Marketing your business online is rough stuff. Entrepreneurs—especially solopreneurs—sometimes struggle to find their ideal audience. No one is instantly great at it, which means customers are bombarded with lousy content every hour. It’s filling up their inboxes and clogging their social feeds, and it’s exhausting.
“We humans don’t have the time or the mental energy,” marketing strategist Ethan Beute says. “Five years from now, just think of all the digital noise and pollution that’s going to exist.”
To help brands win, Beute and Steve Pacinelli, BombBomb’s chief marketing officer, teamed up to co-write Human-Centered Communication: A Business Case Against Digital Pollution. It’s a manual for businesses who want to craft compelling messages and humanize their marketing.
In this episode of Brilliant Thoughts, Beute and Pacinelli chat with SUCCESS People Editor Tristan Ahumada about typical communication mistakes. Most businesses have the right idea in striving to meet customers online. But a few things are stopping them from connecting, converting and growing their audiences.
Put your audience before clicks, sales and revenue.
Your business needs a strong presence online, but not at the expense of your audience’s sanity. People can sense when a company is fishing for quick sales or thousands of clicks.
“We always make the mistake of, ‘Oh, I need to generate more sales this month or this quarter or this year, and it’s getting to the end. What do I need to do? I need to ramp this up. I need 15 sales,’” Pacinelli says. “[That] starts with you and your needs and what you want.”
The solution? Work backward instead of speeding into the future. Good communication takes the spotlight off your business and onto the customer, so answer one question: What does my audience care about right now? For example, are they working adults facing holiday stress or investors ready to buy land in the metaverse? Before you send the next email or publish another post, identify those hidden desires.
Market your business without creating digital pollution.
The internet is filled with unappealing content. According to Statista.com, 45.1% of emails in March were spam messages. Most people think twice before downloading a file because it may contain malware. There’s a general distrust of what’s “out there” on the web, which creates a challenge for entrepreneurs. On the one hand, you need to meet customers where they are and build trust online. On the other hand, digital pollution separates you from your audience.
“Digital pollution is the collective effect of unwelcome digital distractions—anything that stops you, slows you down, confuses you, frustrates you, perhaps even threatens you,” Beute says. “When you’re operating on digital and virtual spaces, that’s what we’re going to put in the category of digital pollution.”
The best thing to do is stop adding to the pile. Again, Beute says your audience will take the lead in determining what’s polluting their digital spaces—not you. If you see a post that’s borderline toxic and filled with negativity, but it has 180 likes, that doesn’t mean the author “polluted” Facebook, Twitter or wherever the post appeared, he says. It means the message is for a community you aren’t part of.
When you create actual pollution, people will show you by not engaging. Here’s what Pacinelli recommends to build an authentic connection:
- Don’t stress over people avoiding your content. Ask yourself why they do, then create solutions to target their desires.
- Identify the specific value behind your messaging. Does it align with what customers want to receive?
- Measure your audience’s response to your content. Are people eager to engage with more of it?
Lastly, don’t celebrate a minor breakthrough; keep targeting more people.
“If you’re blasting all of these messages out, and you’re saying, ‘Yeah, I got some people [to engage],’ but you’re not focusing on the 97% that you’re not getting, at what detriment to your business? What’s the counter impact because now they are learning to ignore you,” Pacinelli says.
Video is popular, but use the format your audience enjoys.
Posting on TikTok or YouTube Shorts isn’t a shortcut to marketing success. Even with video dominating social media, you still have to consider your audience. Both Beute and Pacinelli say you should meet people where they are instead of where you are. A video platform could be the right fit, and it could also be the worst.
“If you’re a seller, and you really like doing something digitally, virtually or online, but buyers don’t prefer that, that’s probably not going to stick,” Beute says.
Focusing on human connection is more important than following trends. Still, you’re in luck if your audience likes video and you’re good at emotional storytelling. Beute says video marketing, with its audio-visual appeal, is the best way to express customer love in 2021 and beyond.