Want to learn how to increase your marketing response rate by 70 percent? If so, read on….
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Last week we discussed the value of creating great content. Among other things, we discussed how content enables you to engage prospects and customers even when they're not in the buying mode, how it enables you to appeal to their natural interests instead of just giving them boring sales pitches, how you can add real value to the community around you with great content, and the benefits of good content to drive search engine rankings. Check out last week's article for more detail on those topics.
This week, we focus on best practices for creating great content. These include:
- It's fishing time.
- Coloring books aren't just for kids.
- Hire a guy and a girl with glasses.
- Back to school.
- Show me the money.
It's "Fishing Time"
Yes, we're going to start with a (real) fishing story. Just this week, Dan, a family friend who is visiting from North Carolina, went fishing on Lake Sammamish, a lake here in the Seattle area. After catching one fish, he dropped his line back in the water—not because he was trying to catch another fish just yet, but so he wouldn't stick himself with the hook while he took care of the first fish. Quite unexpectedly, there was another tug on the line, and before he knew it, he had caught two fish with one worm.
Our first best practice is about baits and hooks. (Note: that's quite different from "baiting and switching.") I led off this week's article with some bait: "Want to learn how to increase your marketing response rate by 70 percent?" Chances are, your answer to that question is an unequivocal yes. (Who doesn't want to increase his or her marketing response rates by 70 percent?) You only have a few seconds to grab someone's attention. Your bait catches someone's attention and hopefully gets them on the hook so you can reel them in.
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PCMag (and other publishers) seek to do that with headlines. You can also do that with posts on social media websites that link to longer content. For example, a few weeks ago, I wrote an article entitled, "How to Be Interesting on Social Media (Without Getting Fired)." To drive traffic, one of my tweets was, "The band at my high school hated me! Why?" That single tweet became a hook that generated a lot of traffic to the article.
Your bait doesn't need to have immediate payoff, however. We see examples of this in primetime television. Decades ago, the television show Dallas amassed massive attention with its 1980 season-ending cliffhanger as people wondered who shot one of the show's main characters, J.R. Ewing. Though there had been cliffhangers before, none was bigger, and that episode (really more of an event) started a trend of season-ending cliffhangers that persists to this day. TV cliffhangers show that your payoff doesn't need to be fulfilled immediately; in fact, some delayed gratification creates even more interest and anticipation.
Cliffhangers aren't the only examples of TV hooks that keep people coming back. The X-Files and Lost are two great examples of shows that dangled multiple hooks throughout their seasons, and then didn't pay them off until episodes or even seasons later (and, especially in the case of Lost, sometimes they never revealed certain mysteries).
But how do you create baits and hooks in your content? Some things to think about:
- Headlines or lead-in paragraphs that catch attention.
- Multi-part articles or blog posts advancing a theme or a topic.
- Hot-button words like "free," "revolutionary," "secret," etc. (be careful you don't over-promise).
- Comments that create mystery and intrigue.
Coloring Books Aren't Just for Kids
Adult coloring books (not that kind of "adult") are all the rage right now. In theory, there's something relaxing about coloring intricate designs. (I say "in theory" because, admittedly, I've never tested the theory.) But these are not your kids' Frozen coloring books. The paper is higher quality. The designs are more detailed. Crayons won't work (you need colored pencils or pens). Some of the sections you color are small and take fine motor control, etc.
Adult coloring books provide a metaphor for good content. You need to provide lots of rich color and detail. Just as if you were converting a black-and-white page with an image of a bird on it into a vibrant, living picture of a cardinal flying against the backdrop of a bright blue sky, you need your content to figuratively fly off the page. (By the way, as you read the previous sentence, did you notice how your mind's eye converted a dull image of a generic bird into a colorful scene as more details were added?)
Use names. Describe details. Tell real stories that illustrate a point. US presidents frequently use this tactic during their State of the Union addresses by telling a story about an individual while, of course, having that person in attendance.
