Leading marketers are investing in a NEW approach to creating sales and leads. Are you? Here's what it is and how you can.

If you're not publishing these days you're likely to be under-selling.

My goal is to help you create profitable outcomes for your business by using content. No, not sleazy "article marketing."  I'm not preaching search engine optimization (SEO) either. And certainly not encouraging a "content to create buzz, engagement, conversation or consideration" approach. These ideas don't get marketers much job security these days.

I'm talking about using content marketing (publishing) to create meaningful, sequential, reliable actions. Behavior that is part of a pre-conceived system of prompts; a marketing routine that pushes customers or leads down the sales funnel and creates value for your business and the customer.

Last time I wrote about using the concepts of relevancy and utility to capture customers' need states and deliver value that boosts profit. I focused on mobile marketing and mobile application best practices. But there are other ways to nurture latent demand and capture it. How about email?

Acquiring customers with 'ethical bribes'

Today we'll cover why you should be attracting UN-QUALIFIED customers (who will EVENTUALLY buy), keeping them "engaged" with content "long enough" so you can "be there" when they're ready to buy. Then pounce with a compelling call to action. And we'll explore how to do it. Sound good?

We'll examine a fascinating case study from Eastern Europe that demonstrates how one large multi-channel marketer is creating web buyers out of thin air.

This retailer is nurturing leads over many months' time and cost-effectively netting sales from buyers they'd otherwise never have had a chance at acquiring. They're using what I'll call "ethical bribes" to get the job done.

What's the candy? Content. Valuable stories, tips AND giving prospective customers, themselves, reason to recruit new readers into the system. Providing them with an incentive. The ethical bribe. Ready?

Hardcore soft selling

Here’s a guy who’s hardcore when it comes to soft selling. Meet Rok Hrastnik, International Web Director for Direct TV ("home shopping") Goliath, Studio Moderna.

One day Rok got tired of watching his home goods-focused web sales just puttering along or, for some of his brands, dwindling. Competitors were intercepting his customers (as they were on way to making a purchase) by using search ads. Pretty commonplace.

Hrastnik's boss also tasked him with generating incremental sales, not just netting sales generated by all the TV ads the company runs throughout Europe. After suffering through poor readership and sales from his email "newsletters" (talking endlessly about his product) Hrastnik decided to take a risk. But a calculated one.

His response was nothing short of becoming a full fledged, content-focused email publisher to the masses, people who he knew wouldn’t be customers in near-term. And Hrastnik's bet paid off. Sure enough, his readers began to BUY his mattresses, bedding and sleep-related home goods when he mixed direct calls-to-action into his content marketing fold.

The system revealed: email publishing

Hrastnik realized that he had two choices when building an email list that would generate sales. Those choices are: Buy a targeted list of leads or an un-qualified list of prospects who have no interest in his product line. Lists of qualified buyers cost more, unqualified cost much less. His decision was to buy unqualified leads based on the following hunch. He could successfully use content to:

  1. Establish authentic relationships with men and women who, eventually, would buy.
  2. Grow those relationships exponentially (grow his list) by giving readers incentives to recruit others.content marketing
  3. Offer unqualified customers an honest, durable "value exchange" (quality content that they actually wanted for their eventual purchase consideration).
  4. Prove a profit: Spend less on producing and distributing content than he's netting in gross sales -- preserve margin and hold the line on "cost per order" (CPO).

And that's precisely what Hrastnik did.

First, Hrastnik acquired email addresses and mailed them a legitimate overseas vacation sweepstakes offer. This built his opt-in list. As part of this promotion subscribers agreed to receive newsletters.

Segmented by gender, these included very topical (but original) content focused on successful courtship, beauty tips, weight loss tips, celebrity gossip that resonated with women. Men received well-written, boldly designed newsletters on grooming tips, gadget articles, automotive and sports content -- the kind of stuff that men typically consume.

Here's the rub: Most contest-applicants stayed on. They LIKED the newsletters and agreed to receive occasional promotional messages from Hrastnik's company. Of course, they demonstrated a clear level of tolerance, unsubscribing like mad when receiving calls-to-action/promos more frequently than three times per month.

Oh, and sales increased...

Sales increased. Sales that were directly attributed to this campaign began to roll in within a few months time. Again, the closest the content came to talking about bedding and mattresses (Hrastnik's product) was with articles on dream interpretation, which were a big hit by the way!

What's the secret sauce?  It's direct response. Database marketing. But in a challenging, multichannel environment. For Hrastnik it was sink or swim. And he did a few laps.

You already have the answers...

I find it really interesting that a "long-form content" focused company (a direct TV seller) is essentially transferring its best practice to the web. Hrastnik's company lives mostly in a TV-based world where selling takes 30 minutes. Think about that for a minute. Talk about opportunities for customers to tune out!

