You’ll never believe how amazing this post about click bait is!! Also mentions Facebook, LinkedIn, Donald Trump, Salesforce Pardot and Google!

If you’re human and have access to the internet, you’ve probably fallen victim to ‘click-bait’ at least once in your life. If you’re like me you hover on the edge of cynicism and curiosity every time you open Facebook. We’ve almost become desensitized to it and have learned to ignore it on Facebook…but what the hell has happened to LinkedIn?

And when did marketers think to themselves hey that thing I loathe in my personal life could be a fucking fantastic addition to my lead gen campaign?’ In case you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘click bait’ let me enlighten you.

Click bait is content, especially that of a sensational or provocative nature, whose main purpose is to attract attention and draw visitors to a particular web page. Typically the sensation is not substantiated beyond the headline of the content which elicited the click-through.

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Sample click bait. I’m sorry in advance, but you cannot click on the articles depicted above, so do not try. They’re not that interesting so I’ve really saved you from yourself. You’re welcome.

Why does shitty click bait work?

Click bait attracts our attention and often earns our click because we’re weak. And bored. And we’re so saturated in content that we’ve seen it all, so we’re always looking for something we haven’t seen. In our personal lives we seek to be informed and entertained, and no longer are the boring facts of life and those things you hear on the news interesting, provocative, or shocking enough (it’s why we love Donald Trump news reports even if we hate him).

I think we can all agree click bait is annoying, but it works, so we kind of deserve it. But what is click bait for? I don’t know this to be true, but I image it was concocted by vicious hackers and malware creators who have a shockingly enlightened grasp of human psychology. For a long time legit businesses did not bait us so cruelly.

Now that its proven effective, however, it seems enterprising enterprises have decided to jump on that morally dubious bandwagon to ‘earn’ our clicks the easy way – with exciting headlines and empty promises. And LinkedIn has (d)evolved into an effective platform for the proliferation of their crappy content.

Why would legit business use click bait?

It’s google’s fault. This is an oversimplified explanation of search engine optimization (SEO), but basically it works like this: To show up in unpaid search results on search engines like google, your content needs to contain the search terms people are looking for, but also prove that others find it interesting and valuable. The value of your content is measured by how many people look at it. Thus, to build credibility for your website in the eyes of search engines, you need high traffic. To obtain high traffic you can earn it slowly over time by producing high quality interesting content targeted at individuals who are your target readership, or you can trick a broader audience into visiting your site with broadly interesting headlines.

Could you offer those people substantive content which fulfills the promise in that headline? Sure, but that’s time consuming and expensive, requires talent and an you have to care about good marketing. You will get the clicks and downloads you seek without bothering to put anything worthwhile behind the gated form. So why bother? Because you have integrity? Apparently not.

The latest offender? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Salesforce Pardot  – a company marketing to marketers – thought they would get away with fooling us this with this enticing headline: 7 Inspiring B2B Marketing Campaigns: Must-See Examples of Marketing Success That You Can Replicate

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A screen shot of the promotion on LinkedIn, which I also received via email. No, I will not give you the link because I don’t want the page to earn extra traffic. It’s not worthy and you’re better than that. PLEASE do not add fuel to the fire by searching for this and downloading it yourself. If you want to see this content I’m bashing and judge for yourself, you can get the PDF here.

I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking to be inspired and see examples of great marketing. Even better when there are takeaways I can implement. This could have been an awesome piece of content…except it wasn’t. There was NOTHING in it. I mean, not nothing…there were pictures and wimpy descriptions of what one might loosely call a campaign, with accompanying links to the featured company’s twitter account (more click bait!)

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To be honest, I’m not sure whether this was intentional click bait; Pardot’s weak attempt to try to dazzle prospects by showing off the big-name companies that use their software; or a young millennial content marketer’s honest attempt at content creation skewed by the generation (s)he grew up in, which has blinded him/her to the difference between real content and internet garbage.

Think I’m too cynical? Maybe…but here’s what happened next….

About 15 minutes later I got a phone call, which I did not answer. There was no voicemail, but I did get a follow-up email from a sales rep who said he just tried to call me. I ignored it. Two days later I got another phone call with a voicemail from the same rep. And another follow-up email. He wanted to know when I was available to speak about my interest in Pardot. I politely told him I’m not interested in Pardot, I’m perfectly happy with my (much more robust) marketing automation platform, and I was simply interested in the topic promised in the content. He did not reply.