If you have statistics or technical specifications to share, instead of giving boring statistics, can you convert those into detailed examples that people would understand? (Apple's original iPod did that: Instead of communicating how many megabytes of storage space the iPod had—yes, by the way, it was really megabytes in those days—the iPod indicated that it could store a certain number of songs.) Give details to which your audience can relate.
Hire a Guy and a Girl with Glasses
What I'm referring to here is hiring an editor and a researcher. Whether you hire, outsource, or simply leverage someone internal to your organization, you need someone who is going to take the time to research your topics and generate interesting anecdotes, statistics, and the like.
You also need to run your finished content through an editor before it goes live. Nothing communicates poor quality like poorly written and edited content.
Back to School
In the lead of this article, I asked if you want to learn how to increase your marketing response rate by 70 percent (my hook.) The key to accomplishing that goal is to provide educational material as part of your marketing.
In a former life, I was a director of marketing for Microsoft's US Dynamics business. We conducted a marketing campaign and created test and control groups. The control group received a marketing message that focused on the benefits of the product. The test group received an offer for a piece of educational content related to enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. The response rate was 70 percent higher in the test group, plus sales on the backend were higher.
Your website, your promotional email marketing, your social media posts, and any other vehicles you use to communicate with customers should all include educational components to them. Don't just promote your products; provide genuine educational content to help your audience learn something that will help them.
Show Me the Money
Chances are you are a marketer or someone involved in driving sales for your company. As such, as nice as all of this is, you and I both know you need to generate revenue. Let's discuss two ways of monetizing your content: direct and indirect.
In this instance, direct monetization means selling your products and services. How can you use your content to sell more of your stuff? First, think through the journey you want your customers to take. What are the steps along the path? What content is needed at each step? And finally, how can you guide your customers to (and through) the purchase phase?
Second, are you using tracking technologies to follow your customers through each step of the journey, and are you analyzing common points where they step off the path? Those premature exit points should be the ones into which you drill. You need to create guardrails to keep your customers from straying off the path at those points.
Third, though you don't want your content to be a blatant sales pitch all of the time, you do need to write it with the goal in mind of advancing your customers through the sales process so that you generate sales.
Fourth, make sure you think about the customer's experience immediately after buying. There are very few instances where the customer is only going to buy once and never buy from you again. The path to purchase #2 starts immediately after purchase #1 (possibly even before that). Do you have an onboarding process, with associated content, to keep your customers coming back for more?
Indirect monetization involves all of the opportunities to generate revenue associated with your products and services. Examples might include affiliate commissions from business partners that sell related products, advertising dollars generated from page views on your website (such as add-on sales from training videos or other items associated with your product), and so forth.
If you do a great job of creating content and generating traffic, others are going to be interested in paying you for your efforts. I love intelligent things you can do to indirectly monetize your content and your traffic, but note I said intelligent things. You need to be careful in two primary areas. Earlier, we mentioned that you want to analyze your customers' journey and identify any areas where they are leaving your purchase path. What you don't want to do is build and promote the off ramp that takes your customers off your path in favor of a partner's sale. This is a fine line to walk. Looking for ways to generate more revenue from partners through referrals is great, but make sure you have ways to keep your customers on your path as well.
You also need to keep in mind that other organizations may not be as careful with your customers as you would be. Some companies (surely not yours) employ extremely aggressive sales and marketing tactics. What you don't want to do is squander the good will you've created with your customers by turning them over to entities that will spam them and annoy them. Be sure you know what your business partners are going to do.
Another way to monetize your content is to sell or syndicate it. If you put in the time, effort, and expense to create great content, other companies may be willing to pay you for the right to use that content. If your content is appropriately targeted, then it's only going to be relevant for companies that do things similar to you.
What you don't want to do is give your content to your competitors. But if you can identify companies that complement your business and could benefit from your content, you might be able to get them to pay you for that content. Worst case, you offset some of the costs; best case, you may actually turn a profit!
By employing these tactics, you can create content that will engage your customers and help you sell more of your stuff. Happy writing!