The Story Is the Strategy: Content + Funnels for Subscriber Segmentation and Growth
Kim Doyal Thursday, November 2, 2017
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The day started like any other normal Sunday. I woke up, remembered it was Sunday and leisurely hung out in bed. It didn’t hit me until about 2 hours later what day it actually was. We all have those significant dates in our lives that are either a cause for celebration or can bring us to our knees. Unfortunately, this particular Sunday was the latter. May 7th will forever be a day that weighs heavy on my heart.
My life was turned upside down that day. It was the day I lost my husband in a car accident (in 2003). Don’t go anywhere, I promise this isn’t going to be depressing. Fast forward, 14 years and when I woke up on May 7th this year it wasn’t the first thing on my mind. And I was grateful. It hit me like a ton of bricks that it was amazing to be on the other side of this story.
My kids were only 6 & 2 when their dad died, but here we were, 14 years later and life was good. I decided to share this story with my email subscribers because of the appreciation I felt for where I was and I simply wanted people to know that no matter what you’re going through or where you are… your dreams are worth pursuing. There wasn’t any keyword research or strategy behind sharing this.
In fact, I hadn’t even thought about posting it as a blog post until after I hit send (and this was after I implemented a ‘daily email’ strategy where I often post the email as a blog post). What happened next blew my mind (and was massive validation for everything I had been focusing on in my business and the new direction I was headed).
I received at least 30 email responses to that email… on a Sunday no less (my ‘daily emails’ are really business days, so the weekend sending is occasional). It was also the highest traffic day to my site in a very long time with over 300 + social shares. The engagement and dialogue that opened because of this one piece of content was astonishing.
The subject line and post title was “In Loving Memory & A Personal Message of Hope”, and I shared a picture of my husband and I on our wedding day. Good headline? Yes, but more than that, it was simply the truth. As much as I love good copy, direct response marketing, and how to increase conversions, you can’t really put a price on connection.
This is the compound interest effect of content marketing. On one hand you can absolutely measure the effectiveness of it. On the other hand, more often than not, we have no idea the impact our content has on most of our audience.
Some people might share the impact with you, but most will simply subscribe, consume, and ideally, implement when applicable. While this post didn’t have a call to action, it inspired action in others. Content works. I read something on the Content Marketing Institute blog recently that made me a little giddy. They said, “in the future, content marketing will simply be known as marketing.”
Content is not optional. I live by the mantra of “Everything is content.” You’d be amazed at how you can spin the events of your personal life into relevant content that connects with your audience and inspires them to take action. All while finding out who they are and what they really want from you. I’m going to go ahead and make an assumption that if you’re reading this magazine you’re familiar with Gary Vaynerchuck. One thing Gary V. always says is “don’t create, document.”
Brilliant. This is exactly what you should be doing to drive people into your funnels. Document and share what you’re doing, who you are, and why you do what you do. Let’s take this a step further and look at how you can actually implement this in a business.
Since the summer of 2008 I’ve run a site and brand known as “The WP Chick” (aka, The WordPress Chick). I fell in love with WordPress when I was starting my business in early 208 and the name hit me like one of those inspirational lightning bolts out of nowhere. Something in me told me it was a great brand, I grabbed the domain name, and the rest is history.
That is, until now. After being involved in this space for almost 10 years I’ve decided it’s time to move on. My name has always been attached to the brand, my podcast (by the same name) has grown my audience and relationships and the truth is, I don’t really talk much about WordPress anymore.
Ignorance was truly bliss for me when I started this journey. I simply stuck with it and continued showing up. What does this have to do with content, funnels, and segmenting subscribers? Everything. As I pivot to a personal brand from The WP Chick I need to know who my audience is, what they want, and how I can best serve them.
I’m sure many of my current list and followers will make the transition with me (fortunately, I had the wherewithal to set up my social accounts under my name, so I don’t need to change any of that), but I still need to know who they are. My focus in this new direction (which is simply my name) is content and marketing.
I’m a wee bit obsessed with creating content, getting it to convert, AND… most importantly, how to create content that isn’t the same boring listacle post or keyword rich article with zero voice. In order to keep things simple with the personal brand, everything I do will be focused on bringing people into my world who understand the power and value of content (having a singular focus is the easiest pre-qualifier to saying yes and no to things). I’ve already defined this target audience and know they’re in this for the long haul.
They want to build something that leaves a legacy and gets them excited to get out of bed everyday. Obviously, I’m going to start building this tribe with content and lead magnets that segment people for me as they enter my world. The best time to segment people is at the initial point of contact, right?
