Of course, content is expected to convert readers into customers.
The problem is, most companies create self-serving content in an attempt to convert every reader into a customer at every opportunity.
Stewart Hillhouse, Head of Content at Mutiny, shares the counter-intuitive way to create content that doesn’t leave your audience with the bad taste of overly pushy content in their mouth.
[Transcript] The Counter-Intuitive Way To Create Content That Converts
Hey everyone, super excited to be here. I’m sure you’re just getting jam-packed. So I want to thank you for being here, and let’s get into it.
I’m gonna talk about the counterintuitive way to create content that actually converts.
So who is this talking head right now? My name’s Stewart, and I am the Head of Content at Mutiny. Mutiny is a conversion platform that allows marketers to turn their existing traffic into pipeline, without doing any code or requiring your engineering team to move your website around at all. You can do it all through Mutiny.
And in the picture, you can see that in a previous life, I was actually a semi-professional lumberjack. So if you have questions about that, we can chat about it later.
But I wanna first start and set the stage a little bit about what the realities are of marketing in 2023.
So there are three kinds of main things that I think about now, especially as I’m creating content.
Firstly your ideal customer persona, your ICP that you might have been selling to last year. You know, there are weird economic conditions that they might now be really hesitant to buy from you. Why is this?
It is because they don’t want to maybe stick their neck out and try and bring on a new tool that you’re selling to them. Just based on, you know, the budget required. Maybe their teams had a headcount reduction.
There are a lot of reasons why your ICP might be nervous about selling internally. That paired with, you know, the uncertainty of where the company might be in a little bit, they’re probably pretty nervous about bringing on new tools.
So now is the time to start building superfans, not just prospects.
These are people who actually will buy your thing when the time’s right, but they still want to consume your content and be part of your company’s narrative.
But that brings us to like the third problem your company expects content to be creating pipeline and to be operating efficiently.
And so you need to still balance this idea of creating pipeline and creating conversions while still also not being super hard-selling because that’s just realistically not gonna work on your target audience.
So with that kind of background, the way I’m starting to think about content and my hot take for today is that over-indexing on conversion-focused content actually decreases your conversion rates and makes it harder to prove pipeline for content marketing.
All right, so a lot of Cs and a lot of conversion words in there.
But what does this actually look like in practice? Okay. I’m gonna take you through the three steps that I think about when we’re creating content at Mutiny and show real examples of how content that isn’t focused on driving a new meeting booked or a new free trial signup actually does a better job at turning readers into pipeline than those conversion-focused pieces.
So step one, we always start by getting insights straight from the audience’s mouth.
So at Mutiny, what we do is hop on these calls with our customers, with our partners and other people who match our ICP and we try to unpack the challenges and the problems that they’re currently having, and then deep dig into how they’re thinking about solving those problems.
So here, in this example, this is my friend Charlotte who works at Clearbit. She’s sharing a real and timely issue that Clearbit is having and how they’re trying to fix it. We do this publicly in a webinar format that we call Conversion Secrets Live.
Because it really, you know, speaks to our practitioner colleagues who are trying things out and trying to make the best that they can. So, you need to, like, have timely insights about how your prospects are thinking so that you can then turn that into content and speak back to them in their own words.
Step two is then turning those insights into a repeatable and practical format. These are the two ingredients that any content needs right now. I’m not talking about SEO, really search-focused content. I’m talking about editorial content that your audience is actually going to read versus just generating sort of really top-of-funnel traffic from SEO.
So the reason I say repeatable is that you want something that your audience can come back to week after week, month after month, quarter after quarter. And they know that it’s gonna be really good, and they’re excited for it coming up like you’re excited for the next episode of the Last of Us, you know, you can’t wait for it to come out.
You want your audience to be ready for your next thing, but you also need it to be super practical so that they can actually turn it into action and not just like, oh, no fluffy kind of stuff.
So for us, that’s a format called Playbooks. And you can see here we’ve got a huge library of them. And each one of these goes into detail about the thesis, the growth thesis, the problem, and then the solution and the steps they took to get there.
And then the last bit is making sure that you’re stringing it together and building a larger narrative that’s not just around your company.
So any good content marketer will know that you should only talk about yourself 5% of the time. The rest of the time, you should be talking about the problem, the life, and the bigger narrative of the person who’s reading it. You don’t wanna be talking about yourself all the time.
So, this is, you know, how you turn a simple interview into a puzzle piece of the bigger picture and then share it across every single channel you have. So this is showing, you know, the same interview I gave, presented in a newsletter format, presented in a social format, presented on the website as the actual playbook.
