As an enthusiastic advocate of content marketing, I look for that value in all things marketing aimed at me. But you MUST deliver on your promises.

By Dan Hutson

This is a superb article by Dan Hutson of Cornerstone Affiliates. On the surface, the article has nothing to do with senior living; however, in reality, it has everything to do with senior living. The big lesson is that each day we need to deliver what we promise.

My oldest daughter just began her senior year in high school, and like the swallows returning to Capistrano, college recruiting direct mail has descended upon us. Prestigious institutions of higher learning fill our mailbox and email accounts daily with breathless reminders of their fervent desire for Amanda to “join the [fill in the blank] family!”

For those of us going through this for the first time (five more years before Amanda’s younger sister follows), it’s a stressful time. Which school is the right school? Can we afford it? What happens if Amanda makes the wrong choice? Will she end up moving back in with us in disgrace, forcing me to throw myself off the second-story deck that I’ll never get a chance to remodel because I have to put two girls through college and their mother ends up murdering both of them because yes, they can be a bit obnoxious and self-righteous and annoying at this age and . . . but I digress.

My point is, we’re currently in the bull’s-eye of many direct marketing campaigns. Most of the mail goes directly in the trash because it offers no value, only promotion (remember, marketing is the art of creating value, not just selling stuff you have). As an enthusiastic advocate of content marketing, I look for that value in all things marketing aimed at me.

So imagine my surprise when I receive a mailer from Washington State University that, rather than extol the virtues of WSU (go Cougars), promises assistance in untangling the web that is the admissions process.

“We’re here to help you navigate your college search process,” it reads. “Get your free copy of the Senior Year Roadmap to College: Monthly Steps to Admissions, Financial Aid, and Scholarships.” It then provides a website address and personalized code for me to access this free piece of content.

Now, this speaks to me on several levels. As a parent, I respond to the promise of something that addresses some of my major pain points: What should we be doing? When? Financial aid? Yes, please! As a content marketer, I love the use of direct mail to deliver a promotion-free promise of helpful content. And it’s simple, right? Go to the URL, enter a short code and the gates swing wide.

That’s what I anticipated, anyway.

The first fail comes when I enter the address. Apparently, it requires https:// in front of the URL, which they don’t indicate. OK, I know how to troubleshoot this stuff, but many do not. How many people received this piece of mail, failed to access the site and said ‘eh, screw it?’

More egregiously, when I go to the page and enter the required code, I’m taken to a long page that urges me to “Explore Washington State University.” I don’t want to explore WSU; I want my damned guide. So I scroll. And scroll. Then I scroll some more. Scroll. Scroll … jeez, this is one long page.

I finally hit bottom without ever finding the promised guide or anything that resembles a link to said guide. If my goal had been to visit the campus, apply for admission, learn more about how WSU measures up academically against its competitors, immerse myself in “Cougar Spirit,” discover how many student clubs there are (don’t know, don’t care), learn the number of miles of paved bike paths on campus (still don’t know, still don’t care), learn how many ski resorts are within 3.5 miles (again, SDKSDC), and a hundred other scintillating facts about WSU, well then, mission accomplished.

Unfortunately for me, this is not my goal. I want that guide. That’s what you promised me. Maybe it exists, maybe not. I’ll never know. #CougarFail, folks.