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