I received a marketing email yesterday that had some issues. What the issues were is irrelevant. What I needed to write about this morning is how many marketing organizations seem to structure themselves in ways that suck contextual perspective out of their communications.
There are many issues that marketing communications content can have — from the most basic, the typo; to something worse, the fact error; to the absolute worst, the strategic error. Beyond those content issues can be functional ones — bad links, broken forms, browser errors, database problems, etc.
Today, I need to focus on content issues, because that’s what set me off.
Typos and Fact Errors are the Best Kinds
And we’re going to skip typo-level issues, because if you can’t manage to keep those out of your marketing, you have bigger problems. Typos are also the least damaging and most easily fixed issue.
Fact errors can elevate themselves to strategic errors, so, in a way, I do want to talk about those. But, what I really want to think about are perhaps the most common, egregious and damaging of all marketing communication errors—the strategic ones. And I want to hypothesize that many of these errors are not considered to be strategic at all.
Pace and Versioning Challenges
Strategic direction is typically set pretty high up. Messaging is often drafted off of that direction—also pretty high up. But then there’s change—the pace of which is often frenetic. And then there’s demand for content—often relentless, beyond frenetic.
And so far, I haven’t even begun to address versioning. Modern marketers love to segment, score, target and build personas. All of these branches may get multiplied with demanding vertical market messaging, customer messaging, sales messaging and promotional messaging. And then we get into delivery differences—ads, sms, social, email (internal vs. external), landing pages, white papers, webinars, videos, blog posts, etc. —all needing content NOW.
The result of the modern reality of content scaling is often version upon version upon version of hundreds or thousands of assets. All too often, the strategic fidelity of the assets that ultimately reach the market is watered down—a mere shell of what they’re supposed to be—ineffective at best—damaging at worst.
I don’t believe we can say that’s just the way it is. Nor do I believe we can say that’s an operational failing. It’s a strategic failing because the message is ultimately not reaching the market. In a world of content overload, where every touch is incredibly precious (and even more brief), the intended message must actually reach the intended target.
Getting Your Marketing Strategy to Your Audience (In Tact)
Attention CMOs—no one important ever sees your strategy doc. VPs—the people who matter aren’t reading your messaging or brand guides. Have you carried the vision through your organization to empower your creators with the perspective and context that makes content great? I know most of you have NOT, because I see the barrage of underwhelming content every day.
Empowering your creatives with perspective and context is not easy. It requires constant education that moves with the intersection of your brand and the market. And it means constant engagement from YOU. Because if YOU weren’t special, you wouldn’t be a C-level. But for you to be a great C-level, in this age of content proliferation, you need to be your own eagle eye—not only keenly aware of everything you’re putting out, but even more keenly aware of how you’re engineering your team to understand and apply your strategy to thousands of little, tiny assets.
You uniquely have the context and perspective to synthesize your strategy into something meaningful. We all love it when our content is framed as authentic, relevant, useful and valuable. These are holy-grail adjectives often reserved for content from founders, consultants or C-levels—in other words, thought leaders. But the vast majority of content doesn’t come from you. It comes from your marketing teams who are often working from a moment in time memorialized as messaging.
My second hypothesis is that C-levels who, each week, share their perspective contextualizing their strategy to everyone responsible for content, are much more likely to hear that their content is authentic, relevant, useful and valuable. Sounds a lot like a great reason to adopt agile marketing.