Business owners and marketers come to us from a wide range of industries and with a diverse set of business skills. Some of our customers have been in business for decades and some are just getting started, but they all have the same goal: to gain customers.
The idea of gaining customers sounds pretty straightforward. You create a product or service worth buying, launch a website to sell it on, and sell it. You’re well aware of the value your offering brings to the market, and you assume that your potential customers are too.
But most businesses don’t start out with customers lining up to buy their product or service — and it isn’t because the offer isn’t good. Most of the time, it’s because people haven’t heard of the brand before. They aren’t aware of what their product or service does. Or, they don’t need it yet.
Exposure, Awareness and Interest are the three sub-stages that make up the Attract phase. Leads don’t always pass through them in order, but they all serve a particular purpose. Here’s a quick overview of each:
The Exposure sub-stage is geared towards people who have never heard of your brand before, and it’s all about using organic traffic from social media and article mentions, media placements and backlinks to create brand awareness. Through your public relations (PR) efforts, potential leads in this stage are beginning to subconsciously learn about your brand’s existence via partnerships and connections you’ve built with industry thought leaders.
Think of potential leads in the Exposure sub-stage as you do your attention to Volkswagen Bugs before a game of Punch Buggy: You might subconsciously see them driving around, but they’re not top of mind. You’re likely more focused on when to make your next left turn or how fast your car is going.
In the Awareness sub-stage, your potential leads have likely already been exposed to your brand, and your new goal is two-fold: You want them to click on your ungated (or free) content so they’ll be added to your retargeting list, and you want them to begin to view you as a reliable source of information. In order to do this, you’ll drive traffic to your ungated content — such as blog articles — on social media with boosted posts and ads.
Continuing with the Punch Buggy example, the Awareness sub-stage is when the game begins. The cars that were always on the road and you previously hadn’t noticed are suddenly your prime focus, and you start to see them everywhere — just as you hope to get your prospects seeing you everywhere. In psychology this phenomenon is called priming.
At the Interest sub-stage, your focus is on driving opt-ins to your gated content — also known as free value offers — so that you can get your new leads’ contact information and begin to market to them via email. The key to making this strategy work lies in the gated content you offer. It should be consumable within an hour and make such a difference that the reader would pay for that content (although you provide it for free). All of these factors combined build trust with your new leads, making them more likely to respond positively to your future marketing efforts.
Once your leads have made it through the Attract portion of your lifecycle, they’ll move on to the Consideration sub-stage, which is part of the Convert stage of the customer lifecycle where your customers will decide whether or not they want to buy.
Building your own attract strategy
Now that you have a basic understanding of how each of the sub-stages work together, you can begin to construct your own Attract stage — one that is tailored to the type of business you run and your ideal customers.
In every sub-stage of Attract, there are different activities you’ll want to set up, KPI’s you’ll want to track, and results you’ll want to work towards. Here’s what you need to know to plan each one:
Gaining exposure through partnerships
To succeed in the Exposure sub-stage, you want influential figures — such as media outlets, web or print publications, review sites, or influencers in your industry — to talk positively about your brand on their platforms. With every mention or backlink, you reap the benefits of gaining access to their large audience, getting a good word put in for your brand, and subtly beginning to build trust with potential leads.
These connections don’t just happen automatically, though. Because brand exposure is fueled by strategic partnerships — and developing those partnerships takes a lot of research, time and persistence — you’ll first want to come up with a list of people and publications you’d like to partner with and a plan for making it happen.
Creating strategic partnerships
Every great relationship takes time to build. Here are five steps you can take to set a strong foundation for long-term strategic partnerships:
- Create a plan. During the planning process, it’s important for you to identify:
- Your target customer: Determine what demographics and behaviors make up your ideal customer base, and use them to create a few key personas.
- What you can offer: Take inventory of what you bring to the table. What can you offer to your partners in exchange for a mention or backlink?
- Look for like-minded partners: When done well, a strategic partnership can mean you’re reaching hundreds or even thousands of new leads. With this in mind, it’s important to take the time to figure out if aligning with each potential partner is worth it. Find out if the potential partner:
- Offers a product or service complementary to yours: If you own a wedding dress boutique, you wouldn’t want to partner with another boutique. Instead, you’d want to find an organization that targets the same customer base but offers a complementary service, such as a wedding photographer or an event rental company.
