience that appreciates you… then think about moving on. We often fall victim to becoming “on-demand content creators” instead of professionals focused on building up one TRULY authoritative content channel because that’s how company structures, budgets, and ingrained processes work. I don’t mean to make it sound easy to focus on creating one stand-out content destination; it’s not. But it is a tried-and-true way to stand out from competitors and create the sort of brand loyalty among audience members we all crave.
- Spend four times as many resources promoting your content as you did creating it. As Joe pointed out when we spoke, the Content Marketing Institute has an advertising budget for a reason. “If you build it, they won’t necessarily come”. You can create a piece of content that arguably IS epic, but if no one knows about it, or doubts its validity at first glance, you wasted your time creating it. Whether you’re investing in search engine marketing ads, public relations campaigns, social media promotion or otherwise, you can’t just expect that sending something out via email will be enough to entice readers. Generally, you’re going to need to put time and money into getting your content appreciated… just make sure you give new-found fans an opportunity to subscribe for more. Once they trust your content, you can stand to do less convincing.
- Be patient. This advice also falls under the “easier said than done” category, but it works. Joe recommends making at least a three-year plan when starting a new content initiative, realizing that long-term behavior and perception changes take time. Having a thorough plan is also helpful for getting other stakeholders on board up front, as extensive content marketing initiatives tend to fly in the face of our “show results now!” modern mentality around marketing.
Getting noticed and attracting a lasting following has rarely ever been about screaming, “Look at me!” Rather, the most successful content producers plan thoroughly, produce carefully, promote smartly, and earn devoted audiences. So the next time you see (or are tempted to author) a title promising blow a receiver’s socks off, remember this post, and know you can do better. Spare your audience the hypertension by toning down the hyperbole. You’re more creative than that, and you CAN break through the clutter without practically begging a reader to help you do so.
Best of luck!
Lukas Treu is Lead, Content Strategy at AKHIA