The last couple of years has been an incredible challenge for me. On the personal side, I was blessed with my first grandchild. On the business side, I joined forces with some colleagues that I highly respect and we’re building a digital transformation consultancy that’s really taking off. Of course, in the middle of that, there’s been a pandemic that derailed our pipeline and hiring… which is back on track now. Throw in this publication, dating, and fitness… and my life is a zoo right now.
One thing you may have noticed in the last couple of years is that I paused my podcasting. I had 3 active podcasts a few years ago – for marketing, for local business, and for supporting veterans. Podcasting is a passion of mine, but as I looked at my lead generation and business growth, it wasn’t providing immediate revenue growth so I had to put it aside. A 20-minute podcast could cut as much as 4 hours out of my workday to schedule, record, edit, publish and promote each episode. Losing a few days a month without an immediate return on investment just wasn’t something I could afford right now. Side note… I will re-engage each of the podcasts as soon as I can afford the time.
Digital fatigue is defined as a state of mental exhaustion brought on by the excessive and concurrent use of multiple digital tools
I can’t even tell you how many phone calls, direct messages, and emails I get on a daily basis. Most are solicitations, some are friends and family, and – of course – in the haystack are some leads and client communications. I do my best to filter and schedule as best I can, but I’m not keeping up… at all. At one point in my career, I had an executive assistant and I look forward to that luxury again… but ramping up an assistant requires time as well. So, for now, I simply suffer through it.
Compounding work within platforms that I do all day, digital communication fatigue is also overwhelming. Some of the more frustrating activities that wear me out are:
- I have some cold outbound companies that literally automate responses and fill my inbox each day with idiotic messages like, Getting this to the top of your inbox… or masking an email with an RE: in the subject line to think we’ve spoken before. Nothing is more infuriating… I’d bet this is half of my inbox right now. As quickly as I tell them to stop, another round of automations is coming in. I’ve had to deploy some incredible filtering and smart mailbox rules to attempt to bring the important messages to my inbox.
- I have some companies who give up on contacting me by email, then direct message me across social networks. Did you get my email? is a surefire way to have my block you on social media. If I thought your email was important, I would have responded… stop sending me more communications and clogging up every medium I have.
- The worst is colleagues, friends, and family who are absolutely livid and believe I’m rude because I’m not responsive. My life is FULL right now and it’s absolutely amazing. Not valuing the fact that I’m busy with family, friends, work, home, fitness, and my publication is pretty disappointing. I now distribute my Calendly link to friends, family, and colleagues so that they can reserve time on my calendar. And I protect my calendar!
- I’m starting to see more and more companies SPAM my text messages… which is beyond infuriating. Text messages are the most intrusive and personal of all communication methods. A cold text message to me is a surefire way of having me never do business with you again.
I’m not alone… according to new survey results from PFL:
- Manager through C-Level respondents receive over 2.5 times more weekly promotional emails, averaging 80 emails per week. Side note… I get more than that in a day.
- Enterprise professionals receive an average of 65 emails per week.
- Hybrid workers receive only 31 emails per week.
- Fully remote workers receive over 170 emails per week, over 6 times more emails than the average worker.
Over half of all employees are experiencing fatigue due to the volume of digital promotion communications they receive at work. 80% of C-level respondents are overwhelmed by the number of digital promotions they receive!
How I Deal With Digital Communication Fatigue
My reaction to digital communication fatigue is:
- Stop – If I get multiple cold emails or messages, I tell the person to stop and remove me from their database. Most of the time, it works.
- Don’t Apologize – I never say “Sorry…” unless I set an expectation that I would respond in a certain amount of time. This even includes paying clients who I remind often that I have scheduled time with them. I’m not sorry I’m busy with a full work and personal life.
- Delete – I often just delete messages without even a response and many people don’t bother reattempting to SPAM me again.
- Filter – I filter my forms, inbox, and other mediums for domains and keywords that I won’t ever respond to. The messages are instantly deleted. Do I get some important messages mixed in sometimes? Yup… oh well.
- Prioritize – My inbox is a series of Smart Mailboxes that are highly filtered by client, system messages, etc. This enables me to easily check on each and respond while the rest of my inbox is cluttered with nonsense.
- Do Not Disturb – My phone is on Do Not Disturb and my voicemail is full. Yup… aside from text messages, phone calls are the worst distraction. I do keep my phone screen up so I can see if it’s an important call from a colleague, client, or family member, but everyone else can stop calling me.
