Solve Problems for Your Customers with Content, Don’t Create New Ones

by Andrew Hanelly |

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, 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 the Author

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+.