How to Break Through Content Clutter

Do you ever feel as if your tried-and-true marketing efforts are just not working as well as they used to anymore? Well, you may not be imagining things. Today’s consumers, even in B2B, are bombarded 24/7 by literally thousands of competing marketing messages from a multitude of channels and sources. According to Jay Walker-Smith from Yankelovich Consumer Research, “We’ve gone from being exposed to about 500 ads a day back in the 1970s to as many as 5,000 a day today”. The result? An oversaturated market that is overwhelming the audience. Each additional ad serves only to diminish the collective value of the ads. And this problem will only get worse, increasing the competitiveness of the marketing space and driving the need for marketers to break through the clutter and make a lasting and positive impression on consumers.


A Few Key Stats

First, let’s take a look at some of the mind-boggling stats that highlight the excesses of content consumers deal with on a daily basis:

  • 5 exabytes (that’s 18 zeroes!) of online content are created each day (ACI)
  • 27 million pieces of content are shared every day (Nielsen)
  • 3 billion Google searches are conducted per day (ACI)
  • In 2013, content marketing was a $44 billion industry in the US alone (Custom Content Council)


We can sum this content situation up in two words: ‘marketing clutter’, which is the high volume of advertising that the average consumer is exposed to on a daily basis. Though consumers are exposed to these vast amounts of marketing, they are only consciously aware of a small number of them. (Research from the Britannica Academic Encyclopedia shows that the conscious brain can process 40-50 bits of information per second, whereas the subconscious brain can process about 2,000 bits of information per second.) This is where the ideas of ‘desensitization’ comes into play: the more ads the consumer sees, the less attention they pay to each individual ad. Frankly, the consumer gets annoyed – they don’t want to see ads everywhere they look, be they physical or virtual.

‘Breaking through the content clutter’ means taking risks in efforts to stand out from the noise of the crowd: do the unexpected, step out of your comfort zone, be unique without being obnoxious. B2C companies have quickly grasped this concept and adjusted their marketing efforts, but it can be more challenging for B2B organizations to embrace.


The Marketing Noise Barrier

The marketing landscape is polluted with noise, and prospects and customers have become overwhelmed. In response, consumers have learned how to tune out, or rather how to become immune to, all of this noise. They turn on their spam filters, they change the television channel or radio station, they close a browser window, they toss out junk mail, or they simply ignore it. The result is that what worked before in terms of marketing is no longer effective. Data from SJ Insights clearly illustrates this situation. Each day, consumers are exposed to over 5,000 brands (such as cars on the road, logos on people’s clothes, etc). Of these, about 362 are ads, and only 12 of those receive any sort of engagement from the consumer. Organizations are seeing diminishing returns and reduced sales, not to mention the increasing pressure for improved sales performance.

Many organizations try to just ‘make more noise’ by investing more money and resources in the same ineffective marketing tactics: run more ads, send more emails, place more phone calls, post more offers on social media. But trying to force people to pay attention to you is rarely successful – it just serves to turn them off.


How to Break Through the Content Clutter

Breaking through the content clutter doesn’t have to require a huge budget. With some strategy and innovation, you will be able to stand out from the crowd in no time.

Look to Your Competitors

A competitive analysis is not a one-time project. With the B2B space being in constant flux, organizations need to continuously re-assess their competition. First, what do their marketing efforts look like? What are they doing? What’s working, what’s not? Now, how can you take those lessons and put a creative spin on them? Make sure you don’t let your messaging get lost by saying and doing the same things as your competitors. You can even look to companies in other industries to get inspired.

Promote Engagement

Never underestimate the power of the fun factor. Experiences have a much greater impact on consumers than a more stagnant photo or message. Engaging content presents a great opportunity to personalize the experience and get your audience involved with your brand. Engage them in a conversation by asking for their input on topics or opening up to questions. Create interactive content such as quizzes, mobile apps, checklists, and games. Ask for social engagement in the form of likes, tags, and shares. You get the idea.

Look  Past the Product

People aren’t going to engage with your content if you are just pushing product 100% of the time – it is possible to stay ‘top of mind’ without being pushy or salesy. The key here is to create content that adds value, is relevant and meaningful, is interesting or exciting, and is intended to help the audience. Focus on their problems, interests, challenges, and passions and then develop content appropriately.

Stay Ahead of Trends

Marketing is a fast-paced environment – you need to be aware of what’s going on and then act quickly (remember: be proactive, not reactive!). What’s the next big trend in your market? What buzzwords are floating around? Do your research and then be one of the first to set the trend; step outside the norm and don’t be afraid to try something that hasn’t been done before. While new marketing tactics and strategies can capture the consumer’s attention in the short-term, they will eventually become immune to those strategies as well. This risk stresses the need for marketers to keep up with the development of technology and trends in the marketing arena. You’ll know if your creative ideas are working by tracking your results.

Get People Talking

Sticky ideas’ aren’t spread by technology – they are spread by people using technology. But if you want to generate buzz, you need to give people something to talk about. Kissmetrics suggets that the most effective topics to get people talking are those that are controversial, unique, remarkable, outrageous, hilarious, or secret. Still not convinced of the impact of viral marketing? A McKinsey study determined that 2/3 of buying decisions are primarily influenced by word-of-mouth. Further, 90% of consumers view word-of-mouth as the most reliable and credible source for information about products and services. Just be careful not to create negative buzz.

Make Your Content Appealing

Tell a story that people can relate to and will want to share. Author Simon Sinek expressed in a TED talk, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. Share real world examples and case studies that will appeal to people’s emotions. The ability to strike an emotional chord with your audience is what makes the content relatable.

Inspire People to Take Action

It’s great that you can get people’s attention and attract an audience, but without inspiring them action, what good is this group of potential customers? Be sure to include an intriguing call-to-action and next steps to carry them through the purchase process.

Be Everywhere

Relay your message through a variety of mediums. We all know that an ebook, snail mail, and phone calls each appeal to a different audience, but even each individual social channel merits a different message and requires different ways of sharing information. Memorable titles and eye-catching imagery will help your content to stand out even more and stay top-of-mind.

Shelley Cernel

Shelley Cernel is the Senior Marketing Manager at SAVO. She frequently writes on a variety of B2B sales and marketing topics, including social selling, sales productivity, and about the B2B buyer. Shelley holds a Masters of Science in Global Marketing and runs marathons and ultrathons in her spare time.

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