In this final part of the three-part Adaptive Content series, Tony and Chris discuss how you can use adaptive content to create richer content experiences that work for attraction, retention, and conversion.
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Tony Clark: This is The Mainframe.
Welcome back to the final episode of the ARC Reactor series and also the final episode of our Adaptive Content series, where we re going to be talking about creating adaptive content experiences. How are you doing, Chris?
Chris Garrett: I’m doing good. I’m a little sad that we’re coming to the end of the series. It s been a good one.
Tony Clark: Yeah, it’s actually been nice, because we’ve been able to cover everything. One of the things that we keep talking about over and over again is how your strategy is an attraction, and a retention and a conversion strategy in automation through the whole thing.
One of the things that we’ve seen over and over again, and why we wanted to do this series, is that people think of those as separate activities, when really, it’s all the same thing.
Chris Garrett: Yeah, it’s kind of like passing the baton from one runner to the next in a relay race. You have to look at the whole race. You have to look at the start, the middle, and the end. You have to pace yourself, and you have to time it right. But that baton has to pass. You can’t drop it. You can’t throw it.
We see so many customer experiences fall, because they’re trying to go from the initial attraction all the way through to a sale, maybe a sale and a referral, without that middle piece, without that flow, without all that context, empathy, value — all the things that we talked about in the previous episodes.
Tony Clark: Exactly. The idea is adapting things to the right time for your customer and the tools that are available. We see this now more than ever because of the technology.
One of the greatest things in the world happened a few weeks ago. We now have Bloom County back. It’s available on Facebook, because Mr. Breathed can now be able to adapt his cartoons in real time to the news cycle. It’s funny that Trump dragged him back in.
It’s an example of the technology now at a point that allows a creator to create content for a very specific audience and to tailor it to the needs of the moment. That’s what designing an adaptive content experience is all about, really.
Chris Garrett: Exactly. That’s a really good example because of the disintermediation. There’s no gatekeeper. There’s a bit of fear involved in not having that gatekeeper, especially for a cartoonist, because he’s become a businessperson. He has to get some sort of income from it, whereas before, he just had to be a creator, and the syndication did the work for him.
It does mean that he can perfectly adapt his content. He doesn’t have to compromise his art. He can speak to his audience, because he doesn’t have these third parties controlling what he says and his tone and style and the content. He can go after Trump if he wants to because he doesn’t have to worry about some newspaper in New Jersey’s advertisers.
Tony Clark: That’s right. It’s funny, one of the showrunners was talking, and Tina Fey was talking about, how the Kimmy Schmidt show, once it switched to Netflix, they wanted to keep it somewhat older-family friendly so that you could watch it with your 13-year-old kid. But they did now have freedom where they could go after people, because they weren’t worried about advertisers. They no longer had to be restrained by what the network said: “No, you can’t say that, because of this particular advertiser,” or something.
These are all examples of adapting content and experience. The couple of words that we keep using over and over again are context and empathy. That’s really what you should design your adaptive content experience around. That’s what the whole strategy focuses on.
Chris Garrett: Yeah. It’s planning your content for your ideal target customer, not trying to please everybody in the world, not trying to look good to the entire planet. It’s a difficult thing, because there’s a sacrifice there. It’s sacrificing people who would never buy from you, though. You need to have the right message at the right time for the right people, but you need hone in on who the right people are.
It takes some planning. You have to gather your assets, and you have to work out your channels, and then you have to, as Tony says, construct a framework.
Tony Clark: That’s what we’ve been talking about in this entire series. It really is important when you’re adapting content for the audience. You need to plan your priority areas, because you have your attraction — what type of content is for getting people here — the retention content that allows them to stay there, and then your landing pages to convert. Then you need to look at your sales funnels and the customer onboarding: what happens after? This all should utilize adaptive content.
Chris Garrett: Yeah. It’s one experience. It has to be consistent and congruent. In the attraction, you’re going to be talking about the problems you solve, who it solves it for. You re going to be using case studies and proof. It all has to be relevant to that target audience that you’re trying to attract. The retention content will follow those themes, and it will remind people. It will get people deeper. It will give people cliffhangers that speak to the next stage, the next step.
Those content landing pages and conversion landing pages — content landing pages should be like the Wikipedia for your niche, but the conversion landing pages should be about saying that there’s an option here to get even more value, even more depth, more information, a better solution that gets you into the sales funnel. It’s all consistent. There’s the sense of that mission that they’re on, that goal at the end, the light at the end of the tunnel.
It doesn’t end when they transact, because what you want is a happy customer who’s successful, who is then going to tell all their friends how awesome you are.
Tony Clark: Exactly. Our smart, savvy listeners are probably guessing that s the reason we put this at the end of the ARC Reactor series, because really, this is what we’ve been talking about this entire time: adapting the content for the right time. Whether it be attraction or using your social strategies, you’re using different types of attraction and advertising, SEO and organic. Then you have your retention. Really solid content draws people into your funnel and then conversion and then post-conversion is the customer onboarding.
You see how, if you have adaptive content, and you create this from a series of assets — here s an example. You have a long-form article that goes into a lot of detail. That can be broken up into small pieces that can now be shared on social media, but also, you can set it up so that people come from different articles on the site that you’ve driven them to from social media to this page to better help them understand what they’re doing in your world. Then, as you take that same content, you use that to craft your landing page that you’re driving them to, so there’s congruence throughout. Then that goes into your onboarding.
The whole idea is you automate this so that when people go through each of these steps, they feel like the content has really been crafted just for them.
Chris Garrett: Exactly.
It could be as simple as not promoting your opt-in to people who are already on your list, all the way through to knowing what they’ve purchased and knowing where they came from and what their history with you is and suggesting the ideal next step. It could be as broad or as detailed as you need to be, but it’s about starting small, incrementally improving, testing and measuring, and then adding to this over time.
