Whilst it is important for your message to reach out, the seal of approval is when people want to stick around.
The only way for people to stay with you is for them to see a quality of work that you can keep the momentum with.
The only way for people to read/watch/listen is when you say/do something that others don’t.
This article can be broken down into two trains of thought that link together.
1) Amplifying content does not matter when you have nothing interesting to say
2) Retention won’t happen when you are obsessed with squeezing people down a funnel to sell to them
Samemy Same Same
Avoiding/cutting/breaking through noise is not the problem, being the same as everyone else is where the real issue lies.
If you have a voice that matters to others, then you can take a side step away from the ‘noisy world’ mantra.
This is something that Kevin Kelly shaped in 2008 and is still true today with his 1,000 True Fans principal. Kelly explains that where we can create (with a defined voice), it allows us to interact with people directly. In the past there was an intermediary or someone blocking the way ie. a publisher to get to an author, now we can have contact on a continuous basis to connect directly with an audience.
The numbers you need are relatively small. These are true fans that will purchase anything you produce. Kevin Kelly mentions 1,000 people to make a living. He states that it is not for everybody as there is a lot of work in servicing and connecting, without the help from outside.
What About You?
You need people where a message connects with them and aligns with what you do.
You could spend a huge amount of time honing on a message that is the same as everyone else. No amount of amplification is going to help you, when you sound and look exactly the same. Whether it is taking a theme that already exists and adding a new layer, or modifying an approach but putting your own slant to it, this is how people start to take notice.
The value that you provide is triggered when someone else notices something that you communicate that compliments his or her belief system. It is something that they haven’t seen elsewhere, as opposed to a digital marketing company sharing an infographic that social media can help a business.
Once you have something to say that others can connect with is when you have the ability to move someone from a stranger to a subscriber. However, someone is going to turn their back when they realize that all you are doing is squeezing them down a funnel where the awareness – consideration – decision – purchase – advocacy, type approach is looking like putting on a pair of Speedos when you’ve spent the month on burgers.
If you have a clear voice that is different from the rest, you will never maintain a subscribed audience if all you are doing is looking at everyone as an immediate £ sign once someone has provided their email. No one was every inspired to create commodity work ie. how to make 100 extra subscribers per day, through to how to grow a huge audience on Twitter.
Everything here represents the objective of volume, rather than connection as a means for growth.
Whilst we are all here to sell products and services, we are not here to sell to people whose feet aren’t comfortably under the table yet but have given permission for us to build a dialogue and share. How many times have you connected with someone on a social channel only to find an automated or direct message that was intended to sell as soon as you accepted (or even worse, like them on Facebook)?
Retention Is Where Success Lies
When you focus you can find a message that resonates. This becomes scalable.
From a personal perspective, my blog was once generic business articles that had a vague connection to marketing, over the years have become a heavier focus on companies taking ownership with an owned media/content marketing approach.
In order to keep people, you need to have something that doesn’t fit in the same box as everyone else and then have the ability to connect.
Where people become captivated by reach, my fixation is retention.
Let me explain.
You will never develop a level of trust when you shove someone through a sales funnel/pipeline. Whilst I acknowledge that my job as a marketer is intended to help hasten the connection/interaction journey, there has to be the onus on being the solution that someone wants.
I used to believe that retention was about having someone waiting on your every moment of pressing the publish or send button. This idea of thinking that the world of fandom (or I think we call it advocacy in the B2B world, that then just became crazy fans) is just not true.
However, what is true from a B2B perspective is that you can produce ongoing content that is of a quality that someone wants and they know what they are going to get every time they see you enter their feed/inbox/print/someone else’s space. There is no need to think that people will start getting anxious when you haven’t posted one week (just as long as that doesn’t stretch to a number of weeks where you are silent).
I used to think something was wrong when subscribers didn’t click through to read articles or unedited versions on the Thursday, You Are The Media email.
However, I could see that people clicked through on other weeks. Rather than thinking that I have to create more about the more popular articles and I want people to consume the email and the Marketing Homebrew podcast every week, I have learnt that is fine if weeks are more popular than others.
Here is the critical bit.
Whatever someone has experienced (or consumed), I want him or her to stick with it.
The routine that happens every Thursday (the email) or the Friday (the podcast), it’s not about thinking that you have to have a Game of Thrones ‘keep them hanging on for more’ cliffhanger every week, but acknowledge that those people who subscribe and listen know what it is going to make them feel.
Trust & Comfort
Whatever they experience, you want to make someone feel comfortable when you are back in their space and they know what they are going to get (based on what you believe in that is different from someone else).
You don’t need to be persistent that every subscriber has to go through everything four times as though it was a love letter when you was 15, as long as they are with you and you don’t deviate from what they gave you permission to do ie. be a part of their week/month that is a healthy place to be.
It is better to become a regular destination for other people to come to, rather than a kebab shop because you was hungry and they were giving away a free can of Tango.
Whilst you will always have unsubscribers, that is absolutely fine, you just weren’t meant to be together. However, what is important and what I am 100% fixated on is to focus on what will keep people as subscribers. From my side, this means people are part of the journey that manifests into other areas, such as the You Are The Media Lunch Club, that started in 2016 and the You Are The Media | Conference that is taking place in May 2018.
I highlighted in an article from February 2017 that it is better to feed your community than to grow it. Looking back, one cannot happen without the other. You grow your community by having something to say that resonates. You feed your community by being persistent and continuous. This enables people to come in and out when they feel comfortable.
The article highlighted the need to provide momentum for others where they genuinely feel part of something. People will quickly find out if something comes across as false or has no meaning to participate. The objective is for others to take notice, come onboard and provide the momentum to build their own responsibility and persistent with their own efforts. From writing more through to progressing with a seed of an idea, this is how a community works when it becomes a place to collate thoughts, talk and everyone to have a shared interest.
A Quick Stat
The average number of tactics used by UK business in the annual Content Marketing In The UK report from the Content Marketing Institute are eight methods of communication. Lets flip this from the pursuit of consumption to the objective of retention.
Everything comes down to trust and relationships that are encouraged to build. Whilst growing your audience is important, you also have a duty to keep them.
Lets Round Up
The biggest threat for businesses today is sameness. Uniformity can destroy businesses.
Whilst it can be seen as risky by looking to move away from playing it safe, the businesses I have highlighted at the Lunch Clubs have all looked to create their own pools, rather than accept they have to be in the same sea as everyone else ie. people who have created events that were not served in a local area, through to websites that go against the industry standard. It is this approach that people take notice and want to see how the journey plays out.
These are businesses that have moved away from a product centric message and to one where value for others takes precedence (just look at Michael Grubb Studio, Crimson Guitars, PCOS Diet Support and Farrow & Ball).
When you switch from the pursuit of chasing numbers and reminding everyone about the credibility of volume but focus on retaining those who want to spend time with you, it can create a far healthier future.