A little while ago, we looked at how to avoid distraction as marketers. But for a while, I’ve been mulling over the flip side. PR and marketing are tough disciplines that frequently struggles to show a link to sales – and as such, the temptation to send a barrage of communications to your prospects to increase open rates or click throughs by a few percent can be overwhelming.
Worse still, you’ve usually got to make contact with people several times, repeating messages to stick in the minds of your prospects. It’s a sad truth that we’re no longer in the age when people looked forward to the new Levi advert, or living in the time when the first online banner ad launched, seeing a stellar click-through rate of 44% over a number of months.
Unfortunately, we also run the risk of distracting people with our campaigns and inadvertently causing a form of stress. It’s well-documented that Londoners see in the region of 130 adverts each day by the time they get to work.
This isn’t just a consequence of modern living – multitasking stresses our brains, but we’re also ‘rewarded’ by our brains for spotting novelty, creating something of a catch-22 situation. This makes evolutionary sense; novel things are much more likely to be either interesting or dangerous, like a suddenly looming car on a quiet road or a five-pound note on the pavement!
I’m sceptical of ‘digital detoxes’. It might feel good in the short term – I’ve experienced this first hand at the Glastonbury Festival where the most advanced piece of technology I used all week was a phone that could barely send text messages and make calls. But in the long-term, it makes no difference. The world still bombards you with information as soon as you get back to civilisation, hang up the shell necklace and scrub off the henna tattoo.
Stress is draining. It burns through brain nutrients. So, whilst we’re pursuing novelty and getting rewarded – psychologically speaking – for sending an email, clicking on a story or sending a tweet, we’re also stressing and exhausting ourselves and the people we’re ultimately trying to sell to.
Exploring Catch 22
Instinctively, you might think that we have a responsibility not to add to the general splurge of adver-marketing-pr-content and stress our audience, there’s a more compelling reason to avoid it. It’s not effective. People who are stressed do not engage with topics deeply; you might find a hidden gem if you’re hopping from story to story on a newsletter or news site, but for every gem, there are at least eight or nine ‘fillers’ that you don’t read properly.
Similarly, being bombarded with communications can quite simply put people off a brand. For example, I used to receive newsletters from a camping store every other day after I bought a pair of hiking boots. It was a decent newsletter, but it was just too frequent compared to how often I’d conceivably buy from the store. Whilst you do need to capture the hearts and minds of your audience, you also need to lodge in their minds because they’re genuinely interested in your brand and have them understand that it’s a great brand for them.
So, how can you lessen the stress and start to impress?
- Know your audience: Understand how your prospects live, work and consume information. Know their priorities, the channels they hang out on, how much time they have and what kind of content they value.
- Find the right blend: Make relevant, compelling and creative content with the right cultural feel, distributed on the right channels, sprinkled with the odd sales promotion. Don’t listen to people who say that you can’t talk product: if a company or person wasn’t interested in your product at all, they wouldn’t have come up on your radar.
- Be flexible, particularly with mailings: All too often, the options for opting out of marketing emails are simply ‘unsubscribe’ when sometimes consumers would love to simply receive a few less emails.
- Get feedback: Or at least give people the opportunity to give feedback easily. Marketers are keen to talk about engagement and 1:1 relationships, but sometimes it’s too easy to preach to the masses rather than having a conversation. Good customer or audience feedback can be worth its weight in gold – and can help to deepen relationships, rather than just adding to the cognitive overload of marketing.
Now clearly, we’re never going to tackle all the issues, but if we can take a little responsibility and make good, thought-provoking, appropriately timed content, then we won’t be the brand that spams people all the time. And that’s good for everyone – especially your sales pipeline.