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The Michael Phelps’ Secret to Being a Better Marketer

by | Apr 20, 2018 | Online marketing

Click bait.

It gets a bad rap. And rightly so. The hook is usually misleading and drags you into something you didn’t particularly want to read. It leaves you frustrated and feeling mislead.

The “Her husband left her and you won’t believe what she did next…” headline grabbed your attention and got you to click that link…only to be left unfulfilled, maybe even a little bit dirty.

But there is a form of “positive click bait” that can help both the reader and the marketer.

But what’s that got to do with Michael Phelps? Let me try to explain.

Honestly, the Phelps hook was click bait, but I hope a positive one. In a world of distractions, the sad truth is that you need to stand out to get noticed. And, frankly, most of the digital marketing ad platforms reward you for high click-through rates. Generally, they’ll boost your relevance or quality score and reward you with cheaper clicks and more impressions.

So, there’s that. I needed to find a headline that was a little intriguing. But I didn’t want it to be misleading.

For me, that’s what defines positive click. It’s intriguing but not misleading.

Okay, let me connect the dots between Michael Phelps and digital marketing quickly before you do feel mislead. But, be sure to keep reading because I’ll also share a confession I have to make about an experiment you’re now part of…

So, what can Michael Phelps teach you about digital marketing?

Focus on One Thing

Focus – or rather lack of it – is perhaps the biggest challenge we face as marketers. The digital world moves fast. Barely a day goes by when Facebook doesn’t change something on their ad platform…when Google doesn’t update their algorithm…or a new ad platform comes to market or add a new feature.

It’s not just the ad platforms either. There’s always some new “guru” telling you about a new strategy, tactic or hack they’ve found to get you killer results.

Focus is tough.

We’re all distracted by the shiny new object. We seek the latest edge. We don’t want to fall behind the new kid in the office. Sadly, that’s how we’ve become wired as a society. We’re subjected to literally thousands of messages every day, tapped into a superficial feedback loop on FB and constantly connected via Snapchat or WhatsApp on our smartphones.

But I’m a total believer in the myth of multitasking – that when we can focus on a single task results are far superior. That was one of my biggest takeaways from one of my favorite books, The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris. The idea of resisting email as a time management tool was worth the price of the book alone. It’s so much easier being reactive and dealing with problems as they hit your inbox or ping you on Slack or Skype.

It’s easier because you don’t have to sit down and look at a blank page or start a new project. But it’s not more effective.

Garry Keller and Jay Papasan have a similar message in their book The One Thing.

And that’s what brings me to Michael Phelps. As I learned in the book, he was diagnosed with ADHD as a child. His kindergarten teacher told his mother he couldn’t sit still and would never be able to focus.

Boy, were they proven wrong.

I don’t need to go into Michael Phelps’ success in depth here. He’s a well-known, record-breaking Olympian swimmer. (And, if I’ve conducted the experiment I’ll discuss further below then you are already a fan of Phelps and are well aware of his achievements).

The simple point is this. You need to focus your attention on one thing and do that one thing really well.

The riches are in the niches

When you specialize and become an expert in something (the “one” thing) you’ll become much better, more efficient and probably much happier. That could mean becoming an expert in FB ads….or a master of using webinars for lead gen…perhaps gaining a deep knowledge and experience in SEO for the travel industry… or ]running Instagram ads for dentists.

However, this doesn’t have to pigeonhole yourself into a platform, industry or strategy. It could simply mean focusing your current attention on your most important task and avoid being distracted by all the other tasks on your to-do list.

It’s a simple but extremely powerful message and I recommend picking up a copy of The One Thing.

Ironically, most of us recognize that focusing on one thing is superior to multitasking. We know that doing one thing well is better than doing several things poorly. Avoid being Jack of all trades, master of none.

But what we know and what we do are often not the same thing. The truth of the matter is that most of us – and that means most of your target audience too – are actually looking for a distraction, whether they realize it or not.

That’s possibly why you clicked on this article. I hope it was worth it. But I have a confession to make, I wrote this article in order to run an experiment of sorts. I wanted to test what I’m calling…

The Power of Irrelevant Intersections

Full credit to Larry Kim who wrote about this idea that he calls the inverted unicorn technique in this article.

And if I’ve done this right you should be as interested in this experiment as you were in discovering how Michael Phelps will help you get a marketing edge.

Irrelevant intersections and positive click bait both have the objective of generating higher click-through rates (CTR) for the greater good. Greater for you as a marketer (to get in front of your prospect) and greater for your audience (to distract them towards something of value to them).

You see, many of you are reading this article based on intersecting interest targeting.

First, I targeted audiences interested in digital marketing via a lookalike of our readers. Plus the headline and copy that should have only really appealed if you have an interest in marketing.

But I segmented and therefore narrowed, that audience to also include people interested in Michael Phelps. The image and copy were used to appeal to them (to you, hopefully). It’s a seemingly irrelevant intersection. There’s no obvious connection to the two.

And that’s the point.

To stand out you need to find something that your core audience (e.g. marketers) hasn’t seen linked to that core topic before, but is a topic they’re interested in (e.g. Michael Phelps).

In the example, Larry Kim used (targeting Liberals and Star Trek fans) he really only used a Star Trek image to appeal to one of those targets. It was only very loosely connected to the content.

That can be fine. After all, the image is really just working as a “thumb stopper” to get attention. After that, the content hopefully takes over.

But if you want this to work really well, especially in terms of conversions and not just clicks, it should help to find more of a connection between the two topics. This is especially true for a “regular” product or service (i.e. not on the topic of marketing). Otherwise, people may feel mislead.

And recognize that you can distract your audience with something seemingly irrelevant to their current intent but that is connected with your core idea. I believe that’s what my experiment will prove. But what I also want to prove is that it won’t just result in a click; it will result in a…well, a result. In this case, a conversion – to sign up for our e-letter.

So, you can do that right here. Simply provide your best email below and I’ll know that this experiment worked.

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In return, you’ll get our weekly e-letter distracting you with our top tips to focus you on becoming a better marketer. Plus I’ll also be updating you on the results of this experiment. Thanks for being distracted and being part of it.

Now, enough distraction. Go get focused and apply this technique to your marketing.

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