When they first connect with you, or visit your site for the first time. Once they’re on your list you can get into deeper ninja tactics with triggered links, different sequences, retargeting, etc. Here’s what the site will launch with, right off the bat:
1. Two new lead magnets (these are pretty fun, one is a content cheat sheet infographic with accompanying audio, the other is a visual template set for content called “Content Crib Notes”, which will eventually be put into a physical book for a free + shipping offer)
2. New podcast: this podcast will have it’s own call to action and funnel for podcast listeners only. I won’t give out this URL anywhere but on the podcast
3. New Live Show: #JustShowUP TV: I’m floored at the engagement and power of live streaming. I’ve jumped in and am obsessed with getting this to convert. Chatbots will definitely be a part of this strategy (with a targeted funnel).
4. Site Content: More marketing and storytelling, less technical “how-to” All of these strategies will lead to one specific end goal. Getting people into a continuity program for the latest strategies, case studies, and methods on content creation as it relates to marketing. Period.
Each of these methodologies will have their own unique funnel. I’ll test paid traffic with each lead magnet, but the strategy for most of this is as much organic traffic as possible (that’s kind of the point behind content, right?). I will implement content upgrades as well as standard opt-in forms throughout the site, but the content upgrades will be added strategically for segmentation.
Most people understand why you should segment your subscribers, but they don’t do it because they’re not sure of what comes next. Don’t worry about what comes after you segment people based on their actions. That’s the easy part. It’s much harder to try and go back and segment existing subscribers after the fact unless they take an action.
Let’s bring this back to the first part of this article, which was all about the story. I see so many people get caught up in what type of content to create or which medium to use that they become immobilized and simply do what they see everyone else doing (or worse yet, do nothing).
This isn’t going to work. You might gain some traction from modeling how someone else does something, but it’s not a long-term strategy. The one differentiating factor in everything you do is YOU. Dr. Seuss said it best, “No one is You-er than You.” If you’re not sure where to start, keep it simple.
Start with a blog post that shares something you’re working on (much like I’ve done in this article about moving to a personal brand), add a content upgrade that is relevant (if you don’t have one, create something simple! I love audio lead magnets because you can connect with your subscriber on a different level. This also prequalifies your subscriber when they take the time to listen to the audio.
You can also add a bonus audio that can’t be found anywhere else) and tag them accordingly. Content marketing is a huge subject. I get that it can be completely overwhelming. That’s why it’s better to simply start by sharing and then measure what’s working. You can go deep with SEO, and content silos later. I’d actually go so far as to say this should be done first because the sooner you find your voice and start connecting with people the easier it will be to focus on keywords and content silos.
Does this ‘throw it on the wall and see what sticks method’ seem a little backwards? Yes and no. The more you focus on mastery the easier this all becomes. Remember, we’re in this for the marathon, not the sprint. We’ve already seen the move towards more personalization. Knowing who you’re talking to and what they want is way more about quality than quantity.
You can buy a list of email subscribers, but how well do you think a huge purchased list will measure up to a smaller, targeted list of subscribers who have already told you what they do, which social platforms they hang out on, and what they need help with? Kind of stating the obvious, isn’t it?
By creating valuable content consistently that drives your audience into specific funnels you can then give them exactly what they want. No one wants to be talked at anymore. Tell stories, share the journey, and make it easier for people to come into your world. I discovered this late in 2016 when I was visiting a website because I had clicked through to read an article.
As soon as I got to the site I saw the opt-in for the lead magnet. I clicked the button to enter my name and email and was instantly intrigued when a modal window opened up with three steps and a few simple questions. I knew instantly that this person was gathering valuable information on me. I also realized that as a potential subscriber I was much more engaged in the process.
Right after signing up I decided to try to hack this opt-in. I tried piecing things together and nothing worked. My developer told me he could custom code it on my site, but I wanted more. This is when LeadSurveys was born. I had been working on a WordPress plugin with a friend and knew that this would be way more powerful.
Not just because it could be a SaaS product, but because we could help people figure out who they were talking to and what those people wanted from them. I also knew that I wanted to be more than a piece of software or tool that people I used. I wanted the brand to have a voice, a personality, and a relationship with our audience.
We’re in the home stretch of releasing LeadSurveys to the world (just like anything else online, this has taken longer than anticipated), but that’s O.K. Connecting with people, talking about the brand, the functionality, why this is important, etc. has all gotten clear through the doing.
By having conversations with people, putting out webinars (which then needed to be completely reworked to dial in the messaging), and working through all of this we have a much better roadmap than we did when we started. This is the where the magic of content really starts to come into play.
When you take the time to create something and then take it a step further by promoting it, you gain invaluable insights and data that can save you thousands of dollars and hours. To wind this down, here is the easiest way to digest all of what I’ve shared with you and put it into action:
- Document what you’re doing and share that as content
- Include a specific call to action in everything you do (time consuming initially, but invaluable)
- Ask people questions that segment them based on their answers (initially go general, you can get specific later)
- Send more valuable content based on their answers
- Make offers to your subscribers based on their previous actions
- Wash, rinse, tweak and repeat
Remember that just like your funnels, you can go back to a piece of content and adjust it. Don’t write it off before you’ve given it the chance to work.