It’s Monday — that means it’s time to open up the mailbox and answer YOUR questions!

Today, a completely different approach to Mailbox Monday!

What do I mean?

Well, first off: I love you.

I’ve known for a long time that Breakthrough Marketing Secrets attracts a different kind of reader.  I have a lot of top copywriters read daily, and often respond.  I have business owners of 7-, 8-, and even 9-figure businesses (yes, that’s $100MM+) read regularly.  And my list is way too small for you to say, “yeah, but statistically speaking…”

And those readers are alongside all of the novice, up-and-coming, and working professional copywriters, marketers, and business-builders who are regular readers.

I love you because I know as a Breakthrough Marketing Secrets reader, you think differently.

While other marketers may make a big deal out of shocking their audience and saying controversial things, or perhaps just hit at ideas from a superficial level, you’re into something different.

You don’t mind — and even appreciate — the depth and breadth of thought that goes into each issue.

You read regularly and refuse to unsubscribe.  In part, because you know I’m dedicated to meeting the same high standard I’ve always fought to achieve — the high standard that regularly gets me comments like, “You give away more value free in each daily issue as I get monthly from other $99 per month (and more!) services.”

And because you’re the type of person that respects valuable content over lame showmanship and superficial shock-and-awe personality-based marketing, I know you’re thinking about each issue.

You’re improving yourself at least 1% per week.

YOU have probably as much to teach me as I could ever teach you — which brings me around to today’s completely different approach to Mailbox Monday.

Last Thursday, I wrote Content Marketing is Stupid.

Assuming you read that to the end, you’d know I concluded that content marketing is stupid, except when it isn’t.  That content for content’s sake just clutters the internet.  But content can fit perfectly in a much bigger strategy that prioritizes generating business results.  In which case content marketing can be a powerful technique that fits perfectly alongside other conversion-focused marketing.

Well, one of my readers who I’ve occasionally corresponded with riffed on the article.

It was clear I was a sounding board of sorts, while she went deep on the topic from her perspective.

And, because I know she’s worked with one of the top funnel-building experts out there and because of my limited interactions with her, I know she speaks from experience.

Every thought she shared in her email to me was layered in best practices and meaning.

My response to her:  “Wow.  This is a profound breakdown of how to approach content marketing in a direct response context.  And incredible insight into relationship-building with content.”

Then, I asked if I could share it with you.  And reflect on her reflections, to add even more value.

Her name is Debbie Owen.  I’m going to share her email in full, then I’m going to unpack it and reflect on each big idea it contains…

Here’s Debbie’s email on “content is marketing is stupid, except when it isn’t.”

Hey Roy, I just had to reply to this article. I think you are absolutely right: Content marketing is stupid; except when it isn’t.

When used strategically, it is really a lead magnet and lead capture mechanism.

The key to effective content marketing is to put the right piece of content in front of the right person at the right time. How do you tell? It’s all about the buyer’s journey.

People who are kind of ignoring their problem and need you to make them feel the pain a little – mostly cold traffic – need a short piece that tells them what their problem is and why they have it. Get them to KNOW you, and capture them as leads.

If they read that piece and didn’t sign up, retarget them and send them to the next piece which is a bit longer and more involved. This is indoctrination content. If they read it, they are ready to acknowledge their problem and begin looking for more information to help them solve it. Tell them your process for how to solve that problem and give them hope they can solve it, like one of your case studies. Now you get them to LIKE you. Ideally, by now they’ve joined your list. They are definitely warmer.

Finally, if they are ready to DO something about their problem, and they are trying to decide if they want to work with you or with your competitor, give them valuable content with a couple of quick tips that position you as the expert. Answer some FAQs. Convert them by making an offer. Only once they TRUST you, and believe you can solve their problem, will they pull out their wallets.

Content marketing isn’t necessarily about closing a sale; it’s about opening a relationship (quote from Justin Devonshire). You can’t close a sale if you don’t have a relationship.

It’s totally possible to create a relationship in a very short period of time with an amazing direct response mechanism, like a long-form sales page. But I would argue that person is probably further along in their journey; they are likely ready to look for information at that point and are willing to invest more time and energy to gather information about that problem.

Thanks for your email article. It made me think through the relationship between direct response and good content marketing. 🙂

Debbie

Roy again: let’s dive in…

Again, Debbie is speaking from experience here.  She’s worked creating high-level funnels, with a leading funnel expert.

She knows direct response.  She’s not trying to be a content marketer because she’s afraid of selling.

She uses content because she knows it is a valuable tool in any education-based marketer’s toolkit, and it can actually lead to more conversions faster than just trying to put the pressure on with old-school sales tactics.

So let’s go idea-by-idea and see what we can glean from Debbie’s value-packed reflection on effective content marketing…

“When used strategically, it is really a lead magnet and lead capture mechanism.”

One of the biggest challenges in marketing is starting a relationship.  Getting someone to actually get over that speed bump from total stranger to identifying themselves as a potential customer.

This is an absolutely critical step in the customer relationship, and if you try to skip it you’re leaving a ton of money on the table.  Because there are far fewer people ready to buy now (who will respond to a direct pitch) than who are potential customers (who may identify themselves as a lead).

Content can attract those members of the audience who aren’t ready for a sales pitch yet, get them familiar with you, and even get them to give you permission to follow-up.

“The key to effective content marketing is to put the right piece of content in front of the right person at the right time. How do you tell? It’s all about the buyer’s journey.”

This is EVERYTHING in marketing.

