I want to talk about content in the context of a framework. I like frameworks because they provide structure, and that’s exactly what we need when we’re tackling something as beefy as content creation.
The framework that I’ve been working on over the last couple of years was first introduced at WordCamp Hamilton. It maps our intent as content creators or businesses against the intent of our target audience or target customer. And that’s where all of this begins: understanding who we’re trying to reach and what they care about.
From there we look at the typical marketing funnel, along the lines of what you may have seen from HubSpot and countless other marketing blogs. Awareness, Consideration, Purchase. In my framework I refer to those initial three points as Reach, Teach, and Sell. And that’s where the name of this framework comes from.
But we don’t stop there. Marketing is everything, everything is marketing, and marketing doesn’t stop once a purchase has been made. So in this framework we go on for another three steps: Support, Retain, Refer, and Reward.
A quick note on empathy: Empathy is important at every step of this framework. Empathy means trying to understand how the target audience or customer base feels. What’s their priority, or intent, or need at each step? What are they looking for? And how do we give that to them? That’s where we start — with them — and we work backwards from there.
Another quick note on flow: When I started fleshing out this framework I thought of it as a sequential process. And while it does work as a sequence, not everyone will proceed through it in an orderly fashion. Instead, you’ll have folks jumping between different types of content.
Reach is all about getting in front of both new and existing audiences again and again. It’s appearing where they are. That might be in Google search results, social media feeds, or other content. These are places where you’re not in control but you’re present and participating.
“Teach” brings people to you. This content appears on the channels and platforms you own. Your website, your YouTube channel, your Facebook page, your Instagram feed.
Whatever you produce needs to be something of value. I do a lot of work with businesses so I tend to think of education as the go-to; but entertaining, informing, and inspirational content is just as good. It really comes down to the type of content you want to put out there.
But don’t just end it at letting people consume your content. Get some kind of exchange going, some sort of call to action, to build the relationship even further.
Maybe that’s asking them to sign up for a newsletter, or asking them to download a resource you’ve created. Maybe you get them to follow you on Instagram or Pinterest or Facebook. If you’re building a product or a membership site, it could be a free trial membership or the like.
In any case, you’re asking the person who’s consuming your content to do something; not in exchange for dollars, necessarily, but for consent and further communication.
Sales content brings out the dollars. At this point we’re focusing on content that drives conversions: Answering questions, combating hesitancy, making the sale.
If you’re a publisher or an influencer, this drives to your advertisers, your merchandise, your Patreon, whatever brings in the revenue that keeps you operating. It’s pushing for act of commerce. There has to be $$$ involved.
Support content kicks in immediately after the sale is made. It’s the onboarding, the next steps, the follow-up “thank you” email and everything else that makes your new donor/customer/member feel good about their decision.
This is where we really start caring, because now there’s a financial relationship. So whatever we can do to answer questions and make this a good experience is a top priority.
Keep your audience coming back. Engage early and often without becoming a nuisance.
We know more about our customers or members at this point. If the group is large enough, we should look at segmentation to make things as relevant as possible for everyone we’re communicating with.
We keep providing value here. Maybe it’s exclusive content or activities or other things that keep us in touch with this group.
Get your audience to share your work with their friends, family, and followers. Word of mouth provides fantastic value, so what can you do to support it?
For content, start jamming on customer stories, testimonials, reviews, referral programs, whatever it takes at a tactical level to support the word-of-mouth amplification.
Reward people for going along with you on all of this. They might be your members, your users, your customers, your fans… however you describe them, this is the group that sustains you. And you should be demonstrating your appreciation for that. Maybe it’s a discount on a future purchase, maybe it’s recognition.
This is a good opportunity to develop habit-forming loops. (See a cue, take an action, receive a reward.) This is what loyalty programs are all about, too — keep customers coming back because they’ve already made an investment.