Last summer, I ran a trail race called the Cutthroat Classic. It involved 11 miles and 2,500 feet of elevation gain and believe it or not, I was having the time of my life. Was moved to tears when I got to the high point because it was all downhill after that.
But two miles from the finish, I started to fatigue. I told myself I had two easy miles left. Keep going. Soon, I turned off the music in my headphones and listened for the crowd at the finish line. I ran through the woods, turn after turn until I could hear it, the beginning of the distant cheers.
I suddenly came into a clearing and around the corner to this beautiful suspension bridge over a raging river, lined with people screaming and waving. I was overwhelmed by it all. I turned the corner to the finish chute and more shouts, jumps, noise, excitement. Through it all, I heard one quiet word: “Honey.”
It was the only distinct thing that stood out for me. It was my husband calling from the sidelines to capture this photo.
Afterwards, my friend Ross said he was shouting for me, didn’t I hear? No. I hadn’t heard. I hadn’t noticed anyone in particular or heard anything in particular other than my husband calling me by my familiar “honey.”
You see where I’m headed with this, right?
There is a great deal of competition for attention. Brands who understand their audience the best, who provide them a personalized and more contextualized experience are the ones who are going to win – not the ones who are jumping up and down screaming for it.
We are only at the beginning of a steep content creation curve and the competition for attention is only getting fiercer as we forge ahead. Search engines aren’t able to keep up because rather than deliver content that is most qualified for the searcher, they are delivering content from those who are best at SEO, not necessarily relevant and awesome content.
So we’ll start to rely on better content curators to get our content out to our desired audience and social will continue to play a big role as look to our audience there to expand our networks in concentric circles. Degrees of separation. To read more about the Future of Content, see Danny Brown’s series on the topic including my own thoughts, which he features today.
As we start to run out of original ideas when it comes to content, your audience is going to be attracted to, or turn to, that familiar voice. They won’t even notice all the other brands shouting for your attention.
What does that mean for you? It all starts with that ever-important need to understand your people, and map out the individual experiences you expect each of them to have.
Here are a few tactical ways to make sure you are staying personal and within context.
1. Consistent voice. We know you; we hear you. In the storm, in the crowd. It could be visually and/or verbally. We recognize you and we all love our comfort zone. You do this well, and we’ll come back to hang around.
2. Landing pages. Recently, when I clicked through on a link in an email footer, I was greeted as “footer link clicker” which I found amusing and smart. They demonstrated knowledge of exactly who I am and knowing that, were able to direct me where I needed to go. Pay per click campaigns and Facebook ads that click into home pages or product pages are a missed opportunity. You know where this person is coming from and why they clicked. Make it more personal.
3. Segmented email lists. Take the time to gather the data you need from your audience so you can send appropriate and targeted messages. For example, don’t send an invitation to a happy hour event to people who live six hours away.
4. Recommendation engines. Give your audience a real experience when they visit your site. We use AddThis on our clients’ sites and here on the BLC blog to recommend additional content for readers based on their browsing history. If you have e-commerce, make sure your recommendation algorithm is working – don’t send an email or recommendation to someone who bought men’s running shoes that your skorts are now on sale. Show them socks, Fitbits, water bottles and T-shirts!
5. Responsive design. When I click through to your site on a mobile device, I’m likely looking for different information from when I click through from my tablet. Make sure you know the difference and offer the appropriate experience.
Consumers have higher expectations now and the technology is there to enable us to be better at providing a more personal and contextual experience that makes that singular connection in a very crowded and noisy space. Winning the race isn’t about being the loudest. Getting their attention is a seduction; not a shouting match.
Photo credit: Sergio Alvarez, Flickr, creative commons.[ssba]