In content marketing, we spend the vast majority of our time thinking about how to get a pageview, but even if you get one, 80% of readers will skim the headlines of your article, and that’s it. That’s why 99% of content is so ineffectual. You need to design your content marketing not just to be read, but to drive action and conversion.
To make that happen, you need to reverse your thinking.
It’s not about tacking a call-to-action on the end of your blog post. You need think conversion first, before you think about anything else. Your strategy to drive conversion should dictate your decision making on your content, from the topics you choose to write about to the distribution channels you push your content through.
Here are 5 powerful ways to create content that actually converts and gets business results.
1. Time Your Content for Discovery When People Have an Intent to Buy
The concept of “buying intent” turned Google AdWords into the most effective ad machine ever built for its time and transformed Google into a $400 billion company. When people search on Google, they’re often expressing an intent to buy. For example, search “best space heater,” and you’re probably interested in buying a space heater. Capture the person’s attention at that precise moment, and your likelihood of making a sale goes up dramatically.
Your ads team is thinking about buying intent, but your content marketing team isn’t thinking about it enough. Content marketing all too often is meant only to engage people day-to-day or week-to-week on an ongoing basis, in between buying decisions.
But if your thinking on content marketing is limited in that way, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. Tailor your content to get discovered at the moment that your potential customer is ready to buy, and you’ll dramatically improve the likelihood that your content will drive conversion and you’ll give your sales a huge boost.
How 42Floors generates leads and closes deals through blog content
42Floors is a New York-based startup that helps businesses find the right office space for them. Their blog has a ton of great content on what’s become standard in the startup world—how to start and grow a startup, how they run their company, and why they’re in the business of real estate. But I bet you that’s not the content that converts readers into customers.
When I was looking to rent office space in New York City, I got overwhelmed with the real estate jargon, legal issues and more. I took to Google to learn more search for terms like “rentable square feet” to understand the different ways in which the term square footage can be used.
This looks like a useful article, and indeed, it is packed with helpful information. Remember that the goal of great content is not to make an outright sales pitch. The objective here is to give readers the insights that they need, so that they win your trust as a source of reliable help and information.
Thanks to their outstanding blog content, 42Floors has my attention—and they’re going to leverage that for all it’s worth. With this Ebook offer, they convert me from an anonymous visitor into a lead. I willingly exchange my email address for access to their eBook that’s a comprehensive guide to finding office space—which is exactly what I need at this moment in my office search.
Once 42Floors has my email address, they reach out via email. Because their content has been so helpful, I accept their request for a call and that’s the beginning of our customer relationship.
They crafted their content to be discovered when I had a buying intent, and they moved me along with increasing commitment by offering me more useful content until they had me just where they wanted me—on the phone.
2. Use Emotion to Create a Connection With Your Customers
Whenever you want to make a true connection with people, emotion is key. Though we like to think we’re rational beings, in truth, our emotions can easily override almost every thought we have, and are the real engine behind our behavior. That is why emotion is critical to creating a bond with your customers.
Emotion is powerful because it is our personal guide to the world around us. Research has shown that facial expressions are universal between all cultures. We’re always reading other people’s faces for their emotional response to our behavior, and this reading will then dictate how we behave towards them.
Advertising campaigns with emotional content perform twice as well as campaigns that rely on rationality. This is because our brains are wired to process emotions first and foremost and quicker than any cognitive thinking. We have an emotional response in one-fifth the time it takes our brains to come up with the corresponding logical response. That’s why you sometimes need to “count to 10” when you get angry—you’re giving your rational brain time to catch up!
This all shows that when you have an emotional connection with your customers, you become more than just another company to them, you basically become another person.
How Wistia got customers to fill out a survey
Chris Savage, CEO of the B2B video-hosting site Wistia, wanted to know what his customers thought of Wistia. So, like many, he asked his customers to fill out a survey.
The problem is that surveys aren’t very exciting. Wistia’s looked like this:
I like the egg joke, but mainly a snoozefest. It’s typically impossible to get people to fill out surveys with response rates for external surveys like this normally hover around the 10% mark. Barring some inducement swag like a potential prize, we almost never fill them out.
Wistia could have gone down this route, using a shiny iPad to suck people in. But instead they chose to use their secret weapon: their personality. This was easy for the company, as their entire brand is imbued with a sense of authenticity and personality.
