A marketing friend recently pointed out an observation: all the GDPR best practice guides are recommending the same thing. Namely, to go all in on inbound, content-led campaigns (so potential customers are willing to offer up their personal data).

This sent a bit of a shiver down my spine because, at one stage, the thing to go all in on was SEO. Or it was about going all in on social. Or a particular social network. And we all know how crammed full of noise and rubbish those quickly became.

Basically, in each case, marketers hear of gold in the hills. Then they come to exploit it, then everyone has to move on, because the well is now poisoned.

The problem is this: especially with “content”, if you approach it because you think you have to, you’re going to do a bad job.

The people who didn’t care about the importance of inbound, of creating material people actually want, won’t be any more suited to provide it now than they were then. So they’ll try to find shortcuts, they will not be able to identify the real talent to help them. They’ll be as bad at it now as they ever were — only we’ll receive twice as much content slurry from them.

It begins

This is already starting to happen — how many of you have suddenly received emails from companies clearly trying to get your implicit “opt in” before GDPR pops up?

Hopefully, the very nature of creating good, useful, interesting material is different enough that actually the cream will still rise to the top — if people can find it.

But I can’t help but worry that abuse and overuse of creating material is only going to numb readers and make them even less likely to pay attention. Arguably, we’re already well on our way there, with endless repetitive links on social networks to the same old stories with very little insight, but shared because “#MARKETING #CONTENT #IS #USEFUL”.

A better way

As ever, the real focus should be to to optimise the things that don’t change.

Identify what information people want, that they don’t already have. Help produce it. Help the right people find it. Start small, and see how your community and readership grows, then optimise toward that.

And if in doubt, find a genuinely great writer/ podcaster/ director and be their patron to help them create brilliant stuff related to your area. They probably know better than you anyway.

God knows the world needs fewer marketers pretending to be artists.

Here’s what I’d do:

1. Go talk to your customers and partners, ask them about their concerns and upcoming challenges. Publish these as interviews regardless, and encourage them to share. (Are you really not doing this yet anyway?)

2. Work out what patterns come through, what events are on the horizon — and find the ones you can talk about that nobody else will, or that you have the angle on that most people won’t. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT just do what everyone else is going to produce. And don’t do fake research either.

3. Identify your unfair advantage to produce what those people need. Do you have office space you can make available for events? Do you have experts who can contribute to open source projects in the community? Do you have an interesting portfolio of partners you can connect? Do you have cash? Just cold raw cash to put behind community efforts? It’s actually fine to admit that’s all you can offer sometimes — as long as you do it with dignity.

4. Measure properly, create both a growing audience for the future with email addresses and measure organic ongoing performance.

Step 5: profit.