- Caters to the same target audience: In order for this partnership to be effective for your Exposure campaign, you’ll want to look for organizations that target the same customer base as you.
- Pitch your idea: After you’ve carefully chosen your ideal partners, come up with a list of benefits for both your organization and your potential partners’ organizations. A few sample benefits are that your partnership will:
- Open the door to a cross-sell: A strategic partnership between a bridal shop and a photography company, for example, opens the opportunity to cross-sell to each other’s customers.
- Expand both partners’ reach: Partnering means getting access to another company’s audience. The hard work of finding a new group of potential leads would be done for you.
- Provide done-for-you content that they can share: If you pitch to write the content yourself, all the partner has to do is share it. This is beneficial to them in a few ways: It provides their readers with value, and it doesn’t take much effort on their end.
- Get on the same page: Partnerships can fail because a deal is signed without first discussing a clear purpose and strategy for the partnership. It’s crucial that all parties involved know what to expect from the get-go. Before you seal the deal, go over the following with your partner:
- The scope of the partnership
- What assets will be contributed by each organization
- The lifespan of the partnership
- The obstacles (why the partnership might be terminated
- How issues will be identified and resolved
- Measure your results: Because the goal of your strategic partnerships is to gain brand awareness through third-party mentions and backlinks, you can expect to earn a higher domain ranking due to increased traffic flow, higher organic traffic flow to your site, and an increase in referrals.
There are a few KPIs that you can use to effectively measure your results:
- Number of brand mentions: You can keep track of brand mentions across a variety of mediums including social media, search engines and forums using free brand tracking tools such as Google Alerts or Social Searcher.
- Organic traffic: You can monitor your organic traffic over time in Google Analytics. If you have the data, first measure your organic traffic over the last three months before implementing your Exposure activities. You can then use that quarter of data as a baseline for measuring future success.
- Media placements: You might consider coming up with a threshold you would like to hit each month — perhaps three to start and, as you build more and more relationships, raise the number to four, then five. Every placement you earn will be a step towards your goal.
- SEO backlinks: The more third party sites that link to your content, the better search engines will rank your domain. To earn more SEO backlinks, you might consider offering to place links to your partners’ high-value content on your blog.
Getting the most from your strategic partnerships
Earning a strategic partnership is hard work, and once you’ve established that relationship, it’s easier to keep it going than to start again from scratch with a new partner. To keep the relationship going, you want to make sure it works for all involved. You can do this in a few ways:
- Done-for-you content: As we mentioned above, providing pre-written content to your partners so that all they need to do is publish it will make working with you a no-brainer for your partners
- Promoting their content: In addition to providing your partners with done-for-you content, you can sweeten the deal by posting about each of your third-party brand mentions on social media. If you want to take it a step further, you could even spend money to promote each mention on Facebook — this not only brings more traffic to their site, but it also expands your reach and gains you even more exposure.
- Checking in: Maintaining relationships with reviewers, bloggers and other partners is essential to continuing your hard-earned partnership. Consider checking in quarterly with a new partnership to keep the relationship going.
Attracting potential leads with ungated content
During the Awareness stage, your overarching goal is to add as many potential leads to your retargeting lists as possible while simultaneously earning their trust. In order to do this, you’ll run cold ads to your ungated content on social media platforms such as Facebook.
Developing your ungated content
If you already have ungated content on your site — such as a blog with multiple articles that anyone can view without needing to fill out a form — you can skip ahead to the next step.
If you don’t already have ungated content, you can start small and work your way up. Consider the pain points your business solves, and create ungated content about each one: Perhaps you’re a dietitian and you solve clients’ problems with weight, eating disorders and health-related dietary restrictions. Write an article about each. By using your strengths and your expertise to build your bank of articles, you’re automatically creating content that will resonate with your potential customers.
Adding tracking to your pages
Once you’ve created your ungated content, you’ll want to add tracking to your pages so you can monitor your Awareness success later on. For each page, you’ll want to include the following tracking scripts:
- Google Analytics: This script allows you to keep track of important brand awareness KPIs such as number of unique views, time on page and pages per session.
