There has been a slow and steady trend in the marketing world over the past few years that is likely to continue. Demand for information products has become more selective.
An information product is exactly what its name suggests. Books, DVD’s, training courses, whitepapers, webinars and podcasts are all examples of information products. Some are free and some are not. Some are interactive and some are static. But the basic idea behind an information product is simple: you create something that provides valuable information based on your unique expertise.
Businesses often use information products as a way to attract clients. For example, you’ll often find web sites inviting you to download a free e-book. You’ll be asked for your first name and email address, after which you’ll start receiving weekly emails. Done well, this strategy can build credibility over time. (It’s often done very poorly.)
The classic information product model is breaking.
In case you haven’t noticed, we’re all inundated with information. People have less time to consume generic information products. We don’t have time to read your email newsletter or your free e-book — unless.
Unless it has exactly the information we’ve been looking for and haven’t been able to find anywhere else.
Unless it quickly grabs our attention by saying something new and interesting.
Unless it answers a burning question that’s been on our minds for weeks.
Or, unless we have a personal relationship with the information product’s author and we are seeking to build our connection with that person.
A Surplus of Information
Blogger Mark Schaefer wrote about a phenomenon in 2014 that he dubbed “Content Shock.” He pointed out that while the amount of content available for consumption on the internet is growing without bounds, our ability to consume that content is not. There is no limit to the number of new blogs, YouTube channels or email newsletters that any number of people might create. However, there are still only 24 hours in the day. We have become more selective about what we watch or read. We have no choice in the matter. We can’t read it all. So, how do we choose?
When one market dies, another emerges.
Our minds are over-saturated with information, but on the other hand, we’re starving for human connection. And that is the key to mastering content marketing.
A Shortage of Connection
Schaefer illustrates how the oversupply of content has created an equally severe shortage of another resource: attention. While fewer people are seeking information, greater numbers of people are facing the challenge of getting others to pay attention. In today’s hyper-productive, tech-focused world, people are craving real and meaningful human-to-human connection.
Have you ever sat across from someone at a coffee shop who was only halfway listening to what you were saying? Have you ever tried to deliver a speech to a tuned-out audience? Have you ever tried to start a conversation about something that mattered deeply to you, only to have them change the subject? Have you ever written a blog post and felt frustrated that no one read it? Ever put together an event and had no one show up?
If you can identify with any of the above, then you’ve felt the frustration that most of the world is feeling right now. We don’t need another email newsletter. We want someone to listen to us with their full attention.
If you can solve that problem for someone, you’re in business. Easy? No. Doable? Yes.
Create a Connection Product
What exactly is a “connection product”?
Like its name suggests, it’s anything that makes it faster and easier for people to connect. Unless you live in a cave, you have been buying connection products for your whole life. Here are a few examples of connection products:
- Civic and social clubs like Rotary or Kiwanis
- College fraternities and sororities
- Churches and other houses of worship
- Political parties
- Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram
- Meetup groups
- Concerts or other live music events
I could list hundreds of examples of connection products, and most likely, so could you. The demand for this type of product is likely to grow even more aggressive over the next ten years. Everyone has something to say, and we’re all having to work a lot harder just to get someone to listen and understand our message.
Seth Godin articulates the nature of the solution perfectly: “When you tell us about your business or non-profit or public works project, tell us first how it’s going to help us connect.”
If you look around you, you won’t have a hard time finding someone who is already doing this successfully. Here are a couple of examples from the nonprofit space.
For example, in 2006, I attended a leadership conference for The Hunger Project in New York City. At the time, I had sent small donations to a few nonprofits. The Hunger Project reached out to me by phone and invited me to lunch (which none of the others had). They invited me to the conference, where I had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world who had gathered to participate in a conversation about how to bring a sustainable end to world hunger. The energy in the room was powerful and life-transforming. I was a different person at the end of that conference. I had seen new possibilities that I could never forget.
Fast-forward to this year, I went to the Nashville Vegfest. (A Vegfest is a marketplace for plant-based vegan products and services). I gave a few hours of my time volunteering at their event, and in return, I got to meet a handful of great people that I would likely have never met otherwise. I also got to spend quality time with my friend Helene, who organizes the Triangle Vegfest in Raleigh. The trip gave me a chance to be a small part of a rapidly-growing movement. Read the post on my personal blog for more details about the event.
If you’re looking for ways to market your business, the key is to create more ways for people to connect. People want to connect with people who understand them. They want to connect with communities that will accept them. They want to be part of something greater than themselves.
If you create a product that gives people this opportunity, they will buy it.