The commercial fish industry catches well over a trillion tons of fish a year. You’ve seen the videos of the nets brought up and the catch being released on the ship deck. Then there is the individual fisherman who throws out his line and catches them one-by-one. If he is in the right waters and using the right kind of bait, he can probably make a pretty good haul in a day – enough for several meals, at least.
Content marketers are somewhere in between, but they are more like the individual fisherman. They must be in the “right waters” (targeting the right audience), and they must use the right bait.
So, What’s Your Bait?
Most fishermen have their favorite bait for different types of fish. And content strategists have different bait for different audiences. As a content strategist, you have probably developed a customer persona and have done the research on this demographic, so that you understand what they value, what they need, the style of content that will appeal to them, and where they hang out online. Now, you just need to craft that content and place it where they will see it, respond to it, and share it with their tribes.
And “there’s the rub”. Content shall be crafted in the way that will engage them and compel them to stay, to buy, and to recommend your products/services to others. Whether this is in the form of your website content, the images you select, the videos you create, the blog posts you write, the podcasts or webinars you create – all of it must be the right “bait” for your audience.
Begin with your website
Obviously, content strategists must have relationships with their designers and developers. And it is your job to present the content you want, so that they can craft a website that accommodates that content.
Ask yourself how engaging you site is. When consumers land there, are they immediately engaged with something entertaining, inspirational, or even shocking? Many companies have taken advantage of videos and newer technologies, such as augmented and virtual reality. Consider a couple of examples:
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Dollar Shave Club has an explainer video on its landing page that is hilarious and yet immediately provides the value of its products and its subscription program. That video, by the way, went viral and brought millions of viewers to its site.
America’s Best eyewear offers great deals on exams and glasses. But they know that this is not enough. And so, on its site, visitors can try on frames and actually see how they would look in them. It’s interactive and fun.
Moving on to Blog Content
A lot of thought and time goes into blog writing. And most content writers wonder if it is worth it. When a blog is attached to a website that has a lot of traffic, chances are more to access the blog posts. On the other hand, really good stuff can sit there with very little readership.
So how can you spice up your blog and drive more people to your great content? The first step is to craft great content and then to “bait” your targets elsewhere, driving them those posts that they cannot resist. Yes, it’s a tall order. But if you can accomplish this, you will gain loyal readers who will bring you more as they share with their tribes.
You already know that you have to grab the reader with a headline and an opening sentence or two. This is your first bait. As you consider titles, remember, you want to whet the readers’ appetites and give them something that they think will have value to them personally. Here are a couple of ideas that generally work.
- “How To’s” are always good topics and make for good titles. Who does not want to know how to painlessly save and extra $200 a month, how to pay off a mortgage in half the time, how to have a complete wardrobe with 8 items, etc.?
- Ask a Question. Do You Know the One Thing that all Millionaires Do Every Day?
- Create Intrigue. There are 3 Foods that Will Burn Your Belly Fat.
- Make a Promise. You Can Reduce your Monthly Bills by 25%.
This is good bait to get a nibble, but not to take the whole hook. You must continue to bait all the way through the piece. Here are a number of ways to do that:
- Readers are scanners – let them snack on your bait by creating engaging sub-headings
- Go interactive There’s a reason for all of those quizzes and surveys that you see on your Facebook page. It’s hard for people to resist finding out what their “past life” was or what their strongest personality trait is. If you can add such things related to your content, readers will stick with you.
- Visuals have always been popular. But photos, especially stock photos, are boring. Animation adds entertainment; videos in the middle of a blog post are great bait to keep readers engaged.
- Use humor wherever you can, even if the topic is on the serious side. Everyone appreciates “comic relief.”
- Watch your language. You are not a member of a group of professional college paper writers. You are a writer for people who appreciate a 7th grade reading level. Anything that “smacks” of high intellect is like trying to hook a fish with an entire goat. It just doesn’t attract or engage.
- Tell stories. Everyone loves a story, and your customers probably have some great ones about using your products or services. Featuring customers provides human interest – good bait.
And Your Social Media
Here is the place where your bait really counts. Your posts must entertain, inspire, and educate, but they must also provide the intrigue and the motivation for a reader to link to your website. Here, your bait can be anything from great discounts to teasers about great stuff on your site or your blog. Movies producers have trailers that entice people to see the film. Think of your social media posts as movie trailers – bait that will cause readers to follow those links – wither to get a great deal or to get information they want and need.
Don’t Forget your Emails: When a consumer makes an online purchase, they have to surrender their email addresses. From that point forward, their inboxes are filled with emails from the companies, and this goes on for months. Most recipients just delete those emails unless they are looking to make additional purchases from that company and the subject line provides some enticement.
Your bait can certainly include deals and discounts in the subject line, but you can also provide other bait too. “Put a smile on your partner’s face” will intrigue recipients.
What subject lines will relate directly to your audience’s needs and wants? Capitalize on those and you will get more opens.
When I was young, I remember a TV commercial for peanut butter. The slogan was “Choosy mothers choose Jif.” This is a psychological tactic that marketers use all the time – re-positioning the competition as less valuable. But the real message to moms was that if they made do without Jif they didn’t care as much about their kids. All of this was wrapped up in s simple slogan that was pretty compelling.
“Membership has its privileges.” This simple phrase from American Express captures audiences well. After all, who doesn’t want to be a member of an exclusive group?
Doubt and fear are always good. People worry about being left out of something. And when some kind of doubt is introduced, they want to assuage that doubt with some action. “Will your children be able to take care of your final expenses?” or “Are you prepared if your furnace goes out this winter?” or “Can you afford to be without a clean razor when you have an important meeting?” These are short, simple statements that will cause consumers to think and perhaps take some action that you can then present to them to solve these problems and remove doubt and fear. You become the solution.
Pointing out the “flaws” or limitations of your product or service give you credibility. We’ve all been subjected to content with outrageous promises – lose 30 pounds in two weeks with this miracle supplement. Consumers are much savvier today, and most have been burned before. State a limitation up front. “We can’t prevent you from getting a cold, but we can ease your symptoms.” Now you have a consumer’s trust.
As a content strategist, you have a key role in your company’s bottom line. What you present to your targets will either excite and intrigue them or will fall flat on deaf ears. It may be the time to re-evaluate your bait and see how you can reel in more fish. Coming up with statements, questions, visuals, new technologies, and using psychological triggers are all tactics that you should experiment with and then evaluate for effectiveness.