Three easy ways to save money. Five easy ways to lose weight. Four easy ways to raise funding; reduce anxiety; make friends; eat healthier; optimize your program; streamline your efforts; buy a house.
Everything is easy today. Except that it’s not. And everyone just realized it. Now it’s time for marketers to pivot and correct course, provide value rather than ease – prove worth, not simplicity.
Digital marketing has become infused into our culture. It’s part of our daily lives. Very little we do today escapes the reach of a branded message. So people are becoming very aware of marketing tactics. Half the people we market to are marketers themselves. Today everyone is a personal brander, Instagram influencer, mommy/daddy blogger, professional Yelper. People have either learned marketing tactics because they have been inundated with them, or because they’ve learned to use them themselves. And when we become aware of tactics, we learn to avoid them. Think banners ads, social ads, spam, salesy subject lines.
Our “easy,” “quick,” “simple” descriptions, titles and campaigns are falling into that bucket too. As consumers, we’ve been burned too many times from the easy ways to do something. If I got a nickel every time I read an article on easy ways to accumulate wealth, I’d be diving into a sea of gold coins Scrooge style. Yet, here I am still spending all my monies on avocado toast (#Millennial).
So when it comes to content marketing, digital storytelling or any form of branding, get thee away from striving to be easy. Instead do what you do best – provide value. The more valuable what we offer can be, the less easy it has to be. Value is a carrot. Ease is a low bar. Only one keeps us moving forward, and happily so.
Break through the Surface. And that’s not Easy
Easy ways to do this or that have become so popular because, well, they are easy to create. Choose a topic. Do a quick Google search or ask a resident SME. Then list a handful of generalized steps. Then call those steps easy.
I did a quick search on “easy ways to make money online,” because I want to prove a point, and if I’m wrong, why not start build that sea of coins. And guess what? I found a number of easy ways to make money online.
Make a website
Publish a Kindle eBook
Become an online market trader
Get into affiliate marketing
Rent out your house for filming
I searched and clicked on the article that seemed the most promising. I read, took notes for this blog, and then bounced. That is probably the exact experience the majority of visitors had to this piece, minus the note taking. Content like this cast a wide net hoping to get anyone and everyone to click. And then everyone does, and 99 percent feel duped. These lists usually only scratch the surface of the surface for readers. It tells people what they already know is an easy way to know it again.
Great - publishing an eBook can make me money. Give me a quick sec while I go get my MFA, spend 10 years in a dark night of the soul and wipe the blood, sweat and tears of my laptop churning out the next great American novel. And then bring on that easy money. Or become an affiliate marketer. Do you know how hard it is to make a cent in affiliate marketing? It’s hard. The house renting actually may work if you have a balling house and somehow an in with Hollywood. But then you’re probably not the target audience for this long-tail keyword anyways.
What I’m getting at here is that “easy” has become a tactic to catch all the people. Most of them have to be thrown back. People are getting tired of being thrown back.
Modern digital marketing can no longer subsist on just talking about value – pointing at value and saying, “Hey, come look at this value.” No. It’s about creating value within the very experience with the content. For whatever you are selling to be seen as valuable, each and every experience had with your brand, including every piece of content read, watched or heard, needs to provide a unique value proposition. If it doesn’t, people feel duped and attach that experience to your brand.
Creating “hard” lists, if you will, requires us to cover a lot less surface area and instead drill down deep into a strategic topic of interest. This type of content requires heightened engagement from readers – and therefore more effort from the content creator. But because of readers’ interest levels and the value baked into the content, readers have the momentum and investment needed to click, read and appreciate. Remember, if we are creating a piece of content that is intended to help someone earn money, getting them to read the article is not the end goal – earning them money is.
Tell people something they don’t know rather than repackage common sense. Tell them something that only you or your company can tell them. And that’s hard to do, but the payoff for both the marketer and the marketed-to is actually real.
A Bit of Selfish Altruism
Now, if I may soap box it for just a moment. Marketing is the soundtrack to our daily lives. Marketers, advertisers, brand builders wield a lot of power in driving the sentiment of those they market to. Yes, whether or not those people become a customer of a certain product is part of that power. But also, there is a more implicit, undertone sort of facet to that power.
The words we propagate become blended into the zeitgeist, into our vocabularies. And our vocabularies define how we think. So, to put a pin in this tangent – the more we use words like “easy,” “quick,” “simple,” the more those words become synonymous with doing, and the more people will come to believe that if something is not quick or easy, it is not worth doing.
It’s not just some altruistic endeavor either. Marketing is about selling and making money. Consider our blog, “Save the Branded, Save the Brand.” The best marketing, stories, and brands don’t shrink, truncate or simplify their big ideas and disruptive innovations to fit into dwindling attention spans or levels of engagement from disinterested audiences. No. They create a need, a desire, an energy-inducing offering that captures and fuels the time and attention needed for true engagement. Don’t let the easy click fool you. We’re not after page views. We’re after the creating of experiences that are bigger than a web session and even bigger than whatever it is we are selling. The true measure of a piece of content is the distance it fuels a customer to run with a brand.
And that’s not easy. So let’s not kid ourselves, or our audiences, that it is.