You might be able to reach everyone.

That’s the siren-song of the digital innovations that turn everyone into a publisher or broadcaster.

Perpetuated daily by something new gone viral — video of a pet, or a baby, or a stunt — it is a fantasy that slowly morphs into — hey, maybe this is possible.

We watch with analytics-envy as the Like, Share and View numbers mount. And — admit it — in spite of our skepticism, we begin to scheme.

What would it take to create something that might go viral?

It is insidious. Not because it can’t happen; but because each time we are seduced into reaching for the masses, we take our eye off strategic targets. Never mind the fact that we likely settle for an irrelevantly low common denominator.

If More Is Better, It Is An Easy Game To Play 

In order to rack up views, the editors of a respected professional service firm’s blog actually began creating the most provocatively searchable titles possible. The goal? Supposedly, the buzz might generate valuable media attention. (Want to pile up clicks? Figure out a way to use the words “wet t-shirt contest” in your next blog headline. Your analytics will never look the same.)

But in our guts, we know that Page Views are not the measure of success.

As an old marketing guy I can appreciate a touch of P.T. Barnum at the right time; but when we begin to artificially manipulate content to accommodate search strings, never mind the inclusion of salacious tags solely because they will garner “views,” we have one or both of the following problems:

  • we’re not sure how to create content that instigates conversations around a value proposition; or,
  • we’ve completely lost sight of the target.

In a recent post — In search of meaningfulSeth Godin had a message for anyone creating content for the purpose of marketing:

If it’s not worth subscribing to a particular voice or feature or idea, if it’s not worth looking forward to and not worth trusting, I’m not sure it’s worth writing, not if your goal is to become meaningful.”

For the professional service provider, turning a connection into what Godin terms a subscriber is about having a series of better conversations. Better than price. Better than data on a CV. Better than the guys across the street.

In case I need to say it — this is not to suggest that depth of experience and other curriculum vita are not important. Nor is it an argument against the value of key words and quality SEO.

It is to suggest that the instant the content that really speaks to your target gives way to a contrived phrase created for what amounts to fake “optimized” search results, we may be in danger of missing the point. Further, content that does not deliver a measure of value does little to differentiate — hence, little to really market the services of a firm.

Highly effective marketing messages transcend analytics, connect with strategic targets, and deliver something of value.

Why do we value content? Because it is the DNA of conversation. And better conversations are the lifeblood of thriving relationships.

Digital has torn down walls and changed the arithmetic, to be sure. Social media presents real opportunities. But when it comes to business development for the professional services firm, the challenge is still about smart targeting, and an investment in the stuff of relationship. Because one relationship is worth more than a thousand page views.