I’m having lunch today with five screens: a Macbook screen, a supplemental screen to my right, an iPad in the other room that’s playing music, an iPhone nearby for non-iMessage texts and a TV with Chromecast, which may or may not play the latest from Jimmy Fallon while I eat a sandwich. Being surrounded by glowing screens is a necessary part of life. A necessary evil, most of the time, if you ask me.
Marketers realized several years ago that giving people a good reason to pay more attention to their devices wasn’t going to be easy. Their first successful attempt to capture our attention many moons ago was through blogging. But, unfortunately today, everyone has a blog, which is why I’m hesitant to read them anymore (I assume they’re just copying/pasting the same drivel someone else already “syndicated”). Same goes for screens: I’ve got plenty of them and they’re kind of driving me crazy in an irrelevant but I can’t live without you sort of way. As a content and publishing gal, I’m often faced with a moral dilemma:
Why am I ruining innocent lives by helping clients put MORE content onto screens we all hate looking at to begin with?
To talk myself off the hypothetical content cliff, I can acknowledge the practicalities around online content, specifically blogs: they’re still the best way to improve a website’s ranking on Google. The challenge with blogs is that most of them are relationally irrelevant, despite being delivered through powerful social channels.
Since I still believe that content is one of the best ways to reach our audiences online (whether or not I’m paid to do so), we have to constantly be seeking creative entry into the market. So since everybody’s doing the blog thing but doing it in a ho-hum manner—let’s diversify it, shake things up a little bit. But how do we do so effectively? By acknowledging this:
Content marketers are in a real-life Tangibility War.
People like you and me and your target audience are hungry for humanity in their daily lives again—less screens, more hugs. If we aren’t sensitive to that fact in everything we’re creating, all will be lost. There are a handful of innovative B2B and B2C professionals and organizations taking content and blending the digital with the tangible as it relates to their target audience, and here are a few ways they’re doing so.
In the stale and relationally absent world of financial advising, a few people are trying to break the mold—both in the way they advise their clients and in the way they create content to grow their businesses. One such example is Hannah Moore with Guiding Wealth Management. (Full disclosure: she is a client whose content strategy I’ve been working on for a few years now.)
She’s got a solid foundation of the content basics, but what’s most effective in her business growth is her personability and clarity around mucky topics like savings, retirement, how to tell your children you’re changing your will, etc. People like working with her and having direct access to her. How is she translating that to content?
Starting in July, she’s launching a Dear Hannah vlog where she answers not just technical/financial questions from readers, but relational, sticky ones, as well. I think this is the best approach she could take in light of this tangibility war; she’s giving viewers access to her warm, kind face, her candid feedback and professional opinions that broach topics most of her counterparts avoid at all costs.
MarketingProfs Blended Learning Programs
If anyone knows content, it’s MarketingProfs, the educational powerhouse for marketers looking for a competitive edge. This year I’ve been working with them on a new, emerging content platform: their Blended Learning Program. Marketers can consume self-paced online instructional content, participate in their own internal learning projects—and then a MarketingProfs team will visit to conduct a live workshop.
The reason for this program? Their very happy clients came back with a resounding request: We want you on-site. We want a person who can talk to our marketing department folks and teach them one-on-one. Suffice it to say, they wanted that human touch, something tangible in the world of all-things-electronic, and MarketingProfs listened.
Earlier this year I helped two gentlemen write and self-publish a book based on a popular research paper they’d written during their time at Harvard. They chose to self-publish a pre-release version of their book because they were speaking at a conference in a few months that would be filled with their target audience. Could a digital version of the book have sufficed? Possibly—but they knew their audience well: middle-aged, prominent businesspersons who are voluntarily attending a religious conference about generosity. These folks probably have digital books thrown at them every day.
But a real book handed out by the authors themselves was different—it was tangible and personal. The conference was a success, the book was received with warm welcome and today the authors are still working closely with the organization while also entertaining offers from literary agents.
Direct Mail + Inbound Marketing
One of the reasons I naturally flock to inbound marketing when it’s supported by software such as HubSpot is that we aren’t marketing on a wish and prayer—we’re marketing with pretty powerful insight and data.
Though direct mail has been making a comeback in the last year, I’m hesitant to say it’s a failsafe investment without some integration with current marketing efforts and software. However, what if the warm and fuzzy data of inbound marketing could be applied to and integrated with direct mail?
Well, that’s exactly what some of the early adopters at TMR Direct have done. For the last five years, this agency has been growing their inbound marketing division alongside a direct mail production department that’s been operating for more than 40 years. A few of their inbound marketing clients have already tested some direct mail pieces with fairly good results. The tangible interjection of direct mail is something we’re seeing more of, and I hope marketers continue to answer the call to make marketing more tangibly delightful.
Tangibility In Your Content
This is my call to action for marketers everywhere: make content tangible by awakening your target audience’s senses.
Sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch. What can your product or service do to reach your target audience in a tangible way? Here are a few ideas to start us off:
- If you work in an industry saturated with podcasts (hearing), consider video (sight and hearing) as an alternative.
- If you run a bakery, find a way to bring your target audience’s taste buds to life. Don’t try to reach them through any other sense because that’s not the point of your service: you’re a bakery. Give your audience something to taste.
- If you’re in charge of a retirement community, think about what most comforts a senior citizen when moving out of their home—not just a kind word (hearing), but a compassionate hug (touch). Find a way to create opportunities through content to meet, to discuss, to bring tangibility into what you’re selling.
This is just a start. I know your marketing teams can come up with something even better than I can, sitting here among the hum of these ever-present glowing screens. But there’s one thing that’s clear: our audiences are demanding better. They want more than blogs or a glib social media post. They want to feel human again, so with that in mind, let’s start making content tangible. Try something novel: reach out and touch someone.