They might not be the first thing on your mind when you're developing and executing your content marketing plan, particularly if all you're looking at is the bottom line. To someone fixated on the finish line, managing a subscription base might feel like an unnecessary extra, a bunch of people standing in your shopfront who are yet to make any kind of purchase. They can feel like a waste of space, but far to the contrary, I'd like to argue that a solid subscription base is brilliant news for your business. Today I'm going to explain why, along with how you can build this avenue of customer acquisition up.
So What Can A Subscription Base Give Your Business?
Not every person who contacts you is going to be ready right now to purchase. They might need a little time to warm up, or think through. Subscription is a great way to make sure your business stays on top of your prospect's thoughts, in addition to the lead nurturing you'll be doing with them.
As your subscribers carry on consuming more content, they'll develop a level of trust with your business. They'll become more educated on their own problem and the way in which your solution can fulfil their needs. They'll grow attached to your content and perhaps even count you as a friend, not as a business, as they learn and are able to make buying decisions. Subscribers like these, as they convert to customers, will have a longer buyer lifespan. They might also purchase more goods or services from you, or make the decisions on those purchases faster. So really, there's a stack of benefits to be gained from building a subscriber base.
How do you go about building up your subscription base, then? Here's 11 ways I can think of:
Things To Do
1 - Raise the quality and frequency of content posts
First things first: In order to build a subscriber base, you're going to need to ask people to give you their contact details. Very few people hand out their information without good reason, so your content needs to be exemplary if it is to succeed. You can raise the quality of your content by offering advice in your content that is relevant, timely, and useful to your visitors, subscribers, and customers. The other way you can raise the quality of your content is by looking at the technical side of things - either branching out into other types of visual content such as infographics or videos, or raising the standard of user experience. This means well-written articles that have been intuitively formatted, with clean cut design, non-cheesy stock photos, and an excellent use of grammar and tone.
You can increase the frequency of content posts in two ways. One, you need to plan for it. Make yourself a content release schedule (here's how you can plan your own) and stick to it, so that you can plan for x number of content pieces per week and stick to it. The second way, of course, is to dedicate more time to writing. When atheletes create a fitness goal, they don't just decide to set a list of things to do; they go out and do them in order to get where they want to be.
2- Provide an authentic reason for readers to return
When I had time to maintain my personal blog, I saw the most traffic ever during the first half of 2013. Why was this? I was writing a series of blog posts that were following a course I was doing at the time. There were contacts telling me that they enjoyed the previous instalment, and were looking forward to the next one. Likewise, last year on this blog I started a series on how to develop a content marketing campaign. The number of returning readers we had increased notably, and that was because they were all coming back to read the next one.
When you plan content, don't just plan a one-hit wonder. Plan a campaign of powerful and effective content pieces, and let your readers know that this is part one of ten. If it's good, they'll want to know what happens next, and they'll keep coming back. This means that you can have an increasing number of opportunities to encourage subscribers to move further down the lead conversion funnel and bit by bit, closer to a purchase.
3 - Be genuine in your writing and side with your customer
If you know your customers well, you'll know how they speak, what they favour, and what concerns them. Write to this. If their concern is with something in your industry, (let's go with the dodgy car salesman, for example), then address it in your content. If there are elephants in the room that your customers can't find content on anywhere else, then you've got an untapped market of opportunity waiting to go. Be gutsy enough to write on things that your customers want to know, but might not ask. Your goal with content is to encourage lead conversion, grow a subscription base, and build trust between you and the reader. Determine the priorities of your ideal customer, and write for those. Take the side of your customer - you're all about finding the best fit solution for them, after all. (If you're doing content marketing right, that is.)
4 - Make long-term plans to maintain your post output
Remember how I mentioned the content release schedule in point one? Here's where we flesh that out. A content release schedule is generally going to last you three months; after that, you can measure the success of the marketing campaigns you'd run in that period of time, and work out how to transition them in to your next set of articles. A long-term plan for content marketing doesn't mean just looking at the next month, or three months. It means looking at the whole year and going 'what's the best way we can make this work? What overall direction do we want to take?'. Technology and your outlets for content will change over that year, but the direction you set at the beginning should help you stay on track and not let your content marketing fall by the wayside as the crunch time of the year approaches.
5 - Make it easy for readers to subscribe
Where's your subscription button? Do you have one? Do your readers know they can subscribe to your content feed? This is one of those things that we can easily forget about until you bring it up. Subscription opt-in needs to be visible, appealing, and simple. Leads and Subscribers aren't mutually inclusive (but they can be), so you'll only want to ask for the bare minimum of details. Ensure that subscription to your content is simple and intuitive.
