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Customers put marketing on mute: Here's how to be heard again

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I am overwhelmed by today's assault of less-than-impactful marketing messages. Aren't you? On average, each individual gets pummeled with more than 3,000 messages every day. No wonder I'm overwhelmed.

We are content-rich and attention-poor.

Content? The content explosion has created a flood of communication. More content is not better. It's often worse. Way worse. As we all strive to provide value and gain attention and credibility, the heap of irrelevant and difficult-to-navigate content simultaneously grows. We are lost in the overload. As marketers, our messages are often lost or ignored.

Attention? Our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. On average, we give less than 8 seconds of attention to something before we decide to dive in or to ditch it; and, this attention scarcity is channel-agnostic.

As marketers, this high-content, low-attention combination means we are increasingly being put on mute. The ability to cut through this enormous clutter of noise is both exceedingly difficult and increasingly important. According to a recent BtoB study, in 2013, 67% of marketers plan on increasing their digital marketing spend—54% percent for social marketing and 35% for mobile. Without correction, our business results hang in the balance.

How can b-to-b marketers get heard through the noise?

  • Get relevant. Relevant content matters. Relevance needs to be your first objective. Some 41% of consumers say they would consider ending a brand relationship because of irrelevant promotions, and an additional 22% say they would definitely defect from the brand, according to a CMO Council study.

    To achieve relevance, you need to put your customers at the center of your world. One company who does this well from a content perspective is Copyblogger. Although the copyblogger blog has an enormous following, almost every post feels like it is written just for me. Based on their large following, I suspect that many others feel the same. The content is consistently on target, engaging, helpful and very relevant to my world.

  • Be vulnerable. Learn and let go. “Knowledge is learning something every day. Wisdom is letting go of something every day,” according to a Zen proverb. Dismantling the barriers that separate us from our audience, accepting that we have to earn our way into the conversations that occur without us, letting go of preconceived ideas and opening up—these are powerful concepts.

    Vulnerability, transparency and authenticity make us credible. Trustworthy. Real. Vulnerability enables a powerful channel of knowledge creation and sharing.

    Take a look at My Starbucks Idea website. It encapsulates vulnerability in a significant way, and in a public format. The company solicits ideas for improvement or change from its customers, and encourages other users to vote on those ideas. Starbucks then uses these customer-generated ideas to improve their products, services and company. The authenticity here is that these ideas are quite often adopted by Starbucks. They are listening and taking action on what their customers want.

  • Get emotional and inspire. In the words of Tony Robbins, "In life you need either inspiration or desperation." I recently attended the South By Southwest conference. It was so inspiring. The technology and innovations were amazing, but the real source of inspiration was the element of emotion. For example, I was inspired by a comment made by the South African engineer and entrepreneur Elon Musk. When asked about his biggest mistake, this technical genius and self-made billionaire answered, "So, the biggest (mistake) in general I've made and am trying to correct is that (I) put too much weight on talent and not (enough on) personality. It actually matters whether someone has a good heart."
  • Add value. Having a higher purpose creates significance, meaning and value. Without value, we are just cogs in the machine. Seth Godin talks about creation and art as the way to add value to the world.

Before you create, share or post,THINK:

T = is it true?
H = is it helpful?
I = is it inspiring?
N = is it necessary?
K = is it kind?

Sandra Zoratti is an author, speaker and VP-marketing at Ricoh Co. (www.ricoh-usa.com). You can find Sandra on LinkedIn, Twitter @sandraz and on her website sandrazoratti.com. Her email is sandra.zoratti@infoprint.com.

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