They’re all saying the same things but from different angles, and they’re all optimized for the channel that they’re being shared on. So you just need to like string it to a bigger narrative. And it’s not just about, you know, that piece of content; it’s about the bigger story.
All right, so these playbooks sound cool, but do they actually perform, and like, how am I proving the pipeline that’s being generated from content?
What we’ve seen, and this is a screenshot taken directly from Google Analytics, visitors on our website who view one of these playbooks are two times more likely to book a sales call. And on these playbook pages, we don’t actually even have a CTA that says book a call. It just has a button that says like, wanna learn more about Mutiny, and it actually takes you to a product page.
So these pages, even though there’s no hard CTA and they’re completely ungated, actually make it twice as likely for someone to turn into pipeline. Let’s just look at these numbers here down below. So that first, grouping is someone who just comes to our website and doesn’t look at a playbook.
So they average one minute and 48 seconds on the page, and they convert at 0.2%. To a meeting booked. All right. That’s cool. Now the next one down is they viewed the playbook. They now average four pages per session, meaning they’re clicking around; they’re actually looking through our website and learning a lot about our product. That’s awesome.
And they stay on the website three times longer. They’re over six minutes now sitting, looking at our stuff, learning about it, and becoming more excited about what Mutiny can do for them, and they convert at twice the rate now at 0.4%. And these numbers continue to get better as we look at more than two playbooks per session.
Now we’re getting up into the eight-minute mark where people are almost spending, you know, an entire 10 minutes on your website, and they’re still converting at that higher rate.
So that’s how we think about these playbooks and how they actually, these non-conversion-focused pieces of content, actually drive a lot of conversions for us.
So let me just kind of summarize what we just talked about and create a framework that you can then take and now apply to your work and the content you’re doing.
So the first I’d recommend is to the idea of getting comfortable with Zero Click content. This term was coined by my friend Amanda Natividad.
And Zero Click Content is essentially giving away 80% of your content without needing someone to click a link to go to your website and read the full blog post.
Some companies will just share a new blog post as a one-liner on LinkedIn, saying, Hey, we wrote a new blog post about this thing. Check it out, link. You know, that’s there.
That’s not gonna build an audience; that’s not gonna build any interest. That’s just sort of like lazy content marketing. So giving away all like 80% of the content without a click actually gets your message across, makes you seem more interesting, and counterintuitively, actually leads to more clicks.
In my newsletter, I pretty much give away 80% of what that blog post says in the email, so you don’t even need to click through. But the click-through rates are always higher than if I just did like a one-liner and then the link plug.
The second framework I would recommend is to stop producing random acts of content. This is coined by another buddy of mine, Ronnie Higgins, and it talks about that bigger narrative of how does this piece of content connect to, what your prospect’s thinking about, and then how does it connect to their bigger career aspirations.
How they’re gonna convince their CEO that they need to buy that thing, or how they’re gonna get the budget, or how they’re gonna not get laid off in the next round if that so happens. So create larger narratives around these formats.
So for us, instead of just doing these interviews behind closed doors, we do them publicly as a live session series where we bring on three marketers at a time to share their stories with people out in the open. And we call them Conversion Secrets Live, and we do them every month, and it just really drives that, like the ground swell of community engagement as well.
And then the last bit here is to build future pipeline by leveraging these super fans. You know, my newsletter went out earlier today to like 35,000 people on our email list. We don’t have 35,000 customers yet, but all these people are in some way interested in Mutiny. You know, at one point, they opted in, raised their hand, and said, I want to learn more about Mutiny. I wanna read your content. I wanna get your newsletter.
These are super fans that you can build up, build up until the point where it actually makes sense for them to buy. You know, that might not be this year. It could be next year.
But guarantee, the marketing world is small enough that if you have fans, they will follow you from whatever company you go to, and whatever company they go to, they’ll wanna buy your thing again because they love what you do.
So here are just some screenshots of people posting on LinkedIn, not me prompting them. These are just readers of the newsletter who are super excited about what we’re doing. So that’s all I’m going to say today.
That was a lot to take in, but if you wanna see what this looks like in person, go check out our conversion playbook so that I published through our newsletter at https://www.mutinyhq.com/subscribe.
If you’re on your phone the entire time, just pull that out and point out the QR code, and it’ll take you right to the page. And I would love to have you check out some of our sessions at one point. So thank you so much for taking the listen to this point.