A few years back, my family and I were debating the merits of Apple vs. Android around the dinner table (this is the kind of conversation you have in a geek family). We were upgrading all our cellphones, and trying to decide whether we should buy into the iPhone or the Android ecosystem.
The four of us — my wife, two kids, and I — talked about this decision for several weeks, and even made a lengthy list of pros and cons, which we’d update each night over dinner. Occasionally I’d look up some piece of information on my laptop, like the merits of open platforms vs. walled gardens. I’d search some topic, read an article to the family, then close the browser tab. Or I’d click a search result, get some info, then hit the back button.
Search, click, back. Search, click, close.
This went on for several weeks, until we finally made our decision (read on to see which platform we chose). The point of the story is how we did our research: reading websites quickly, then leaving. The data shows that this is how most of us do our research on the Internet. Search, click, back. Search, click, close.
For the content marketer, this is a huge problem. Each one of those people visiting your site is a potential customer, and when they leave (either hitting the back button, or closing their browser tab), you’ve lost them forever. If you were running a brick and mortar store, this is a shopper coming in, browsing for a few moments, then walking out the door.
A few weeks ago, we rolled out a new feature on our Media Shower platform called conversion tracking. In plain English, we track the number of people who read a piece of content (like this blog post), then click the link at the bottom (the Call To Action, or CTA). In other words, we not only encourage your readers to become a customer, we track and measure how many potential customers you’ve generated.
We’ve been thrilled with the response so far, and wanted to share some early findings. Here are three things we’ve learned about how the most successful content generates more customers.
Finding #1: Promotion Matters (Especially LinkedIn).
Nearly all our top-converting pieces have significant social media promotion behind them. Moreover, the top-converting companies have a system or process for promoting their content. In other words, they don’t promote their content haphazardly: every new content piece is promoted as soon as it’s published.
It’s common sense that you need to get people reading your content before they will interact with it. But promotion is often forgotten in the long list of tasks that marketers have to do. The unspoken assumption is, “I’ll put the content out there, and they’ll find it.” But there are nearly 50 billion webpages! Our top converting companies show that it pays to have a promotion plan.
The social network that generates the most shares among our top converters? LinkedIn.
Finding #2: Include a Downloadable Offer.
About 60% of our top converting content pieces have an offer for some additional piece of content: an ebook, white paper, or other downloadable. This is usually related to the topic of the article: if it’s an article about medical billing software, the offer might be to “Download our Ebook on Getting Started with Medical Billing Software.”
The potential customer needs to give a name and email address to download the bonus content, making this an effective way of generating sales leads as well. To make this work, you’ll need to create both the downloadable offer as well as a landing page — but companies like Media Shower can help you with the offer, and tools like Instapage can make the landing page a snap.
Finding #3: The Average Article Receives 3.3 Conversions.
So far, we have seen that articles that convert receive 3.3 conversions on average, and we expect this number to increase over time. (We define a “conversion” as a reader clicking the link at the bottom of an article — to download an offer, for example. You may also think of a conversion as a potential customer, or a sales lead.) Given this rough benchmark, you can start to model out the potential return of your content marketing program.
If you create 12 articles per month — a Monday/Wednesday/Friday blog publishing schedule — you can expect about 40 conversions per month on average. Let’s say you turn 10% of your prospective customers into paying customers: that’s 4 new customers. Then you simply figure out the lifetime value of a customer (for B2B companies, this is typically tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars), and you can reverse-engineer how much your content marketing program is worth. For example:
12 articles per month x 3.3 conversions/article = ~40 conversions
40 conversions x 10% close rate = 4 new customers
4 new customers x $50,000 Customer Lifetime Value = $200,000 revenue
Thinking about content marketing in this way turns it into a measurable model that can be used for scaling your marketing program, and your business. If 12 monthly articles drive $200,000 in revenue, why not publish 24 articles per month? Or increase the number of offers? Or do more promotion on LinkedIn?
What’s the ceiling for how much you can earn, how many new customers you can generate? Over the coming months, that’s what we intend to find out.
Sir John Hargrave is CEO of Media Shower, Android user, and author of Mind Hacking: How to Change Your Mind for Good in 21 Days.