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Frequency: All the time vs. at the right time

| Nov 13, 2011 4 Comments

In the Focus roundtable I participated in last week with Lisa Horner, Lauren Goldstein and Craig Rosenberg, Lisa brought up the term “perpetual denamd gen.” This concept is a paradigm shift for B2B marketers that can be a great opportunity or present fierce challenges — sometimes it’s a combination of both.

The nature of publishing on demand and 24/7 availability of content has obviously changed expectations for all of us. It’s not only increased our expectations for instant gratification, but it’s raised those expectations about the kind of information we should have immediate access to.

As a result, many B2B marketers feel like hamsters on the perpetual content publishing wheel. We keep peddling faster and harder to crank out more content, fearing that if we miss one opportunity, our online influcence will tank, competitors will get their messaging infront of our buyers first, or, even worse, we’ll be letting down those buyers we’ve been trying so valiantly to build relationshps with.

I’m guilty of feeling guilty about this. My last blog post was over a week ago. Due to project deadlines and work commitments, there simply was no time—or brain power—to write a blog post. It was on my mind every day. This little voice that kept telling me “go post, go post, think of something, go post!”

Interestingly, my blog didn’t tank. Traffic kept coming because of the nearly 1,000 posts I’ve already written. I like to think that’s because they provide something my readers find valuable and useful. Then again, they could be showing up only to see nothing new and think, “Crap – where’s the new stuff?” Ugh.

Which is the point I’m trying to explore. How often is often enough?

I’ve spoken with marketers who are feeling the pressure. The capabilities of real-time publishing coupled with the mandate to generate more and better leads has morphed into this ridiculous idea that the more content we shove out the door, the better our results will be.

I’d like to say, not necessarily. Some of the consequences of hyper-frequency include:

  • Becoming irrelevant because your content quality becomes “so so” instead of “wow” due to the rush.
  • Irritating because it’s just too much to try to keep up with – we’re all busy, right?
  • Your content becomes a commodity instead of being a welcome break to indulge and learn. Hey, if I don’t read today’s piece, there will be another tomorrow. No big deal.
  • Channel fatigue happens because corners get cut as marketers post the same thing everywhere, checking off the platforms to show the task has been completed.

When publishing becomes about publishing rather than about sharing valuable information, marketing programs will tank.

Instead of embracing an “all-the-time” mindset, marketers need to consider the difference an “at the right time” approach can make.

The ability to do this well is dependent upon the amount and type of visibility you have into prospect and customer behavior. Data is becoming the holy grail for marketers. What we know can determine how we publish, as well as the type of information we choose to share and the places in which we choose to share it.

Getting frequency right is a balancing act that will obviously take some work to achieve. Determining the best ways to listen to and interpret our prospect’s behaviors and respond accordingly is an important skill to master.

I don’t have all the answers. It differs with each company I work with. Testing and refinements are part of the process. But with visibility into the right data, we can begin to discern patterns and schedule our programs accordingly. Some channels require more frequency, some less. Prospects will respond to frequency based on where they are in the buying cycle. We can’t treat everything the same.

And, with the overwhelming amount of content available, I’d say that, once again, we need to focus on quality, not quantity.

As a conclusion to this post, I’ll share with you an excerpt from a DMNews article with a comment from Dave Frankland, VP and research director at Forrester Research:

Despite the focus on real-time marketing, just because data and automation tools have made triggered messaging easier doesn’t mean a brand should always market itself moment by moment. Rahter, brands should focus on marketing at the “right time.

“If a customer can only change a contract once a month, it might not be the time to trigger a message just because they visited your website. There is no use in sending them a message when the timing isn’t right. It’s about leveraging the data so that you can send the intelligent message at the relevant time.”

What do you think about frequency? Can you share examples of hyper-frequency that have backfired? Or examples of how increasing frequency at the right time has resulted in better response?

Which data do you use to determine frequency?

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4 Responses to Frequency: All the time vs. at the right time

  1. Bob Thompson November 14, 2011 at 11:34 am #

    Ardath, you raise an interesting point. Personally, I think once or twice a week is a lot for true “thought leadership” content. A few can manage great insights every day, but most can’t.

    Given that the user determines when they need something (via search) it would seem to me that the right time to publish is anytime the writer can put up quality content. Quality content wins over the long term.

    I tune out bloggers that seem to blog on a schedule no matter what. It’s fine to have a planned schedule (mine is once per week) but if there’s nothing to write, don’t force it. It shows.

  2. Ardath Albee November 14, 2011 at 12:14 pm #

    Hi Bob,

    Thanks for your comment. I agree with your thoughts on quality content and the pitfalls of forcing it. But I’m also talking about more than just blogging. Clicking send on email messages also is so easy that marketers just think – gotta do it – rather than what’s the point for the recipient? Automation is great, but automating for the sake of schedule or frequency rather than content quality will do more harm than good.

    Totally agree.

  3. Bob Thompson November 14, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

    Yes, good point about email. Whether someone has subscribed or not, too much email is unwanted and the user will probably consider it spam and tune out.

    Unfortunately, the same thing has happened on the web. With “content farms” and hyperactive blogging, the goal seems to be to fill sites with content (quality optional) with lots of keywords so that users will “find” the site when searching.

    So I suppose we can blame Google for this sort of web spam.

  4. Ardath Albee November 14, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

    Absolutely agree. There’s so much information being pushed out (quality optional) that the problem for all of us, buyers included, is how do we filter to get to the quality information that we can rely on?

    I just had a comment over on the blog about how people will Google a question they have and gain an informed opinion in minutes. I disagree that it’s that easy. Finding trusted sources of information is now the challenge when reviewing search results.

    If your content can rise above the “noise” then you’ve hit the mark.

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