Hrastnik’s industry (in the states we devilishly call them "informercials") has mastered the TV-delivered, content-focused sale, and they've been quick to throw up websites and point TV shoppers at them. But what about creating incremental sales?

Hrastnik and his crew are mastering the web like no other direct TV company I’ve found here States-side. Does that make the US a laggard when it comes to Direct TV's use of the web to acquire incremental sales?

Never give up

Worth noting, Hrastnik innovated. He was faced with a daunting task and didn't give up. He dove into uncharted waters. He took a risk. But he, of course, held full accountability for his actions... and his risk was a calculated one.

This is just one example that I've been researching and I hope to bring others to Econsultancy's readers soon. And email is not the only means to execute content marketing strategies. But it sure is an accessible, familiar, cost-effective device to start with. Good luck!

Photo credit: Cityhunter12
Jeff Molander

Published 5 May, 2010 by Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander is a professional speaker, publisher and accomplished entrepreneur having co-founded what is today the Google Affiliate Network. He can be reached at jeff@jeffmolander.com. He is a regular contributor to Econsultancy. 

29 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (5)


Phil Email Marketing AT-U Creative


My company always thought text heavy emails users wouldn't read due to the short amount of time they spend reading an email (from our stats around 6 seconds).

Maybe for our next client we will try some more engaging copy to pull in sales. Thanks for the advice

about 8 years ago

Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander, CEO at Molander & Associates Inc.

Hi, Phil... There was a lot more detail that I didn't get into here -- to make sure it was tactically a success. Frequency is one issue. The other issues are significant and all deal, ultimately, with mimicking a publishing model -- sans ads. The ads come "sprinkled in" via direct calls to action and are mostly "stand-alone" mailings (not integrated w/ the email content).

The email content is also summary format most of the time -- linking to full stories on a well-laid-out (easy to nav) Web site that's filled with social media-esque tools (to encourage sharing) and incentives to share. One incentive: Increase your chances to win the sweeps (they just entered) for every one person you refer to the contest. Again, all this must be legitimate (the sweeps, the methodology, etc.) and transparent.

When you say "my company" this is very much like direct mail catalog executives -- 90% of them. They monetize (cost justify) catalogs on a "(revenue) yield per square inch" (or centimeters if you're like the rest of the world and not still on a factional system like us!). So then you have the 10% who believe in and practice "Magalogs" that break the rules. Crutchfield is doing this now -- one of the US's oldest catalogs. Their investment is Web AND print. But its essentially the same thing.

about 8 years ago


Andy T

I love the publishing success stories, it's really picked up, just like Seth Godin said it would.

I'd be interested to read a bit more about how Hrastnik got all of that diverse content when his company sells mattresses? Did he do it all him self, was it other people content syndicated inside his own brand like some affiliate plans. If I was doing this I'd partner up with people who publish each subject to get the content and in many way become a middle man with my own branding around the outside.

Also, at the end of this article, it appears to be comparing the success of one Eastern European who's brand normally did infomercials against the entire US informercial industry, which I'm not sure is accurate.
If you wanted to discuss the potential successes of TV to email advertising in different countries or continents I'd recommend checking the amount of email and average person gets and of that how much is spam. I'd guess that more people in the US get spam than anywhere else, also the volume of legit emails going around is enormous and there is just more competition for the inbox there than anywhere else.
That is a guess, I haven't got the time, resources or money to actually check but maybe someone has or someone has already done it?

about 8 years ago


Allen - Personal Brander

This could be a great exemplary! Email marketing has become hard to deal as users/customers recieve many emails from strange companies even! One interesting thing Mr.Hrastnik did was selecting the unqualified in hope of prospective customers! Of course there are many who will consider such people but the business engagement strategy he followed is really appreciative! Also, either Hrastnik or any businessman must keep on going with new marketing trends to gain consistent benefits!

about 8 years ago

Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander, CEO at Molander & Associates Inc.

Thanks, Allen and hi, Andy...

Yes, he decided to outsource to writers -- really good ones too.  He did not staff internally nor do the heavy lifting himself. 

Please be clear -- I'm not comparing anything.  I'm simply suggesting that the publishing model that DRTV ("home shopping") companies use (across the globe) is a "long form selling" model.  They're innovating (via this example) to shorten-up their pitches and place them in different formats -- those which consumers appreciate (ie. email) and readily demand.

My point is more that "it's no surprise" is it?  But I still credit people like Rok who have the natural instincts that tell them what to do on the Web -- based on traditional direct response success formulas ("what works" when selling on DRTV).  I hope this is more clear and sorry for any confusion.

about 8 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.