6 - Promote your content in the appropriate spheres
How are you promoting your content? If you've just started out with marketing your business online, you've probably been told to market on social media. Thing is, so much of social media marketing now is driven by paid advertising, that in order to be seen, you're probably going to have to invest some dosh into it to see a return sooner or later. It is, however, a platform for reaching out to your ideal markets.
The trick then is not just to invest in every social media platform, but to pick one or two that your ideal customers will be found on and resonate with. If your business gets a lot of contact through LinkedIn but not Pinterest, then it might make more sense to drop the less successful outlet and double down on the one that's working for you. Work out where your ideal customers are going to spend their time, and promote your content in those areas for your greatest likelihood of success.
7 - Invite subscription
So we've got regular, long-term, high quality content, that suits the needs and questions of our readers and visitors, and gets on-side with them to find solutions to their problems. But you're still lacking in subscribers. What then?
You might need to ask them, or provide a little nudge. Do you have a call-to-action that asks readers to subscribe to your content outlet point? You might need that. You'll need to build an information capture form for this one - either on the existing landing page, as a pop-up, or as a landing page. Each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Either way, you'll have to actually invite readers to subscribe to your content - often within the content - if you want them to be reminded that your content is worth coming back to.
8 - Build your page to prompt subscription (at the right time)
Did you know you can use webpage pop-ups to prompt action? I didn't, until last year. By tracking page activity, you can prompt subscription at the right time, using pop-up invitation boxes. Most commonly, you'll find these responsive little boxes when you go to navigate away from the page (by moving your mouse back up to the top of the page, near the URL), when you scroll down the page a certain length, or when your page has been open for a significant period of time. These timely prompts help catch readers when their attention might be waning, and refocus back in on what your business can offer them.
Of course, this method of subscription bolstering is not without its own issues, so ensure before you start that the pop-ups are simple, easy to opt-out of, and are visually engaging.
Protips for email subscription
Email subscription is generally how you'll build your base up, unless you're looking to build a subscriber base on a social media channel like Instagram or YouTube. So, you've now encouraged readers to hand you their email address and you've got a database going. Are there further tips to help ensure that the emails that arrive in inboxes around the globe are received with joy and not with a 'mark as spam' button? You bet.
9 - Use your copy to build an ongoing, positive relationship with your subscription base
If you've got a good idea of what your ideal customers look like, you'll have a good idea of how they speak, and how they enjoy being addressed. Use this to your advantage - when you write your subscription email copy, write it in a style that will appeal to your customers. So, while I would probably never use terms like 'gnarly', 'stoked', or 'going off' to describe excitement to a real estate agency, it would fit perfectly with the language of the surfing culture, and it could be used to fullest extent in an email from a surf shop. Use the words you write into your subscription emails to come across as someone who is helpful, thoughtful, and understands the needs of the customer.
10 - Don't blast your subscribers with the all-then-nothing routine
If you want to build up a positive relationship with your subscription base (who will turn into customers given time and the right prompts), then you'll need to keep investing into them with subscription emails. This means that your emails, and your content by extention, need to be regularly updated, rather than sending out single lump updates once a month or once a quarter. If you instead are continually yo-yoing between a mighty torrent of updates and then nothing, then you'll have subscribers forget you, or become annoyed and unsubscribe to escape the deluge. To avoid your avid readers from becoming too hot or too cold, work out a frequency of subscription updates that lines up appropriately with your content release schedule that will let you stay on their radar in just the right way.
11 - Treat your subscribers the same way you'd treat your friends
"Hey, I saw this and I thought of you,"
What does that kind of phrase tell us about the speaker? We can work out that the speaker knows the spoken-to well. We can guess that the speaker is thoughtful, and wants to give or show something they've found that will naturally appeal to the spoken-to.
This is how you want to interact with your subscribers through email. Doing it on a one-to-one basis isn't time-efficient, but this kind of connection point can still be made using your buyer personas (constructed, ideal customers) and some clever email segmentation, so that specific groups of subscribers within your database receive specific emails that have been catered to their preferences.
Building a subscriber base is a good way to prep readers for lead conversion. It's a good way to stabilise your website's standing with search engines, and a great way to build a following, snowball-style. Write content that appeals, and release it regularly. Encourage sign-ups where you can, so that readers can tune in next week to see how things are going to pan out. Use your buyer personas to maximise your level of appeal through language styles, and employ email segmentation to deliver specified content to specified groups. Build trust along with your evident expertise in field, and your subscribers will turn into leads and customers.