Marketing needs to change its obsession with short term thinking about new customers and instead focus on building long term relationships with existing ones. Content professionals need to change their obsession with content and instead become obsessed with the people who need their content. 

If you’re a marketer, do you care more about new customers or existing ones? If you’re a content professional, do you care more about the content or the people who use your content? Do you care more about what happens next quarter or about what happens in two years’ time? Are you more interested in building marketing campaigns or in building customer relationships? Are you more interested in writing content or in seeing how it’s used?

Many marketers and writers would say that they’d like to focus more on customers rather than campaigns, but that organizational objectives and culture do not allow them. A great many organizations view customers like a hunter views prey: Something to catch using clever, stealthy techniques.

Nothing makes many content professionals happier than to talk about writing, about producing multimedia, about the art of things. The customer of the content is generally a distant, vague figure, sometimes wrapped up in a persona that was invented in a workshop.

That approach might have worked okay in the age of the Stupid Customer. But we are not in that age anymore. We are now in the age of the Clever Customer; the socially connected, cynical, impatient, skeptical, value-conscious customer. This customer is much less likely to fall into a swoon when they see smiling faces on your website. When they read your high-energy "we care" marketing content they are much more likely to cynically smirk.

Many marketers and content professionals refuse to accept this major societal shift away from an organization-centric, content-centric universe to a customer-centric one. While on the one hand they wonder why customers aren’t loyal anymore, on the other they build campaigns and write content to actively annoy and irritate.

“The web has seemingly evolved into something that actively antagonizes people,” Andy Beaumont, technical director at Albion London, states. He was commenting on websites that force you to register before they let you see what you’re looking for.

Andy blames a lot of the problem on analytics. “This is what happens when analytics make decisions for you,” he writes. “Analytics only tell you part of the story … Analytics will tell you that you got more 'conversions.' Analytics will show you rising graphs and bigger numbers. You will show these to your boss or your client.”

The problem is these numbers only reflect part of the story. You might have people spending a long time reading your content. What does that mean? You might get a 1 percent conversion or click through rate. Maybe you got 10 percent, maybe even more. But what you also need to find out is:

  1. Did the people who signed up or clicked genuinely want to do that?
  2. What about the 99 percent who didn’t? Who are they and what impression of you did they have when they left your site?

Are your conversion strategies making you look like cult?