By Brian Massey published February 22, 2011

12 Ways to Get Readers to Take Action

There is an old yarn that, when it comes to a ham and eggs breakfast, the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed.

The most common question I get from clients when I recommend a healthy diet of content is, “And how is giving away content going to increase sales?”

It can seem like content marketing finds a lot of chickens, those that are involved with a brand. But where are the committed pigs, the ones who will put some (pig) skin in the game?

If you see your content as a place to advertise, you can add some meat to your breakfast, generating traffic, leads and sales.

Conversion Bacon Beacons and Calls to Action

To add some hickory-smoked goodness to your content breakfast, I recommend advertising in your own content.

I’m not talking about some namby-pamby “For more information on Company X…” message. I mean a meaty call to action, what Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg call a “Conversion Beacon.”

Look at it this way: If you were to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to advertise on someone else’s Web site, you wouldn’t create a call to action that said “For more information on our company call….” You’d create an ad that:

  • Gets the reader’s attention visually
  • Offers something of value (“learn more about our company” is not a valuable offer)
  • Includes a clear action for them to take: Call or click
  • Shows up in the part of the page that contains Grade “A” Choice cuts, the best placement that you can afford.

Since you’re probably spending hundreds or thousands of dollars creating reports, white papers, webinars, seminars, articles and videos, you should be using this same approach to point the reader/viewer/attendee to the next exciting thing on your content menu.

Better yet, ask them to buy or try something.

Hubspot’s Dan Zarrella presented one of the most important and disturbing analyses of email in a recent webinar. With over 20,000 attendees, he didn’t fail to ask them to take the next step.

Dan’s pitch was simple:

“Now, if you’ve listened to this and you like what I’m saying, I have a special offer for you … We’ll take your email template and make it the most awesome email template you’ve ever seen … Click the link in the chat window.”

Ion Interactive offers content marketing with their content marketing. Their Slideshare content offers a white paper on the side.

The folks at Ion Interactive know that the conversion process answers a series of questions, and each delivered answer should anticipate the next question. In this example, Ion Interactive provides five tips for lead generation. Those prospects who are studying the problem will want to learn more. The report offers more detail, but asks for contact information.

Those prospects who aren’t really studying the problem can select to join Ion Interactive’s Twitter stream.

Ion interactive uses some best practices here as well, including;

  • Showing the produc
  • Using the magic word “free”
  • Underlining blue text which is the international standard for “click here.”

There is little room for confusion about the next step.

Tips for advertising in content

If you are a content marketer and you’re doing the old palm-to-head routine right now, there is hope. Here are some tips for turning your content into sources for traffic, leads and sales through powerful calls to action:

Be bold. Catch the reader’s attention. Offer something of value, even if it’s more content.

Be inline. Put calls to action right in the copy.

Be shameless. Let the reader know this content is part of a promotion for your products and services. Readers should get used to having promotional messages included in the excellent content you provide.

Be frequent. Tease your “special offer” at the beginning. Include your  pitch or insert an ad in the middle. Close with the “hard sell”  even if it’s another piece of free content.

Incentivize. Put a coupon on your print and digital offerings.

Merchandize. Show the product.

Be mobile. Add QR codes so your readers can go on a little adventure to your next offering.

Be creative. Just like an ad in any medium, you want to create compelling calls to action for placement in your valuable marketing content.

Be generous. Have great content.

Be miserly. Hold something back that the reader or viewer has to click through to get. In the example above, Ion Interactive held back five of their ten tips.

Be a tease. Put it on the cover. If you let the reader know there is a special offer inside your content, you’re going to get more people to dive in. How many unread white papers are on your hard drive right now?

Be exclusive. Offer something exclusive to consumers  in your content. In the example above, Hubspot didn’t offer the free email and consultation to everyone. You had to be on the webinar.

Advertise Your Content in This Space

I’m going to give you a chance to advertise in this space.

Send me links to your content marketing and show me how you are advertising in your own content. Your content could be one of the examples I use in my next column when I talk about landing pages for in-content ads.

Present your content here or email me through my author page.

Author: Brian Massey

Brian Massey calls himself a Conversion Scientist and he has the lab coat to prove it. “Conversion” is the process of converting Web traffic to leads and sales, and his practice, Conversion Sciences, brings these disciplines to businesses of all sizes. Brian is a dynamic speaker, presenting before corporations, universities, and at national conferences. He is the author of the The Conversion Scientist, and is a columnist for ClickZ.com and Search Engine Land. Follow me on Twitter @bmassey.

Other posts by Brian Massey

  • http://twitter.com/KathyHanbury Kathy Hanbury

    Hi Brian, great article!

    For me, I’m always a little bit nervous with advertising in content. If you do it badly, it can create such a terrible impression. Obviously, you always have to be sure that the value of what you’re offering (even if it’s more content) is worth the cost (even if it’s just supplying your contact information). If the consumer pays more than what he feels it’s worth, it creates mistrust. So, clearly you need to make sure that what you’re selling has real value, but I see FAR too many instances of businesses selling stuff that has very little worth and is readily available for free elsewhere. So…. how do you determine which content is actually going to be valuable enough for customers to pay for (with time, contact info, or money)? And how do you balance the inherent lack of trust that many customers feel when they get the impression that they are being “sold to”? I’ve seen good and bad examples, but it’s not always easy to articulate the differences between the two… I’m hoping you can help! (I’m Canadian, where many of us are more sensitive to pushy sales tactics. Not sure if that makes a difference here… )