Normally I’m annoyed by over-zealous sales reps, but this time I was nice because his marketing team set him up for failure. Putting aside the especially disappointing lack of content in this particular piece of content, generally speaking creating content that’s of interest to a broad group of people may make for good lead gen, but it’s not sufficient qualifying content. Just because you got someone to download a provocative piece of content does not meant they’re interested in what you have to offer or ready to speak to a sales person. You’d think that Pardot, a company that markets and sells to marketers a product which has automated lead scoring and qualification capabilities, might exercise proper use of the tool they are selling.

I hope this was an isolated incident and that they will learn from their mistake, but I suspect more likely they will see the huge download counts and call this piece of click bait a success. And they will continue to have a proliferation platform in LinkedIn – a tool I once valued, which is rapidly becoming the click-bait emporium of the business world.

I hope you felt the click bait headline I lovingly gave this post yielded satisfactory content.

 

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#C2C16 in a (sassy) nutshell

This was my first time at Demand Gen Report’s annual B2B marketing conference – Content2Conversion – and it probably will not be my last. I’ve never written a post-event blog post because I’ve never felt I had enough good things to say. In true form, I naturally have a bit of sass to bestow upon them, but for the most part it’s good stuff. Here we go:

Interactive sessions are a great way to benchmark where you stand in the marketing evolution hierarchy (i.e. who sucks worse than you).

Day 1 of the conference consisted of workshops presented by DemandGen Report’s partners (vendors). Because Demand Gem Report makes a business out of publishing content of interest, they were well in-tune with their audience and succeeded in giving us a variety of sessions which all seemed topically relevant. In fact, I had trouble selecting a session, but in the end I settled for Televerde’s session on integrating digital, nurture and human touch. Nothing they said was earth-shattering or new. In fact, the most earth-shattering part of the session for me was that when the room was shown a slide of very basic and standard funnel benchmark metrics and asked who measures each stage of the funnel against those benchmarks today – I was the ONLY person who raised my hand! (#wtfmoment)

Though perhaps not intended, the speakers managed to incite enough interest and questions that the audience became actively engaged and we all were not only asking questions, but we were answering each others. This interaction made the session more rich and beneficial to all. It also reminded me that there are many many marketers still looking in the window or barely crossing the threshold of what I would consider to be the most fundamental of demand gen marketing practices, such as funnel definition, management & measurement; persona segmentation, integrated automated multi-touch campaigns, lead nurture, and lead scoring (so many blog topics!!) If you have a good handle on these things, well done! You may not be as behind as you think you are.

Marketers are both the puppets and puppeteers of buzz words (#ABM)

This is the part of my post where I say #ABM. Any presenter who didn’t at least mention ‘Account-Based Marketing’ missed the memo that this is a mysterious concept you must embrace (or pretend to). During my networking adventures I took every opportunity to throw out this buzz word and see how people responded and ask them what it means. Interestingly (and surprisingly) I found myself identifying most closely with the sales folks at this event. Why? Because to them our recent obsession with ABM is irritatingly laughable. ACCOUNT-BASED MARKETING IS NOT NEW. It’s what sales has been doing for years and what any marketer worth their salt and properly aligned to sales should have been doing, too.

Marketers, you’ve all been puppet-mastered into salivating at any vendor who uses this term. Don’t you know when you’re being marketed to? Whoever started this bandwagon in motion was brilliant because now any vendor willing to sacrifice a little dignity to exploit this buzz word  is making bank on essentially re-branding what all marketers should already be doing.

Killer keynotes make a conference – David Meerman Scott and Tim Riesterer KILLED it.

I won’t lie, one reason I was very much motivated to come to this conference was to hear David Meerman Scott speak. I was sure he’d be as dynamic a speaker as he is a writer, and he did not disappoint. He taught us:

  • Content is not its own thing that is created just because. It should be designed for both marketing and for sales, and more importantly, should be so timely and relevant that it is REAL TIME. In fact, he says companies that do this well hire journalists to create content (it was at this point in the program Donald Trump was mentioned – we can’t deny he does real-time marketing very very well).
  • Make your information free. There’s been a lot of talk about whether or not to gate content. Mr. Scott says no…or at least, not right away. He actually poses an interesting suggestion, which I’d like to see play out in practice: Don’t gate your content that you publish online – offer a link to something else within your content, and gate that. I like this idea, but to pull it off marketers will have to exercise some discipline and resist the temptation to post all their content online, which also has implications for SEO.
  • Be human. B2B does not equal boring. Every B2B company I have ever worked for would disagree. They put great effort into being boring. I 100% agree that B2B marketing is about marketing and selling to people, and more and more people are buying for business like they buy for themselves. The influencers may not be kids and the co-decider may not be a spouse, but the same rules apply. If you don’t think people’s personal preferences and emotions play a role in the B2B buying process you haven’t been a B2B buyer. It’s harder to choose a data vendor that makes everyone in your business family happy than it is to buy a family car. I think in our hearts we all know this, but somehow we still suck at wiping out the corporate bullshit speak and talking like a human.

