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How Strategic Content Converts to Email Subscriptions…

When we talk about content marketing strategy, all the discussions of heroes, journeys, and maps can seem a bit esoteric.

What does it look like in real life? And how exactly does it relate to email marketing?

Content marketing is a broader discipline than email marketing, but your email list is the core focus. In fact, the primary purpose of content that is distributed in other ways (social, search, ads) is to begin the email relationship.

So, let me walk you through an imaginary campaign that takes you from a documented strategy to an email sign-up for a free, 6-day audio course. I’ll use my site Unemployable as the stage for this particular campaign.

Please note that the documented portions of the strategy below are much more abbreviated than you would do for yourself. It’s just an illustration that will help you better understand how a documented strategy translates into real-world digital marketing.

Let’s take a look.

Objective (“Why”):

Why are we pursuing this strategy?

The objective is: attract people interested in what’s working right now when it comes to building your perfect business to the Next Level 7 email list.


In the who phase, we identify a single unifying persona that we’ll keep in mind as we craft content.

This particular campaign will focus on freelancers looking to use email curation to build an audience. Our persona is a freelance writer named Penny.

Penny was thrilled to break away from the corporate marcom world and start her own business. She still loves the independence and flexibility, but some days the stress of working with clients gets to her.

Instead of one boss, she answers to several demanding contacts, each with different management styles and project requirements.

While she dreams about using email curation to build an audience around her passion for cooking, Penny dreads the thought of investing her time into an activity that won’t turn into an actual business.

While she still wants to pursue the dream, her doubts about how to create the right environment for success have kept her from taking even the first step.

Penny is a pragmatic and ethical person who is allergic to hype and incredible claims of internet riches. She is driven by a sense of fairness, and she holds disdain for those who take shortcuts at the expense of others.

Her worldview is that hard work is rewarding, and she often tells herself she should just be happy with the clients she has.

Still, she’s willing to work a side hustle to pursue her dream of a highly profitable small business she can run alone, if only she could find the right path.


In the what phase, we identify the sequence of information that the prospect needs to achieve her goal.

Now it’s time to identify the type of information that Penny will need to take action, and the order that will guide her step by step to transformation.

We’ll also need to communicate why it makes sense to become a part of the Next Level 7 community over another one.

Here are some broad considerations that we will turn into specific pieces of content and copy:

  • Penny will need on-point content that addresses her desire to turn a passion into a business.
  • The credibility of the source will be key to overcoming Penny’s skepticism.
  • Given her freelance practice, Penny needs to know that she has the time to make this happen.
  • She’ll need a way to validate her ideas and gain confidence.
  • Penny wants to see specific examples of how people like her have succeeded.
  • As a non-technical creative, Penny must be assured that she won’t be overwhelmed by technology.
  • Finally, Penny must receive an offer that motivates her to take action.

Now we can take these primary information points and map them out as a sequential journey. Or you can simply create a story outline that corresponds with each piece of content in the sequence.


In the “how” phase, we take what we know about our prospect in order to best present the information.

Penny is a creative business person striving to become more entrepreneurial. Her no-nonsense attitude suggests a “just the facts” approach, but her need for case studies and real-life examples opens her up to persuasive storytelling.

Given her potential for skepticism, we’ll walk the line between “yes, this takes work” with constant reassurance that it’s totally doable.

Characterizing the entire process as an act of creation — one where you attract an audience, discover what they want to buy, and build your perfect business — will appeal to Penny’s sense of pride as a professional writer.

The tone can be somewhat snarky when it comes to “get rich quick” formulas, especially at the beginning.

The goal is to strongly differentiate the advice from the stuff business-opportunity people are looking for, and instead present this as a valid way to build a business that serves others just as it also provides value to the owner.

Here’s Penny’s experience

At this point, we want to summarize how Penny experiences the journey your content is taking her on. We’ve worked to empathetically understand her, and now we want to see the path from her perspective to better refine how we guide her through it.

While taking a short break from a client project, Penny sees a podcast episode on Twitter that catches her eye. It’s called How to Create the Environment for 7-Figure Small Success. The topic is worth a click because it’s so on point to her predicament.

The episode description confirms her own doubts about curation for curation’s sake. She’s nodding in agreement that curation is a means to an end, not the end in an of itself.

The audio lays out the path for how a strategy of building an email audience through curation is the vessel through which you create the environment that can lead to success in building a 7-figure small business.

It discusses what that environment consists of, the steps curation helps you take on your way there, and how to figure it all out by leveraging other people’s content.

Penny is stoked, because she feels like the host is speaking directly to her. The episode also contains a call to action to sign up for a free, 6-day audio course called Next Level 7.

Next Level 7 will teach Penny:

  • The 3 bedrock fundamentals that you must get right
  • Why what worked online in the recent past doesn’t anymore
  • The most important marketing channel you must focus on
  • How to discover what products and services to sell
  • Why spending all your time creating content is a waste of time
  • The new value proposition for building an audience
  • How to combat “click bait” and “fake news” to your advantage
  • The three elements that power modern marketing
  • Why being human in the age of algorithms is an asset
  • The process for building your perfect business

She recognizes the host as the founder of Copyblogger, a site she read religiously when she was starting her freelance writing business.

And the course is part of Unemployable. She smiles at the brand, and figures at minimum she’ll get some solid tips for running and growing her main business.

Penny registers for the course, providing her email address. She’s not naive — she knows there’s something for sale at some point, but this seems like the information she’s been waiting for.

The adaptive experience

Now, this person and her story are a fiction, right?

But the better you know your prospect, the more accurate the experience will be. Once you put the content out there, you can test, tweak, and rearrange until you’re hitting all the touchpoints just right.

Once you’ve gone through the process of identifying with Penny at a very personal, human level, technology can then do amazing things.

Your basic linear sequence of what she needs to hear from you can take into account all sorts of variables.

  • What if she doesn’t listen to the third audio lesson? How do you get her back on track?
  • What if she emails you about something that matters to her, which you don’t address in the course? How does that change how you perceive her state of mind?
  • What if she powers through every lesson, but ignores future offers? What does that tell you about her viability as a prospect?

This is the point where marketing automation becomes magical. Not before you understand how to engage with your prospect on an empathetic level, but definitely once you do.

You’re not only creating better content, you’ll have a better understanding as to what behaviors have significance during the audio sequence.

The clarity comes from “who”

I actually know Penny pretty well, since she’s a “character” I think of when I choose topics and guests for the 7-Figure Small podcast.

Having a concrete persona to “talk” to makes things so much clearer.

Instead of some vague notion, you can actually see yourself as the mentor, guiding your prospect along on the journey, step by step.

And when it comes to email marketing, you’re no longer just “list building” in the abstract.

They say the money is in the list, but that’s not necessarily true — it’s got to be the right list that takes the right people on the right journey.

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