Marketers: Don’t Be the Disruptor

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amy-hervey-staff-one-hr Disruption from a Marketing Perspective.  Originally published in PEO Insider, August 2018.

How many disruptions do you experience in a single day? Disruptors come in many forms, from a crying infant startling you awake or a coworker bursting into your office and shattering your focus, to an unexpected rant during a meeting, or even the “ding!” of each email notification. We’re taught at a young age that it’s rude to interrupt, yet we do it daily with abandon, and our society has allowed this to become the norm.

Dealing with Disruptors” is a thoughtful book about respectful, effective engagement.   Whether your audience consists of 10 individuals or more than 10,000, certain principles apply across the board. We are unable to form a connection when we cannot hear, choose not to listen, or fail to offer respect to our audience.What is Disruption?

We all have been guilty of disruptive behavior at some point in our professional careers. We blurt, we fail to “filter,” we take the proverbial low road, or we remain adversarial in the face of a proffered olive branch. We interrupt, but we hate being interrupted. As Dr. Stephen R. Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” wisely wrote, “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions.” On the playing field of today’s marketing, we often are the disruptors, and it’s up to us to change that.

We’ve all experienced a conversation with an unengaged person who keeps checking his or her phone, or who simply is distracted by “something shiny.” It’s hard to stay on track with a conversation, much less maintain a high level of engagement, when you don’t feel that you’re being heard.

The Value of a Pause

It’s fair to say that for all but the most professional speakers, our speech is rife with filler words—um, uh, you know—as we fight to keep the attention of our audience and avoid interruption. Marketing guru Seth Godin wrote, “Persuade yourself that the person you’re talking to will give you the floor, that he won’t jump in the moment you hesitate. You actually don’t have to keep making sounds in order to keep your turn as the speaker. The fastest speaker is not the speaker who is heard best or even most.”

If we’re not mindful of this, we’ll overstep with our marketing efforts, pinging our prospects too frequently in hopes of boosting brand awareness or staying top of mind. Fatiguing our audience comes at a cost, though. A single click, and that person has unsubscribed—forever. Pause, just as you would in a speech, to reevaluate your connection, consider the needs of your audience, and then move forward accordingly.

Find Out What We Can Do!

We stay engaged with our audience—whether it consists of prospects, clients, trusted advisors, worksite employees, or others—by offering value and doing it consistently. By listening, addressing concerns, asking relevant questions, and responding to the needs of the people with whom we are trying to connect, we show them respect.

Respect your Participants

As marketers—and we all are marketers in some form or fashion—we must respect the participants in our process, thoughtfully designing each event or campaign with the desired result in mind. What do you want your readers to do after reading your email, blog post, or ad? What action would you like your event participants to take after the event’s conclusion? Consider what your audience members already know, what else they would like to know, and why. Communicate clearly, set expectations, deliver consistently, and be generous.

The advent of inbound marketing—attracting prospective customers by offering relevant content and adding value throughout the buyer’s journey—has raised the bar for all of us in sales and marketing. We are charged with providing worthwhile content and addressing the needs of our audience in order to gain their attention and respect. Respect is a form of social currency, paid only to those who earn it.

The Value of a Prospect

Each PEO surely has a formula to determine the value of an excellent prospective client or referral partner: A company of X size, with Y growth expectations, for an average of Z years will result in a predictable range of revenue or profit. We spend a lot of time projecting sales revenue and determining return on investment (ROI) for our marketing efforts. Why not spend at least as much time connecting with our desired audience, finding out what is important to them, and filling that need to the best of our ability?

The disruptive marketing and advertising tactics of a decade ago (think robocalls, pop-up ads, and clickbait) are no longer acceptable. Frustrated, we screen our calls or hang up, navigate away in our browsers, unsubscribe from emails, or simply don’t click or open the things we receive. Selfish marketing and advertising practices have made us wary, and we jealously guard our time and privacy.

Make the Connection

Excellent content and sound planning drive successful inbound marketing, but if you don’t understand who your audience is, both your message and your ROI will be lost. It’s important to design and publish your content intentionally, to become a resource for the people you want to serve. Take a hard look at your blog, website, and social media messaging. If you’re sharing relevant, timely information and engaging your audience, the value of that connection goes far beyond clicks, likes, and shares. Bonus: It benefits not only our audience, but us as marketers, through better understanding of our customers, increased social interactions, and perhaps even a bump in brand awareness and search rankings.

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Be Flexible

Marketers often wear many hats, and may be responsible for blogs, email campaigns, websites, landing pages, webinars, videos, podcasts, advertising, special events, and more. However, no matter how well you research, prepare, and execute, you can’t plan for everything. Being open to fresh input and new ideas can make a big difference in your worldview, productivity, and ultimately, happiness. Resilient marketers who combine preparation and agility will do well in today’s fluid media.

Don’t Be the Disruptor

To paraphrase insightful author Bernadette Jiwa of “The Story of Telling” fame, we can choose to be fearfully reactive, or bravely responsive.  If we’re to be good stewards of the trust placed in us by our clients, referral partners, and even prospects, we must be a resource, stop interrupting, and actively listen instead of just waiting to talk.