Tim Riesterer, from Corporate Visions, applied scientific and academic structure to messaging concepts which really are common sense, and he did so in a most entertaining way. I am admittedly a psychology geek and according to Tim, so are 85% of marketers. But I think even the unenlightened 15% of marketers in the room would agree that Tim’s insights were on-point to both excite and incite. His main message: Your biggest competitor in a deal is not the other company, but the status quo – the choice to do nothing. This takes a little extra thought and creativity in your approach to messaging, but it’s nothing off-the-handle. Demand Gen report sums it up beautifully, so you can read more here.

This nutshell is getting long, so I’ll wrap up with this:

Almost everything we know about marketing is common sense. That’s why you frequently hear the joke ‘everyone is a marketer.’ What makes a marketer great is the ability to ACT on common sense in an effective and efficient way, MEASURE the results, and ADJUST. Sounds obvious and maybe a little boring, right? It a skill. And not an easy one.

Some marketing teams have it down, but following this conference I sense that many of you do not. That’s okay, it means you have a good reason to have a job. I hope you’re making a sincere effort to put into practice the things you’ve learned. The trick is to take one leg of the journey at a time. You know point A (where you are) and you know point B (where everyone says you should be going). If you can’t find your way without a map, there are plenty experts that can help get you from A to B, but my advise to you is don’t close your eyes and just let someone drive you there. To be a good marketer you have to learn how to navigate new routes, so let the experts guide and teach you, because point B will never stop changing. The good news is you will never stop learning, which means more conferences (hopefully with as much sun and booze as #C2c16).

 

Has objectivity eclipsed creativity in marketing?

Every new year we hear analysts and journalists touting the latest trends, predictions and evolutions in the world of marketing. They’re usually right, but rarely are they earth-shattering. These changes happen gradually, and we’re all experiencing them well before a Google search of “2016 marketing trends” yields pages of results.  In fact, typically by the time those reports come out, 2016 and the trends that come with it are old news (I mean, I started budgeting for 2016 in July 2015, and by January 2016 I’m nearly ready to start thinking about 2017).

This year I took a more active role in the observation of these trends by way of participating in a handful of interviews with various media publications. While my answers came easily and seemed obvious, as I reflect upon them I’ve had a realization:

The world of marketing really has changed. The plethora of technology; the expectation of budget-savviness; and the ability to measure every channel, tactic and touchpoint have created a marketing environment seemingly devoid of subjectivity. The Mad Men days are over. We don’t rely on gut instincts and feelings because we have tools and data. What will get people to click and take action can be boiled down to a formula – down to the color of the button (see my post on color psychology).

When asked during my interviews what skills matter most in marketing, I didn’t say “creativity, design skills, ability to understand people, and willingness to take risks based on gut instinct.” I said “technical competency, ability to make data-driven decisions, budget management, and adaptability.” These are skills which rely heavily on the ability to be objective. Sounds like an IT professional could do the job of a marketer. And in some organizations we’re even seeing IT departments take on greater responsibility for marketing technology (I shall address that at another time).

So, in 2016 and beyond will objectivity eclipse creativity in marketing?

Despite the ever-growing trends toward technology and data, I say no. Why? Because despite all this, I still believe there’s a heart, soul and skill to marketing. Whenever I’m looking to hire someone and I’m evaluating the skill sets of the candidates, I always say, “I’d rather hire a marketer and teach them the technology, than hire a technologist I have to teach to be a marketer.” Technology is a tool, but there’s still a layer of subjectivity, humanity and creativity – beyond the formulas – required to attract, engage, convert and delight customers.

I’m certainly not suggesting we give a free pass to the technology-ignorant marketers out there. Today, you need to be able to read tactical reports, measure the funnel, understand how to develop integrated campaigns, know how automation works, leverage lead scoring, and live in your CRM platform. But these things do not replace understanding your audience, appealing to their senses, and hitting them with the right message via the right channels at the right time.