In Gene Schwartz’s Breakthrough Advertising (new edition coming out within the next month or so, according to Brian Kurtz who is working with Gene’s family on publishing), Gene goes deep on the market awareness model.

Basically, if you don’t speak to a market — or more specifically, a buyer — at their level of awareness, you will miss them completely and not get response.

The best copywriters I know live by this lesson.

Great content marketing can be a really effective tool for reaching out to all the different segments of your market, meeting them where they are, and carrying them forward through their journey to becoming a buyer.

“People who are kind of ignoring their problem and need you to make them feel the pain a little – mostly cold traffic – need a short piece that tells them what their problem is and why they have it. Get them to KNOW you, and capture them as leads.”

At the least-aware end of market awareness are people who are just starting to acknowledge their problem.  Here Debbie specifically gives a technique for engaging with them.

Give them something short and direct that identifies the problem and its root cause.

Once they recognize that it’s a problem — and solvable — they will start to feel the pull toward solution.  And you offer that in the form of an email opt-in.

This is generally the start of a long sales cycle, but this is how you catch someone just as they are coming into the market.  Then you can educate them all the way to the purchase.

“If they read that piece and didn’t sign up, retarget them and send them to the next piece which is a bit longer and more involved. This is indoctrination content. If they read it, they are ready to acknowledge their problem and begin looking for more information to help them solve it. Tell them your process for how to solve that problem and give them hope they can solve it, like one of your case studies. Now you get them to LIKE you. Ideally, by now they’ve joined your list. They are definitely warmer.”

Here’s where we really start to unearth the gold in Debbie’s experience and analysis.

Someone reads your problem statement, but they may not have signed up.  Does that mean they’re not a buyer?  Absolutely not!  It just means they need a little extra encouragement to move forward in their buyer journey.

Which is the perfect application of a longer piece of content that agitates the problem while making it clear that you’re aligned with the prospect in the goal of solving their problem.

Then prove to them that you can fulfill on the promise of solving their problem.

All along the way, pull them into your marketing funnel, if possible.

(The same content can work for people already subscribed, as it takes them from problem-awareness to solution- then product-awareness.)

“Finally, if they are ready to DO something about their problem, and they are trying to decide if they want to work with you or with your competitor, give them valuable content with a couple of quick tips that position you as the expert. Answer some FAQs. Convert them by making an offer. Only once they TRUST you, and believe you can solve their problem, will they pull out their wallets.”

Once you’ve fully educated them about the problem and its complications, agitating their emotional desire to solve it, you help them make their buying decision — with educational content!

One of my most powerful secrets is in establishing the buying criteria my prospect will use to purchase.  By laying that out, you’re not hard-selling them, but you are helping them make a decision.  And if you created a superior product from the beginning (at least for prospects shopping on a matching set of criteria), it only makes sense that the buying criteria will favor you.

Again, this is all content.  It is actually useful.  And it drives the sales process forward.

Notice (if you haven’t already), Debbie’s use of “know, like, and trust.”  These are commonly stated as the three criteria that have to be true for a prospect to convert.  And content can be a great way to get your prospect to know, like, and trust you.

Tie that to an offer (as Debbie states) and it’s a natural next step for them to make the purchase decision for your product or service.

“Content marketing isn’t necessarily about closing a sale; it’s about opening a relationship (quote from Justin Devonshire). You can’t close a sale if you don’t have a relationship.”

This is the real power in content, that is harder to do if you simply follow the traditional hard-sell approach to writing copy.

I once heard an illustration that I think of often.

Imagine you’re in a selling situation, where you and your prospect arrive at a table at which you’re going to sit to have your conversation.

The table is rectangular, with four chairs for the two of you: two on one side, and two chairs on the opposite.

Your prospect sits down, and you have a choice: do you sit next to them, or across from them?

Traditional salespeople will sit across from the prospect, for a head-to-head conversation.  The posture itself is combative.

New-school, value-first, consultative salespeople will sit next to the prospect.  This is a cooperative posture.

Content marketing, following Debbie’s approach, is sitting alongside your prospect, helping them make their decisions.

I don’t think human nature has changed in 100,000 years, but we do have access to more real-time information than ever before.  That’s made us favor the experience of feeling like we make the buying decision, and not like we’re being sold.  For that reason, I think the consultative, cooperative sales posture will only continue to improve in results.  Whereas the combative, head-to-head sales approach will only continue to decline in effectiveness.

“It’s totally possible to create a relationship in a very short period of time with an amazing direct response mechanism, like a long-form sales page. But I would argue that person is probably further along in their journey; they are likely ready to look for information at that point and are willing to invest more time and energy to gather information about that problem.”

Here’s the thing.  No matter where someone is at in their buyer’s journey, they need to go through the process of becoming aware of the problem, potential solutions, products or services available, and your offer before they respond.  Sometimes, they’re part way through that, sometimes they’re at the very beginning.

The world’s best copywriters get paid exorbitant sums because they know how to condense that journey from almost unaware through to the sale.  And are able to do it in one go.

The far easier approach is to break it up, and make it an extended process, always meeting people where they are and letting them move forward on their terms.

Even the world’s best copywriters, given the tools of today, are opting for this approach more often, because it works so well and lets you reach more of the market.

Following Debbie’s process is an incredible way to meet your entire market at its point of present awareness and carry that through to the sale.

If you need someone to develop a strategy like this for your business, reach out to Debbie directly.  Click here to connect with her on LinkedIn.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

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