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Mitch Ratcliffe


What are you serving your customers? Just the information they want or lots of syrupy information that will ultimately turn off their appetite for more of your brand? The internet is a delicious pancake, eggs, and bacon breakfast smothered in a flood of maple-flavored corn syrup. It looks like you’d love to eat it all, but you know intuitively it will make you sick.


Web marketers have relied on the strategy of pouring more syrupy content into the world. Marketing strategy is following the Western diet down a road that ends with consumers disgusted and harboring distrust. Content seeks to grab attention, but because it is poorly planned, most content never gets the visitor beyond the initial engagement. Customers may see your brand content everywhere. If they click on it and find only syrupy messaging, rather than more of the information they want - that is, the pancakes, eggs and bacon - they’ll be gone with a memory of wasted time  and a bad taste in their mouth – and your brand logo stamped on it.

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The volume of content publishing has raced ahead of the public’s capacity to give their attention to untargeted messages. Topics are quickly covered-to-death and authority constantly disputed, making market entry for new brands, as well as novel product or services, more difficult despite plentiful connectivity.


In the face of social sharing declines, many marketers think more content is the answer.

The opposite, counter-intuitive response, to focus on less, higher quality information aimed at deepening pre-sales and sales engagements, is the better way forward.

Plan, listen, and adjust is the strategy for success amid information glut. Successful sites grow their authority by delivering regular, increasingly specific information that becomes part of the customer’s daily rituals, like a good breakfast.


Personal is precious

The rise of artificial intelligence, sensor-filled worlds enabled by the Internet of Things, flexible work that can put a brand representative anywhere in minutes, the urgency of achieving a sustainable economy, and the imperative to be transparent give brands all the tools needed to adjust messaging to a customer’s needs, yet brands are still taking baby steps toward listening.


People want personal responses, increasingly deep information that addresses their needs. Most brands have immense content libraries that could answer those questions, but it is buried in FAQs and other obscure parts of the brand website.


Step back from your generic sales and marketing goals and put your customer at the center of the story. Use web pages, apps, ads, native content, and owned media to ask questions relentlessly. Find the narrative arc that makes your customer the hero.


Tell the customer’s story, share how other customers like them came to embrace your brand, and let them share their success with others.


Content is not flypaper, though we do describe successful content as “sticky.” In the early years of the Web, when digital media was novel, a sticky site brought people back. As more options for spending time and attention appear online, the only story people will pursue is their own, or stories like their own. Getting stuck on a site that does not adjust to personal interests and preferences is boring and sharing it with others is an invitation to cyber-isolation.


In fact, GetSocial discovered that non-public, or “dark social” sharing, is becoming the norm. Social network users no longer publicly share generic information. Instead, they send private messages, commenting secretly rather than risk the social animus of public sharing.

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Trapping someone into a transaction is not the path to trusted long-term engagement. People, like coyotes, will gnaw their leg off to get out of a bad deal – and they’ll tell everyone they know about the terrible customer experience.


The secret is, any data can become personal

Most companies have thousands of data points that, shared in the context of the customer’s interests, could become deeply personal. Take the simplest form of information, like calorie data about dine-out food.


Check out McDonald’s Nutrition Calculator. Although it’s generic data, it becomes personal when someone checks the health benefits of a meal. The facts prevent runaway rumors about calories and the handling of food by the company. sees more than 97 percent of its traffic from organic search, and the menu is the subject of 15.2 percent of searches for the brand, according to SimilarWeb.

The deep information provided to the customer by the McDonald’s Nutrition Calculator gives the brand the credibility to dispute, for example, rumors that its beef is not in fact beef. The site is a promotional platform for McDonald’s UberEATS partnership, driving home delivery orders, too. Yet it is just a list of products and calories.


Create less content that is better targeted to support a long-frame relationship with customers, who will tell their own stories by building on your brand’s authority. Toss out the syrupy content to personalize campaigns to deliver more relevant decision-support information to customers. More substance, and less filler. No syrup needed.

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