What is Your Content’s Call to Action?

Posted 8/21/2015 9:34 PM by Jeff Julian

I know subscriptions are the secret sauce to everything we are doing.  I also know popups and gated content can be effective.  In fact, if you read this post on AJi, you will have seen a popup by now or are about ready to. 

There has been one lingering question I have about the practice. How do we expect our audience to trust us enough to give us their email through the use of popups and gated content?  At the same time I ask, if the audience consumes the content and is satisfied, how can we be sure they connect with us without a blocking Call-to-Action?

We all want to build our subscription pool.  Having access to the inbox is the best delivery vehicle for sharing the availability of content. 

Most of the alternatives to email subscriptions have been robbed of their value. RSS is dead, no one subscribes to feeds anymore (thanks Google… Ok it is not all their fault).  Twitter is far too noisy and has just become a pool of announcements, so the best way to reach an audience there is retweets and hashtags which are becoming noisy as well.  Facebook continues to pivot and limit access to your earned audience, but there still boosting, videos, and sharable content which can be difficult with content announcements.  The list goes on.

So email signup stands out strong, but are we over using a good thing?  With every popup we use, are we putting a nail in the coffin of our best tool?  I know I am feeling more irritated than I was this time last year and I have unsubscribed to several list over the past few weeks.  Even content providers I love like MarketingProfs have been showing me popups on every visit even though I get their emails on two separate accounts. 

So what will happen to us if we keep using email subscriptions and not search for alternatives?  One example is the recent feature Microsoft turned on called Clutter for Office 365.  This features hides what they consider “clutter” to a box underneath the inbox to get the noise out of the way.  Then when new items come in, you get an email from Microsoft (irony much?) that shows you what messages they moved.

There has to be another way we can solve this problem to build up more authority and trust without the need to invade the inbox right away.  I am not claiming I have all the answers but I want to continue the conversation. 

4 Alternative Ways You Can Reach Your Audience Instead of than Content-Blocking Email Registrations

Here are four alternatives to the Call-to-Actions we use on our content to continue the growth of our audience other ways besides gated content and popup for emails.  I still believe the goal is to receive the contact information you need to send email, but a little more work upfront to allow trust to be built before the immediate consumption of our content can go a long way.

  1. LinkedIn Connect Offers – Some of you may think I am crazy to say this, I love connecting with new people I do not know on LinkedIn.  As long as the profile is semi-complete with enough information to know they would be interested or can benefit in the content I produce, I say click Connect.  Then in each piece of content I produce, I try to put in an invitation to connect up on LinkedIn with some instructions to quickly get past my filters for spam.  I know LinkedIn isn’t everyone’s network of choice, but in B2B, it is pretty much the gold standard.  Once they have connected, you can use updates and posts to get access to your audience with a very high probability of reach.
  2. Alternative Versions of the Content - If you have a YouTube video, point them to the written version of the content.  If you have an article, point them to the SlideShare.  If you have a SlideShare, point them to the podcast version.  The list goes on and on.  Don’t only deliver your content in the form you originally produced it in, take time during the production or shortly after to find different ways to get the content out to the world.  Double down on networks with the larges saturation of audience, but aim at the second and third tier networks that are growing.
  3. Content Series – Produce a 5-part series of blog posts, a few videos that are interconnected, or even a choose-your-own-adventure site that lets the audience member continue consuming the content based on what fits their need.  The point of this approach is to drive more clicks.  When I say drive more clicks, I do not mean for the purpose of ad impressions, stop that!  We know what you are doing.  Clicks has far more benefits that just monetary rewards.  Clicks allow us to build trust, keep people around, provide several off ramps to other content and send signals to Google and other search engines that we have interactive content.  Make sure you have content that is relevant or a continuation of other conversation.  Use Google to do a KEYWORDS site:yoururl.com search to find the pages on your site that might be eligible for related post linking.
  4. Listen and Give Thanks – When someone shares your content, reach out to them and thank them for sharing.  Keep track of the person and the platform and return the share with something they produce.  This approach will take time away from your content production, but it has so much power in making the connection and building trust.  Be genuine and DO NOT AUTOMATE this approach.  If I could thump the ear of every automatic DM twitter account I follow, my finger would always be bruised (but it would be worth it!)  If you want to message me, do it for any other reason than an initial follow.

A Trial Newsletter

If you are not convinced to at least try some of these options and still want to gate every piece of content or use first page popups, then consider this last one before you go:

We offer trial accounts all the time for our products and services.  We do it because we know getting them in the customer’s hands allows us to demonstrate value and have them to become attached.  What if we took the same approach to our blocking content offers? 

Consider creating a 14-day trial email list you use to temporarily get the content into their inbox.  During the trial, offer a quick access button to easily convert to a full-subscription and a final message that makes the pitch to join your list. 

If the content is not what they were looking for, than it was not meant to be.  Relying on an unsubscribe button for ejecting content tends to be more like a breakup than we really want it to be. 


My Call-to-Action

These are just alternatives to the gated aspects or blocking tools we use to get people to subscribe.  I believe the best way to reach the audience is on your platform whether that is through signup for membership or your email.  I also believe you should always provide an exit ramp to get directly to a signup on your content via email. 

But there is some courting we need to do with potential members of our newsletter club.  Consider these alternatives to continuing the conversation for your next piece of content:

If you like this content, and would like to receive more when it is available, we have a newsletter I would love you to join.  But if you are not ready for the commitment, consider connecting with me on LinkedIn (put “Saw your post” in the connect message), reviewing our blog with other posts like these, or watching a few of our marketing shows on YouTube.