There has been a steady stream of changes in the way we market our products and services to our customers.  However, no change was bigger than the change the Internet has given us.  Seth Godin described the sea change best in his seminal  book “Permission Marketing” which came out in 1999.

Godin’s thesis is that prior the advent of the Internet and email (and later with social media) we had what he called “interruption marketing.”  An example is that you are watching television and a commercial come along.  You didn’t ask for the commercial and it’s interrupting  your show, but you are forced to watch it.

The same thing applies to magazines, radio, bill boards and even to banner advertising on websites.  I’m not here to see your ad, but it comes along anyway.  We understand that the sale of these messages to sponsors pays the bills.  Even if that message means nothing to you, the advertiser still must pay.  Hard to believe but many marketers hold on to that world.

Enter email and later, social media.  The central difference between these two-way communications worlds is that the receiver of the message must give his or her permission to be marketed to by signing up for an email list, liking something on Facebook or following a company on Twitter.  By doing any of these, they’re saying to the advertiser “Hey, I’m interested in your message.  Talk to me.”

Now for the most important nuance.  At any time, without notice or explanation, the receiver can revoke that permission.  They can unsubscribe, unlike or unfollow something as easily as they liked it in the first place.  With no consequence.  They can always come back.

This is new responsibility for marketers.  The message must be accepted by the receiver.  If it’s not, you may lose them as quickly as you got them.  But wait, there’s more. Ultimately, the goal is not just to get your content read, the goal is that your readers engaged enough to comment or share what you have to say with their network.

What’s the “secret?”  Content that resonates with the receiver.  Make sense to them.  Adds something to their knowledge of a subject, not detracts from it by confusing them.  Helps them reach their goals.  Teaches them something.  Today’s content producers must be aware.  Know their audience and go deeper in their exploration of a topic.  Be willing to take on the point of view of the end users.

If that sounds intimidating it is.  Self-serving content about how great your product is was easier to write.  Since it was force-fed to the masses, little effort was required to improve the style of marketing content.  Failure to improve today could lead to catastrophic consequences.

How do you avoid this pitfall altogether?  Make content King.  Define the audience, decide what the message will be and develop the content.  Test and review with a critical eye toward the usefulness to your audience.  If it’s not useful, it’s not likely to be read.  If you doubt the usefulness for the audience, ask them!  Rewrite it until you’re confident it meets the need.  Then, decide how you’ll disseminate the content, through what channels and in what depth.

What’s the status of your content?  Is it thought provoking or self-serving?

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