Being in the video-hosting game, they chose to introduce the survey blog post with a fun video, making their customers smile and using the power of positive emotion to elicit a good feeling in their customers. Positive emotions are the best to use to help build your brand, and to help share your content. A study of more than 7,000 New York Times articles found that the more positive an article was, the more likely it was to go viral.
So what did Wistia do? They did The Hustle.
The Wistia team might have felt a little silly doing The Hustle and posting it online for all posterity, but it was worth it. 2,400 of Wistia’s customers watched the video, a really good viewing rate. But what was really amazing was that 1,000 of those people then filled out the survey after watching the video—almost a 50% conversion rate.
By making a fun video to promote his survey, Chris brought the human factor into his online business relationships. He made thousands of people smile. And then he asked them to do something for him.
Why was this video content from Wistia so successful? The video element put a modern twist on a classic marketing strategy.
Think about it: Before the Internet, every business partnership was based on a human relationship. If you had a favorite restaurant that you went to a lot, you developed a friendly relationship with the staff. You kept going there because you felt connected to the place.
The Internet has removed the human factor from a lot of our business transactions. But Wistia’s video shows us that good content marketing actually connects us back together again. It’s the human connection that compels people to engage with your product.
3. Create Content for Your Customer, Not for Your Product
It’s counterintuitive, but the less your blog content tries to sell, the better it will be at converting customers. That’s because people resist being sold to when they know they’re hearing a covert sales pitch.
If there was one mistake that many people make when trying to write great content for their blog, it’s thinking that they should write about their product. After all, surely that’s why people are there?
No. Some might come direct to your site because they are interested in your product, but your true audience should be people that are interested in your field, but might not have heard of your product. These people might find you through search, or through sharing. And people only share articles that speak to them.
That is why you should think about what your customers really want to read about when you write and create content for them, not to sell your product. Once the get to your site and read your awesome content, then they’ll find out how cool your product is.
How StatusPage.io spread their startup journey
StatusPage.io is a company focussed on providing hosted status pages for other SaaS companies. They run a highly technical service, providing back-end support for major companies. Therefore you’d expect their blog to be highly technical, but instead of concentrating on specialized issues in their blog articles, they have gone a different route — describing their ‘Startup Journey’ as they have built their company over the past 3 years.
The reason that this was so important to their business is that people don’t search for a status page solution for their site. They don’t know that they have that problem until they hear about StatusPage.io. That’s why, instead, they chose to write about their startup journey, because they know it’s what their customers really want to know about. The companies that use StatusPage.io are also startups struggling through their own ‘startup journey’. They’re targeting a technical entrepreneur who is looking for ideas, validation, and knowledge about the world in which they’re operating.
The affirmation for StatusPage.io that they were on the right track with their content strategy from a post describing how they went from $0 to $5K in monthly recurring revenue in their first 6 months. In this article they talk about how they had built their company and what they had learned along the way. They tried to spread this knowledge to help other founders in their early stages and make sure they don’t make the same mistakes.
Danny wrote this article over 2 years ago, yet today it still accounts for 10% of all the traffic to their site and is, in their words, a “content marketing home run”—and it was one of the biggest drivers in them 5x’ing their revenue in just 4 months.
True to form, they then wrote a post about that post, describing how it, and a few other “home runs” account for the majority of the traffic to the blog and a substantial amount of sign ups to their service.
Creating content tailored to your customers allows them to find you, as they are out there looking for exactly that content to read each day. They put the success of these articles down to solving a deep, burning pain for their customers, delivering value in their posts and teaching their customers something new and really helping them out with their companies. Once their potential customers are on their site, they’ll click around, discover the StatusPage.io solution, and then convert into becoming a customer. It’s that simple.
By talking about issues that really matter for their customers, they naturally attract potential customers to their site through search and sharing, and help these people in their own businesses through both their content and their service.
4. Give Something to Get Something
It’s easy to overlook, but when you want to get someone to convert, you’re asking that someone to give you something. For example, if you want to get someone to sign up for your product, you’re asking someone for their valuable time and attention.
One of the most powerful ways to get something is to give something. It’s called reciprocity, and it’s a phenomenon of social psychology where you feel compelled to repay what another person has provided to you.
In 1976, sociologist Phillip Kunz showed just how powerful reciprocity is in driving action. He sent 600 Christmas cards containing photos of his family and a short note randomly to people that he had never met. The response blew him away. He received a whopping 200 replies from people from total strangers who included pictures of their own families.
This is the fundamental concept behind the lead magnet. Package your blog content into an eBook, and its perceived value goes up 10x. Offer that object of value to your customer, and they’re likely to give you something valuable in return, like their email address or phone number.