I think that’s a good place for us to go deep into exactly how to approach this.
Tony Clark: Exactly, I was just going to say, now let’s talk about this framework.
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Chris Garrett: Tony, where would you start? If you’re starting from zero, and you’ve got some content, but you haven’t fitted it into this framework, what is the first place that you should look at?
Tony Clark: The first place you need to look at is what you currently know about your customers. You can do that just from basic things: the types of material that’s shared, the types of comments you get, or just doing some basic Google Analytics tracking on page time and referrers. This gives you a very brief, very basic snapshot to start from. Because what you’re trying to do is to understand what your customer or prospect is doing at this point and how to get them to take action to move to the next point. You utilize these types of information.
There’s two things you need to do to start. One, start gathering together your assets and looking at how you can adapt those assets for the right time. For example, a podcast or audio content is great for listening when somebody’s commuting, but you can now take that and have the transcripts turned into an ebook, for example, or into a series of small articles. Look at your older articles you have and how they can be updated, broken up, adapted into different things. That’s the first thing: gather up your assets.
The second thing is to start inferring what different customers know and need to know to move onto the next step. Then you can start to put those together to build that basic entry framework into how I can get my customer to take action utilizing these assets that I have to move them further into the funnel.
Chris Garrett: Yeah. Getting a customer or a prospect to take action is simply putting a call to action in front of them. It’s an opportunity to take action. If they do take that action, then you’ve learned something valuable and hopefully delivered value to them. If they don’t take action, you’ve also learned something valuable.
Tony Clark: Exactly. We’ve talked about this before, how on MythBusters, they joke a lot of times they learn more from the things that fail than the things that actually work. You learn to better build. It’s the same thing when you’re talking about your audience. The types of content that get people to take action, you can track, and you can see, and you can understand what people are doing and when they’re doing it.
On the other side, you have content, and you have emails, and you have general lists of people that aren’t taking the necessary action to move them through the funnel. You can start to understand why that’s happening by watching it, or you may just start adapting the content.
Remember, this framework is a framework for a reason. It’s not a set-in-stone, “This is how everything has to be.” Because you have to be agile. You have to be able to iterate though content to better understand what it is that’s going to get people to take the next action.
Chris Garrett: Yeah. A good example of that is when we talked about having email sequences, autoresponder sequences, based on their inactivity.
A lot of people think about having a sequence based on the action that they did take, but what about all the people who have sat there on the list, they haven’t taken the action, they’ve not opted in to the next thing, they’ve not purchased, they’ve not registered for the webinar, they’ve not attended your Q&A, and they’ve not emailed you a question? What about the people who haven’t taken an action? You don’t want to leave them languishing and ignore them. That could be 95 percent of your audience. You have a nurturing sequence that tries to encourage them to take an action.
Then, if they still don’t take an action, maybe it’s because they don’t like video or audio. Maybe they’re not readers, and they do like audio or video. Maybe they like the live experience, and you need to encourage them onto webinars, but you’re doing it at the wrong time. You’re doing at 10:00 Eastern, when really they need it to be at 8:00 pm.
You can learn a lot from that. Also, through their actual triggers, through their actual actions, you can tailor it to that individual. That’s where adaptive content gets really powerful, right?
Tony Clark: Exactly. Because you want to segment based on what actions people are taking or their lack of action. One of the things you can do as well, is you can start moving a group further into the funnel, and then that group that has not taken action, they just may not be the right customer for you, or the right prospect for you. They can unsubscribe, or they can stay on the list and get the free content. Maybe they’re just free content people. They just like what you’re producing there, but they have no intention of moving further.
By segmenting those out, you’re able to provide a richer experience for those people who do take action, so that you can further nurture them into the funnel to allow them to take the kind of actions you want.
Chris Garrett: Exactly. It could be just not the right time for them. You don’t want to ditch them. There are so many gurus that actually recommend cleaning their list. We’ve had people who have joined lists and then purchased three years later. The time was right, but not on our time frame, but on their schedule.
Don’t abandon people. But you do want to focus on the action-takers right now, and you need to give them what they need. It’s kind of a no prospect left behind thing, but you don’t want the people who are ready to take action to have their time frame set by the people not taking action. That’s why one-size-fits-all content is really going to hold you back, and it doesn’t allow you to scale. You do need to tailor these segments, and to individuals, if you can.
Tony Clark: That’s true. Another way to think about is if you have a lot of detailed content, you don’t want to overwhelm somebody who’s at the early phase of your funnel. They may not be ready for that content. Or, if you want to think about it selfishly, here’s somebody who’s not taking any action, so why do you want to give away all your juicy content?
You need to think about, the further down the funnel people go, the wider, the better, your content gets. The content gets bigger as your funnel gets smaller. It’s a way to provide more rich and more informative content for people who have continued to take action and move through. That’s what this framework is all about.
Basically, think of two funnels facing the opposite side. One funnel with the spout up is your content, and the funnel with the spout down is your actual sales funnel. As your people move down into the sales funnel, the amount of content and information and the more rich experience you provide them gets wider.
There’s two reasons for that. One, you don’t want to waste your best content on somebody who’s really not interested and is not your customer. If you also look at it from the customer’s point of view, if they’re not ready for that level of detail, that level of rich content, it may overwhelm them, and they may never move forward.
It becomes more detailed as you go. As you also do that, you gain more details about the customer. That’s why we’re really big on the whole membership model as an opt-in approach.
Chris Garrett: Exactly. We learn so much more about the individual’s wants and needs, but also, they’re more willing to give that information, because they’re more invested in the process. The more invested they are in the process, the more consumption and action and results will happen for them.
We often talk about