Have you ever felt that wave of happiness when your scheduled meeting is canceled? Yeah, me too.
But here’s the funny thing. Instead of using that freed time to create something new, we fill it up with short-term “shoulds.” We feel that we should run an errand, finish that report, empty our inbox, work on an overdue project, or (worst of all) attend a meeting we were double-booked for. The joy of the cancellation is quickly replaced by the nagging feeling of “What should I do now?”
I see a corollary in content and marketing efforts.
In their 2004 book, Blue Ocean Strategy, W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne explain the concepts of red ocean and blue ocean strategies for marketing. Red oceans are crowded markets where cutthroat sales and marketing strategies rule. Blue oceans are undiscovered markets where there’s little or no competition, and businesses can create new customers.
In content marketing, the short-term hyper-focus on feeding the red audiences we work on every day often prohibits us from investing in a blue-ocean mindset of creating new audiences.
I recently worked with a financial technology company that provides short-term loans to small businesses experiencing a cashflow crunch. The company is as sales-driven as any I’ve ever seen. For the last few years, they’ve put all their marketing and sales efforts into finding leads in a blue ocean market, expending tremendous effort to identify small businesses that need to borrow within a month.
This focus fueled tremendous growth in the business. But it created a new problem: They’re running out of potential customers.
My client isn’t the only financial services company to recognize the huge opportunity for short-term lending. An explosion of new competition and a relatively good economy mean the ocean of new customers who need short-term loans has turned decidedly red. Those short-term low-funnel campaigns are getting less and less effective.
Interestingly, this change is good news for the company’s marketing leaders. They’ve been trying to build a business case to use content marketing to develop a new product for a new blue audience – larger, more established, long-term borrowers. The shrinking effectiveness of engaging the current audience provides just such a case.
However, just as we struggle to use the free time from a cancelled meeting to create new things, the business struggled to commit to investing in this blue-audience effort. The short-term urge to focus on closing red audiences was simply too strong.
The answer for my client is to work on a purple audience (a combination of red and blue).
The company is working on a content platform for established, long-term borrowers that highlights the opportunities and benefits of the short-term availability of cash. They’ll teach companies that don’t currently need a loan about the benefits of having a solution when they do.
Those blueish audiences will take time to develop. But when they become redder, my client company’s brand will be top of mind.
Maybe we, as marketers, should begin to think about blueish audiences sooner. Instead of finishing up that report, emptying our inboxes, or attending that Friday afternoon meeting, we use those serendipitous empty spaces to think up opportunities to develop a new purple audience.
As the Chinese philosopher Lin Yutang said, “Those who are wise won’t be busy, and those who are too busy can’t be wise.”
It’s your story. Tell it well.