How AdEspresso uses handpicked Facebook ads to earn your email address
When you post an ad on Facebook, you’re competing for attention with some of the most viral and compelling content on the web. That’s why you shouldn’t even try to place an ad that merely asks the user to sign up for your product. You need to offer the user something for free that they’ll find useful.
At AdEspresso, we give a massive collection of 500+ handpicked Facebook ads away for free as examples to help Facebook advertisers perform better. We emphasize in our ad that you’re getting something for free. And it’s valuable in helping you do your job as a Facebook ad manager because you’re able to see what other top brands are doing. It’s this initial offer that captures the user’s attention and gets them to click.
We’ve taken content that people might otherwise view in a blog post and expect for free, and repackaged it as an eBook, something that is considered valuable and will trigger the reciprocity reflex.
When you click through, you’re presented with the following landing page.
Because you’re being offered something massively valuable for free, you’ll be willing to part with your email address and phone number. It’s in that moment that reciprocity happens—you’re given something for free, so you feel it’s fair to give them something in return. AdEspresso now has your contact information that it can use to turn you into a paying customer.
5. Use Testimonials to Create Highly Targeted Ads
One really sophisticated way to promote your blog content on social media is package it as an eBook to leverage testimonials from Key Influencers. Does your product have a great testimonial from a prominent person? You should exploit that in order to promote your eBook.
Testimonials can do a lot for your marketing campaign. They build trust, and they add social credibility. If you incorporate testimonial into your social media promotion of great content like your eBook, you can totally change the game.
How iDoneThis used Twitter to promote their eBook
The team at iDoneThis, a tool to run your daily standups, put together a significant eBook about why to-do lists don’t work and why, and how, you should keep a done list instead.
Before they went live with their book, they sent a few preview copies to key influencers in the tech and productivity industry, asking them to have a read and provide a testimonial (if they thought the book was any good).
Of course, these key influencers obliged and iDoneThis had praise for their eBook when it went live:
However, they didn’t stop there. The team then took advantage of Twitter lead generation cards, a specific way to promote content and generate leads on Twitter. With these cards you can ask people to share their names and emails with you without them ever leaving twitter—all they have to do is tap the call to action.
Anyone can create these cards easily on Twitter. Here is how iDoneThis would have created their card, using a description (“Download Our eBook Today!”), a call to action (“Download Now”), and an image.
So far, so good. But you’ve probably seen plenty of these in your twitter stream, promoting brands that you’ve never heard of, and have no interest in.
The clever bit comes with what iDoneThis did next. They took one of their testimonials, from Adii Pienaar, Co-Founder of WooThemes, and added that to their lead generation card.
Now they had a tweet that showed that a key influencer thought their book was awesome. They could send this out to their followers and probably get decent level of interest in the book off this one tweet.
However, this isn’t what they did. Instead they used Twitter’s targeting criteria to target @adii’s followers. This way they got the tweet in front of an entirely new audience, one they knew would be interested in what Adii Pienaar was reading, and likely to click the download link to see read the book he thinks is a “guide to getting shit done.”
They could then send out that promoted tweet, knowing that it was reaching a highly targeted audience who would be supremely interested in what it said, and who would be completely new to their email list.
Using this one simple scheme they accomplished two things at once: 1) spreading their eBook, and 2) generating leads for their content and service.
This is just one example of a creative and effective way to not only get your content out there, but also ensure that people will interact with it. Twitter Cards are great because of their capacity to automatically collect email addresses from anyone who clicks on the card.
Remember that great content doesn’t sound like it’s selling anything. You’re giving something useful like your eBook to the reader, and priming them for the solid CTA down the line.
The past several years have seen an explosion of blogs and content creation platforms online. 86% of B2B marketers say they use content marketing as a strategy, and 70% say they are creating more content than they did one year ago.
If you’re a good content marketer, you spend a lot of time on creating awesome content. But that content is only worth anything if it drives conversion. There’s nothing worse than laboring over a blog post, only to find that it’s not generating any sales or leads.
Fortunately, all you have to do is keep these strategies in mind while you’re writing, and you’ll keep those conversions rolling in. Make your readers smile, give them information that they really need, and follow that emotional impact up with a gracefully-timed CTA.
Not only will you drive traffic to your blog, attract quality clients, and increase sales with quality content marketing, but you’ll provide real, long lasting value for your readership that will keep them coming back for more.