We in marketing love us some big ideas.

Attention-getting, jaw-dropping, breathtaking ideas that captivate our audience and sway them into taking action. It’s how we get noticed. It’s how we win awards. It’s how we achieve ROI.

Or so we think.

On paper, the ideas we come up with are brilliant. The storyboard is compelling. The concept will change everything. The “personas” are delighted. The idea is a success.

On paper.

But our audience doesn’t live on paper – they live in the real world. And they aren’t personas, they are individual people.

And in the real world, people don’t want an idea that “changes everything.” They want an idea that integrates with what they are already doing. They want content that serves them, not content that reinvents the way they operate.

As content marketers, our challenge is to accept that and create content that takes into account the real world environment and day-to-day habits the people we are trying to connect with live in.

For example:

Try not to force people down a path they may not be able to take.

Ever seen this roadblock?

microsoft silverlight roadblock to content

Avoid making people have to install special components to view your content. There are plenty of options out there and time is a precious commodity. Both of these facts will deter people from interacting with your content if there are barriers to entry they don’t have the will or the way to cross.

Another for-instance: In some plots of acreage in cubicle-land, video is not allowed to be consumed. Sure, it’s not forward-thinking, it’s old school, it’s ignorant – but it’s also true. Take into account that some people may not be able to view your brilliant video and offer a text alternative. People will quietly thank you with their attention.

Try to recognize the situational factors that surround your audience and mold your content to them.

During March Madness, NCAA.com knew that much of their audience would be stuck at work while the early games played, so they allowed for streaming broadcast of the games on people’s computers.

Smart move, but what about the people with exposed screens or a chronic case of over-the-shoulder-boss?

Enter, the “Boss Button”:

boss button

This allowed people to watch games with the peace of mind of knowing that they were one click away from escaping the wrath of their overbearing (or productivity-minded) employer. They could click the “Boss Button” and a dreadfully boring Excel spreadsheet would pop up.

That’s serving your audience in a realistic way.

To a much lesser extent, a student-targeted magazine I helped create in college was printed on smaller paper so students could do the crossword puzzle discretely in class by filling it out under their desks.

We knew that our publication would have a limited window of appeal: while they were in class. We didn’t stand a chance against the distractions presented once they were free.

So, we swallowed the bitter pill that was our reality and dealt with it. We designed a magazine that could be read in about the time it took a lecture to complete, and made it in the shape of something they could put between their lap and their desktop.

It wasn’t game-changing, but it did get some playing time.

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About Andrew Hanelly

Andrew Hanelly

Andrew is SVP, Strategy for McMurry/TMG and for one semester in college, was a sociology major. He writes at Brain on Digital, as @hanelly on Twitter and here on Google+.

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.freakyperfect.com Amy Bradley-Hole

    Amen on the video thing. I don’t watch videos, but it’s not because I’m blocked from doing so. It’s just that they’re too time consuming. I don’t want to waste even 2 or 3 minutes watching something when I could consume the same information in under a minute by reading it.

    • http://www.hanelly.com hanelly

      Exactly, Amy. You can’t scan video and you are forced into the creator’s pace. I’m not a fan of either. Thanks for the comment!

  • http://twitter.com/lisagerber Lisa Gerber

    The second I scrolled and saw the Microsoft Silverlight image, I laughed. So true! same goes for Flash websites that can’t be viewed on many computers (still) and most importantly, Iphones. It’s always a good idea to ask your readers about their preferences. We’ve noticed our videos get a lot more views than our blog pages. “Do you prefer to read or watch video?” We may think we know our audience, but it can never hurt to ask ask ask.

    • http://www.hanelly.com hanelly

      Absolutely: it never hurts to ask.

      Glad you got a kick out of the Silverlight image. I worried that some people might see it and leave the article because they assumed they were required to actually install Silverlight to get part of this post. Thank you for trudging onward!

      • http://socialbutterflyguy.com/ DJ Waldow

        Funny. That was actually my first reaction. I can’t tell you how many sites I’ve bounced from after seeing the Silverlight thing. Nooooooooooo!

  • Anonymous

    Great reminders Andrew! We tend to get caught up thinking we have to use the latest and greatest tools because everyone else is using them, and sometimes we should, but often forget what is usable and comfortable for our communities. Thanks for sharing!

    • http://www.hanelly.com hanelly

      Amen, Nancy.

      I wrote a post once about how my favorite diner broke my heart by doing exactly what you’ve described. If you have a free 30 seconds, check it out here http://www.hanelly.com/when-ignoring-technology-is-innovation/

      • Anonymous

        Thanks Andrew…great post! I just read it, then shared it on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn because it’s an important reminder to talk, and then really listen, to our customer and clients to preserve the experience they have to know, like and trust. Thanks so much for the conversation!

        • http://www.hanelly.com hanelly

          Well thanks for doing that. I’m glad you liked it. It’s amazing the answers you can get when you’re just willing to ask a question – yet so many businesses don’t. Glad to have met you here in the comments!

  • http://profiles.google.com/2cksyme Chris Syme

    Good stuff. Thanks for the reminder: “And in the real world, people don’t want an idea that “changes everything.” They want an idea that integrates with what they are already doing.” May I be able to keep that in mind–I don’t need to be hunting for the “world-changing idea” all the time.

    • http://www.hanelly.com hanelly

      The brutally basic almost always wins out over the exotic. Sure, there are one in a million ideas out there that totally disrupt a market and make someone rich, but I’m more concerned with the other 999,999 instances.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • http://insightsandingenuity.com heatherrast

    Andrew, how smart of you to point a finger at the obstacles media creators (thinking they’re enablers) put in consumers’ way every day.

    Truths:
    1) I don’t want one more app download. Just because its from Microsoft, how do I know it won’t hog memory or crash or whatnot? Furthermore, I don’t understand why I need it, making me more resentful that your content tells me I have to have it.
    2) Cubicle nation or not, I’d rather read than watch video. I have satellite broadband (and pay vital organs for it each month, too) but video and Skype are still problematic. I can read faster than most videos play, anyway.
    3) Ah, ingenious solution….very user-centered. Great example of knowing thy audience!

  • http://www.web-self-service.com Wesley Wise

    There are a lot of ways to solve a problem or create more features that would add to a product’s appeal, we just have to make sure that it won’t add to more downside like that ncaa thing you posted. We’re just hoping for direct and concise things.

  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Virtual office assistant

    I loved what you have done here. The design is elegant, your stuff classy. Yet, you have got an edginess to what you’re offering here. Ill definitely come back for more.

  • Mike Callahan

    I liked the Boss Button idea.
    I want to do everything possible to cater to the customer and thier every possible convienience. That’s the name of the game, no?
    Thanks for the insightful tips.
    However, my most impactful presentation does focus on video, but hopefully in a worthy manner.

    Sincerely,

    Michael Callahan
    CEO & Founder: Launch Pending…
    The Humane Network.com
    The Humane Cable Network.com
    The Humane Shopping Network.com
    Email Waterflydog@aol.com

  • http://twitter.com/Social_Citizen Ashley K. Edwards

    “In some plots of acreage in cubicle-land” – funny, but yes…true. I liked this particular call-out. Nothing worse that encountering a roadblock to content you want.

    Also, I wasn’t familiar with the NCAA’s “Boss Button” but it’s very, very clever! Enjoyed reading the post….

  • http://www.eventz4kids.com Day Activities For Kids

    Well that’s an interesting article!! Readers are more influenced by the content of your site or blog so it should be attractive and unique.

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