- Social media scripts: Scripts for social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn allow you to take any site visitor, no matter where they’re visiting from, and cookie their browser so that they become part of your retargeting list.
- Search engine scripts: Similar to the social media scripts, scripts for search engines such as Google Ads and Bing allow you to cookie site visitors’ browsers to build your retargeting list.
- Ontraport tracking script: If your ungated content is built in Ontraport, this is already automatically taken care of for you. If your content is built on WordPress or other platforms, you’ll need to manually add this script unless you’re using the PilotPress plugin on WordPress.
- Bonus: Heat mapping script (Optional): Scripts for heat mapping tools such as CrazyEgg are a great way to see how viewers are digesting your content. Are they scrolling all the way down the page? Are they steadily reading each section of your content? Are they just reading your subheads and moving on? With heat mapping, you can find out and use that information to improve your pages accordingly.
Writing your ads and creating audiences with ad grids
Eventually, when your Awareness strategy is operating in full swing, you’ll have an entire set of ads dedicated to each of your pieces of ungated content. To start, however, pick a handful of your favorite articles and write ads for each.
When writing your ads, you’ll want to write multiple hooks. This allows you to test them against each other to determine what positioning or angles stand out most to your audiences. You’ll also want to test multiple audiences to begin to dial in who your ideal leads and customers really are.
Writing multiple combinations of ads sounds overwhelming, but there are tools you can use to simplify the process. Our marketing team at Ontraport uses a template called an Ad Grid. Here’s what it looks like:
When filling out your ad grid, you’ll first want to read through your article and identify who might be interested in reading it. Come up with three different audience ideas and build each of them as “Saved Audiences” on Facebook.
We recommend starting by building your audiences to ensure the copy in your grid is hyper-targeted and speaks directly to your ideal leads. You can run your awareness ads on any social media platform but, for this example, we’re going to use Facebook. There are a few elements that make up a strong advertising audience:
- Having enough people in the audience: We typically recommend building audiences between 1-2 million people. This ensures diversity. You don’t want a small number of people seeing a repetitive ad in their newsfeed
- Getting specific with your locations: Does it make sense for you to be marketing in multiple countries? If not, restrict your ads to only the locations that matter.
- Turning off unwanted traffic: Beyond location, there are many other demographic and behavioral settings you can play with in Facebook to ensure that you’re only marketing to the people you want to reach.
Once you have your audiences locked down, your next step is to identify three reasons why these readers would want to read this article. These will become your three hooks.
From there, you’ll be able to fill in the content. For each full ad, you’ll write body, headline and description copy. For reference, here’s what a complete Facebook ad looks like:
When writing your ad copy, it’s important to always think about continuity in your readers’ experience. If they click on your ad, will it take them to the article they’re expecting to see? Or will they close out of the article right away because it wasn’t what they thought it would be?
As you write, your audiences will act as a guide for your copy — all you have to do is fill in the blanks and keep it within the recommended character count range so that Facebook doesn’t cut off the end of your ad copy.
Adding UTMs to your URLs
The last step before you can launch your Awareness ads is getting the remainder of your tracking set up. In order for you to attribute success to specific ads and campaigns, you’ll need to add a UTM to the end of each ad’s URL. Here’s an article on how to implement UTM variables for your business.
Launch, optimize and repeat
You have your ungated content and ad grid copy written, your audiences created, and your tracking in place. Now, it’s time to launch your first Awareness ad campaign on Facebook.
On Facebook, you’ll create a campaign for promoting your article. Within this campaign, we recommend creating nine ad sets — one for each of the ads you wrote in the ad grid template — to guarantee fair testing. This means that rather than allowing Facebook to select its own favorite ad and put more money towards that, you control ad spends so that an even amount is spent on each ad and, as a result, accurately see exactly how your ads are performing compared to each other. Alternatively, if you would rather let Facebook decide for you, you can simply put all your ads from one grid into one ad set and let it self-select a winner.
