Rejection and Repetition

  • Chester

Design-02 (2)The recent Jake Gyllenhaal cop thriller End of Watch contains a quippy exchange between the two leads which ought to catch the attention of anyone in marketing:

“Do you know what the butterfly effect is?”
“It’s the butterfly effect. Look it up.”
“Just cause you say it twice doesn’t mean that I get it the second time.”

Because many, many of us, no doubt, have ‘said it’ a lot more than twice before, only for the listener to still not ‘get it’. How many times, and how many ways, can we deliver a message before it really has an effect?

More often than not, it’s all in the responses.


Reinforcement is good, but in content marketing, we don’t always know if customers are tuning out our messages. And repeating them puts them, after a while, in the same basket with the spray-and-pray advertising everybody dislikes.

It’s tempting to think that if only our message finds that chink in the armor, it’ll be understood, which then leads to that change in customer behavior that content marketing is all about. But there we overlook one all-important point – what the rejections are about.

Maybe they have a point. Maybe it’s simply that our content isn’t doing anything for a particular customer or customers. Out of all the reasons – loyalty, laziness, and so on – this is the most pertinent. We need to always consider not just the messaging but its possible impact.

A rejection is an invitation – not to hammer harder, but to bend down and check if the nail is even going in. If behaviors aren’t changing, then the content needs to.

‘Yes, but’

There’s another type of rejection, and it’s the type a lot of marketers like to see. Because it means we’re getting there. It’s when the customer ‘gets’ what we put out, but has a few more questions before buying into it.

We should already have put our point across the way we know we would resonate with them. Now comes the time to reinforce that – but not by just repeating the message. We have to lay out three things:

  • what they face,
  • what they could face,
  • and what they can do about it.

The first point is straightforward enough. It’s in the second that we begin the real process of convincing – by painting either a negative picture (marking potential threats for them to avoid) or an optimistic one (creating something for them to aspire to). Content marketing comes in in the third to show them a way forward.

Keeping the sales-speak to a minimum, as usual, and presenting customers with a clear, unbiased view of the road ahead tends to yield a better chance of getting the action we want than addressing lingering doubts with the blunt-force ‘we hold the solution to your problem’ approach.

‘I guess’

Then we have the rejection that’s not a rejection – the wavering ones who aren’t quite sure of not only why they should run with us, but why they should even consider the problem we’re pointing out a problem at all.

There might be some level of disconnect here, but ultimately, to move customers like these, it might not be logic and high-brow analyzing we need but something much closer to the heart: what they want to get out of it.

It’s one thing to say a product or solution offers value by raising productivity or cutting costs. It’s another to say it offers value by, for instance, enabling their people to clear day-to-day tasks faster and more easily, making for a happier workforce.

Don’t forget, a problem is a problem – if they don’t see it that way, most of the time it’s because they have to be shown how. And in the same vein, benefits are benefits. It’s up to us to phrase these according to how customers would best receive them.

What patterns have emerged for you from the cycle of marketing messaging? And how have you made use of them? Tell us here.


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