What You Can Do To Help Digital Communication Fatigue
Here are eight ways you can help in your sales and marketing communication efforts.
- Get Personal – Let your recipient know why you need to communicate with them, the sense of urgency, and why it’s beneficial for them. There’s nothing worse, in my opinion, than a blank “I’m trying to get a hold of you…” message. I don’t care… I’m busy and you just dropped to the bottom of my priorities.
- Don’t Abuse Automation – some messaging is critical to businesses. Abandoned shopping carts, for example, often require a few reminders to let someone know they’ve left behind a product in the cart. But don’t overdue it… I space these out for clients… a day, a few days, then a couple of weeks. Perhaps they just don’t have the cash to purchase right now.
- Set Expectations – If you’re going to automate or follow up, let the person know. If I read in an email that a cold call is going to follow up in a few days, I’ll let them know not to bother today. Or I’ll write back and let them know I’m busy and touch base the next quarter.
- Show Empathy – I had a mentor long ago that said every time he met with someone the first time, he pretended that they just had a loss in their family. What he was doing was adjusting his empathy and respect for the person. Would you automate emails to someone that’s away at a funeral? I doubt it. Because it’s important to you doesn’t mean it’s important to them. Be empathetic that they may have other priorities.
- Give Permission – One of the best methods for sales is to give permission to someone to say No. I’ve written a few emails in the past month to prospects and I open the email by letting them know that this is the one and only email that they are receiving and I’m more than happy to hear back that they are not in need of my services. Politely giving the person permission to say No will help clean up their inbox and will enable you to not waste time angering potential prospects.
- Offer Options – I don’t always want to end a relationship of interest, but I may want to engage through another method or at another time. Offer your recipient other options – like delaying for a month or quarter, providing your calendar link for an appointment, or opting into another means of communication. Your favorite medium or method for communicating may not be theirs!
- Get Physical – As lockdowns subside and travel is opening up, it’s time to get back to meeting people in person where communication encompasses all the feelings that humans need to effectively communicate. Non-verbal communication is essential to establishing relationships… and that can’t be accomplished through textual messages.
- Try Direct Mail – Moving to more intrusive mediums to an unresponsive recipient could be the wrong direction. Have you tried more passive mediums like direct mail? We’ve had enormous success with targeting prospects with direct mail because not too many companies take advantage of it. While an email doesn’t cost too much to deliver, your direct mail piece isn’t buried in a mailbox with thousands of other direct mail pieces.
While poorly targeted direct mail will be ignored by consumers just as frequently as off-base digital ads or email blasts, properly executed direct mail can create genuinely memorable and impactful experiences. When integrated into an organization’s overall marketing strategy, direct mail allows companies to drive greater ROI and increase brand affinity among current and future customers.
Nick Runyon, CEO of PFL
Everyone Is Experiencing Digital Fatigue
In today’s business landscape, the competition for impressions, clicks, and mindshare is fierce. Despite increasingly powerful and ubiquitous digital marketing tools, many businesses find themselves struggling to gain traction among customers and prospects.
To better understand the difficulties that many companies face in capturing audiences’ attention, PFL surveyed more than 600 U.S.-based enterprise professionals. The results of PFL’s 2022 Hybrid Audience Engagement Survey found that personalization, content, and physical marketing tactics, such as direct mail, can have a significant impact on brands’ abilities to reach burnt-out audience.
Key findings from the survey of more than 600 U.S.-based enterprise professionals include:
- 52.4% of enterprise employees are experiencing digital fatigue as a result of the high volume of digital communication they recieve.
- 80% of C-level respondents and 72% of direct-level respondents indicate they feel overwhelmed by the volume of digital promotional communications they receive at work.
- 56.8% of surveyed professionals are more likely to open something received via physical mail than an email.
In today’s Attention Economy, the ability to capture audiences and earn their engagement has become a scarce commodity. Digital fatigue is a reality for many individuals, which means brands must find new ways to inspire customers to take action. Our latest research sheds light on today’s highly competitive B2B marketing landscape and how companies can use hybrid strategies to stand out to customers and prospects.
Nick Runyon, CEO of PFL
Here’s the full infographic with associated survey results:
Disclosure: I’m using my affiliate link for Calendly in this article.