When your ads have been running long enough to reach statistical significance based on impressions, clicks and conversions — and you’re certain that one ad isn’t outperforming another by chance — dive into your campaign stats and select your winners and losers. To determine your winners, you’ll look at impressions and clicks.
Over time, as you notice some ads outperforming others, you’ll turn off the “losers,” making room in your budget to spend more on your successful ads. Eventually, you’ll end up with only your highest performing ads running in your account, but don’t stop there. Continue to add new ads to your campaign to test over time and see if you can beat the original winner.
To take it a step further, zoom out to the campaign level and compare overall campaign stats. Perhaps the best ad in one campaign is performing worse than the worst ad in another. This will give you a bigger picture view into how your Awareness stage is performing.
And, of course, once you’ve completed campaigns for your top five articles, start creating them for the rest of your content.
Capturing interest with free value offers
Unlike the first two sub-stages, Interest is the first time you’re directly working towards capturing contact information from your potential leads. The purpose of this sub-stage is to start new relationships and build trust with potential customers before you nudge them along to a sale. It’s also your opportunity to begin to understand your leads’ interests so you can segment them, setting you up to market to them in relevant ways throughout the rest of the customer lifecycle.
To initiate those relationships, provide your potential leads with something of value upfront in exchange for their name and email address. This “something of value” — which we will call a free value offer — should be enticing, easy to digest within an hour, and related to your business offerings. Over time, as you prove to your leads that you have value to offer, they’ll begin to trust your brand and think of your business as the go-to for your industry.
Creating your free value offer
To develop your free value offer, ask yourself: Given their desires, goals and frustrations, what can I give them for free that would be so compelling that they would consider it to be clearly in their best interest to take me up on my offer? A few common examples are:
- A free report or ebook
- A free teleconference or educational webinar
- A free printed book or newsletter subscription
- A free podcast interview with a top thought leader
- Tickets to an event
- A free trial of your product or service
- A free sample product or service
Pick three or four of the free offers that make the most sense for your business, then brainstorm ideas for executing each one. For example, if you run a salon and want to offer a free report or workbook, it could be a report on how to keep curly hair from getting frizzy or a product comparison of the top-rated paraben-free hair products.
These highly tempting offers are meant to entice prospects enough that they’ll want to keep hearing from you and engaging with your content and your offers.
The most effective free value offers will excite your leads and give them something they can use or redeem instantly, and the value should be provided within an hour. Likewise, the content of your free item should be extremely useful, representing your best foot forward; after consuming it, your prospect should feel like it’s something they would have paid for and are surprised that you offered for free. That’s how trust begins to build: Your prospects now see you as an authority in a niche they care about, and they see that you’re actually providing something with their best interests in mind.
A good idea here, when creating titles for your free value offers, is to make a list of your ideal customers’ core desires, fears and hopes as they relate to your business offerings and use similar language so that you can be sure your titles connect immediately to your target audience. For example, if your market’s greatest desire is fun, freedom, and wealth and their biggest frustration is employees who don’t get their jobs done right, you could try something like, Making Your Business Fun Again: a guide to building wealth and freedom by getting the most from your employees. It’s important to note that your free collateral should not be a sales pitch. Your free content should stand alone. That is, getting value from it should not depend on doing business with you.
Now it’s time to create the free value offers. Create the top three or four best ideas you came up with. Don’t be too worried about making it perfect; just get it done. The information assets you’re putting together here will pay dividends for years to come.
Here are the pieces you’ll need for your free value offer
- Ads to promote your free value offer: You can write these ads using the same template as you did in the Awareness sub-stage, and they will run on Facebook and any other social media platform of your choice.
- An opt-in page: This is the page your leads land on after they click on your ad. Its purpose is to sell your free value offer.
- Your free value offer asset: This is the valuable content you decided to give away for free.
- A thank you page for post opt-in: Sending your new leads to a thank you page after opting in shows them that their form fill-out worked and assures them that they’ll be receiving the content they signed up for shortly.
- A delivery email: This email contains a download link to your asset.
- Bonus content: After your new leads opt in for your free value offer, you’ll send them a series of three emails over the course of three weeks. These emails will contain links to three pieces of your ungated content that are relevant to the offer they opted in for.