How do you make your content go viral — offline?

You’re probably stressed.

It’s likely that you (and your customer contacts) are doing the job that used to be done by three people.  The information density of our world is overwhelming. Budgets and resources have been slashed.

It seems that everything is working against our ability to connect with customers and share information that could influence a purchasing decision and close a deal!

On the Internet side of the business, a new model for personal power and influence has emerged.  Enabled by widespread access to high-speed Internet and free publishing tools like blogging and Facebook, a new generation of influencers has emerged who have created a niche by being able to create compelling content and move it through an engaged network.

So now I want to take this idea a step further and push this thinking a new way.  If you have been immersed in the social web for awhile, this idea of influence probably makes sense.  But how do we apply this same model to the OFFLINE world?

How do we establish power and influence by creating compelling content and moving it through a HUMAN network instead of a digital one?

For example, success in sales often depends on your ability to tell the story of your company and the benefits of your product. But that task is more difficult than ever. The competition is fierce, and your procurement contacts have less and less time to learn about what you do … let alone understand it.

So how can we use Web 2.0 communication tools to break through the clutter and move our marketing message virally through Procurement, through corporate gatekeepers, and into the hearts and minds of executive decision-makers?

Here are a few lessons from moving content online that might help move it offline too:

Infographics – While we might be weary of infographics, wouldn’t that be an interesting way to cut through the clutter with a busy purchasing manager?  Instead of giving them a glossy brochure or power point presentation, why not a one-page, cleverly-designed picture of your business?

Aggregate content – When I interview customers during my market research activities, I always ask them what they hate about their jobs.  I look for activities that my client might be able to take on for them to make them indispensable. The answer usually leads back to something about stress and a lack of time to get things done. How can you use Web 2.0 utilities to help customers solve problems and save time?  Can you aggregate industry content in a helpful way so that a message from your company cuts through the clutter once a week?

Make ’em say wow — Let’s face it. Most company corporate communications are bland. They’re little more than glossy, buzz-laden press releases. Yet the communications that really stand out and get shared ENTERTAIN people!  Do you remember the day last year when the Google logo was a little PacMan game? If you saw it, I’ll bet you remember it, played it, and probably shared it. It was a little thing that helped them stand out and make people go “wow!”  If you have ever seen an example of a corporate marketing communications that makes you go “wow” I’d like to see it.  Rare exceptions … but why?

Visual selling — I don’t know what you call this technique, but many magazines are now doing lists where you can feature the “top 10 of something” by flipping through a picture or graphic and a small amount of text. An example from Inc. is here.  This is an effective communincation format when you want to summarize the highlights, yet I have never seen it used out side of this magazine format. Sort of a Flipbook/infographic combination.

I don’t have all the answers, but what do you think about the idea? How can we apply online marketing principles and best practices to the offline world to get to decision makers?

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  • Love the thoughts about infographics and visual selling. Being a visual person, this strikes a rather big chord within me. I just love to see something presented in a visual way, and often, that causes me to share something too. Make it viral. Push it. Share. 

    It’s interesting how different visuals are more powerful to different folks. All dependent on what we enjoy our pasts, etc…

  • rewarding influencers is the tested way.

  • I believe we are in the age of visual communication.  We don;t have time for anything else!

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  • Alina Kelly

    I’ve often joked that the higher up the organization the memo goes, the fewer words you’re allowed to use. By the time it gets to the Office of the President, it would be good if you could get your point across in a three-frame comic strip.
    I thinks it’s helpful to consider all your customers are the President – they don’t have time to read lengthy tomes either. Get to the point and get out.
    Concise is good. Compelling is helpful. And where possible, visual is great.
    Great post – thanks.

  • Making them say wow can be difficult-it is hard to get buy in for that kind of content for many industries and organizations. When a B2B business wants to be seen as a professional thought leader in something like (yawn) content management, adding the wow factor can be seen as taking away from the serious nature of the business. It is a fun challenge for those in the marketing world to incorporate content that is entertaining and has the potential to go viral without compromising the integrity of the organization.

  • Oh that is FANTASTIC!  What a great observation Alina. Thank you! 

  • Completely agree Samantha. But I still preach this everywhere I go!! 

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  • Hi Mark

    An interesting parallel is the world of physical DM versus email DM. Ten years ago, our agency spent a lot of time creating interesting, interactive, real-world mailing pieces to engage customers. It was an art form, which rapidly declined when companies realised that email campaigns could do the job (to a point) them at a fraction of the cost. That may be sometimes true, but the few physical direct mail campaigns we do now get an unbelievable response because they are so seldom seen. People simply don’t get as much physical business mail. So maybe we’re not just talking the ‘wow’ factor, but ‘relative wow’ because you have to compare what people are used to…

    Also like Alina’s point – which I have failed to observe in the long-winded response above 🙂

  • You make a great point here, Mark. Delight works. Every time. I receive relatively little direct mail compared to the past, but what I do see is often delightfully creative. It’s as though scarcity has improved quality. Or maybe direct mail is subconsciously competing with online thrills. Bottom line, great creative – online or off – has solid thinking behind it and great ideas work.

  • Oops! that should have been addressed to D&B – apologies!

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  • Mark W Schaefer

    Rats. Thought I got a compliment there for a moment! : )

  • I am actually working on a post about this very topic!  Thanks for this insight.

  • I believe the key is brevity, not format. Even “old fashioned” words are powerful when we don’t bog people down in them.

    Example: Here is only PART of a tweet from @jeffthesensei:disqus earlier today.

    “We have gone from “ready-aim-fire” to “ready-fire-aim” to “fire!!” I fear strategy will be a lost art.”

    In only about 100 characters, he made a powerful statement about the state of marketing in many organizations. When I’m starved for time, effective communication can come in any format, but brevity is essential.

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  • Tremendous comment Eric.  As long as it doesn’t get to “F” we’re still in the game!

    Your point also suggests the increasing importance of social proof. We live in a world of information density.  People crave shortcuts to help them make decisions … more than ever.  Thanks!

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  • I will say that one of the best ways to go viral offline is delivering quality.

    Actually content can go viral in an easier way offline, through actions, word of mouth and concrete examples. The challenge will be how to reach a good number of people.

    The wow factor is always good, as long as it is backed up with tangible results.

  • Great insight Luis, thank you!

  • really nice

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