Does your content inform or educate? What’s the difference, and why does it matter?
Passive content, or content that is meant to inform, helps to build brand awareness. It can boost your rankings on search engines and serve as an entry point for your sales funnel. But passive content can’t do very much to convert leads into customers. If you want to monetize your business, you need your customers to engage with active content that educates them.
By understanding the differences between passive and active content, you can adjust your marketing strategy to include more results-driven content that will create new revenue streams for your business.
Passive v. Active Content
Passive content includes any content that informs an audience about a subject matter. Most blog posts serve as passive content. After your audience reads it, there isn’t a clear objective for what they need to do next. They came, they skimmed, they conquered. A small piece of what they read might be internalized—but it probably doesn’t drive results. That’s okay for certain business objectives! Passive content can boost traffic for brand-building or monetization through advertising.
Active content, on the other hand, provides specific instruction so the reader can take action on the material. Instead of merely informing the reader, you are providing a tool for them to use to solve a real problem or fulfill an important need.
Active content is effective for acquiring leads and customers. To achieve these business goals, active content should therefore also include a clear call to action. This might mean exchanging an email address in exchange for webinar access, sharing something on social media to unlock a new feature your service, or paying for a subscription to high-level content.
If your content is passive, not active, it will be much more difficult to achieve these lead generation and conversion goals.
Specifically for publishers, this means if you want to charge for access to your content, your content marketing needs to include more than just an informational, passive strategy. Your customers won’t pay to walk away with light information. But they will pay if your content educates and changes with them. In this way, it must be results-driven.
What Good Results-Driven Content Looks Like
Your first thought then, is, “Great! Perhaps I’ll create a course. People will pay for education, and I’ll have a new revenue stream.” But not so fast.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are not hugely successful… yet. Only half of people who sign up for a course start the first video, and from there, only 4% finish. There’s no known measurement of how many people get results by finishing the class, but the percentages of people who finish aren’t exactly promising.
There are too many online “courses” that are glorified YouTube videos. Good results-driven content includes attributes of good “brick-and-mortar” education.
A great example of results-driven content comes from the Content Marketing Institute. Check out their blog guidelines. They require that their writers “Be prescriptive. Don’t just tell readers to do something. Explain how.” All articles enable readers to take action based on the article. They also have a Content Marketing University, which is much more than a series of YouTube videos. There is a structured curriculum with quizzes along the way to ensure the material is internalized by the student. This way the students can put what they learn to use and reap the benefits accordingly.
How to Create Your Own Results-Driven Content
Ready to monetize your results-driven content? These three steps will get you started.
1. Ask your whales.
Your whales are your customer VIPs. They’re your most engaged and enthusiastic customers—and they can account for as much as 70% of your total sales. Because of this, they can often be the secret sauce behind your business.
Ask your whales what they want. What skills are they missing? What can your business teach them that they are dying to learn? What’s the biggest pain point they face day-to-day? Based on their answers, look for patterns or recurring themes and use it as the subject matter for your next paid content product.
2. Pilot the program.
Your whales also make a great focus group. They’ve told you what they need, now deliver it! Share a free version of your new product with a select group of your whales in exchange for feedback and critiques. They’ll help you work out the kinks. Ask them for testimonials that are focused on the results they achieved because of your digital product. Did they learn a new skill? Increase their sales? Become better at a hobby? Get specific to bring their success story to life.
3. Roll it out.
Ask your whales to promote the new offering on their social networks. Leverage the testimonials in your marketing copy.
Never rest. Continuously iterate on the product. Regularly survey your readers to see what is working and what is not (see our article on Net Promoter Scores). Gather more results-oriented testimonials from your customers, and keep moving your content towards a product that truly provides results for your customers.
How Sterling Woods Group Can Help
At Sterling Woods, we work with clients to develop new paid digital products. We start with a diagnostic that identifies and prioritizes product concepts, the required investment, and the revenue potential. Then, we ramp up a cross-functional team to take care of implementation for you – technology, content repurposing, design, marketing, and operations – until you are ready to bring the new product in house.
Want to learn more? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free 30-minute consultation.
About the Author, Rob Ristagno
Rob Ristagno is the founder of The Sterling Woods Group and partners with companies to drive rapid digital revenue growth. Prior to creating Sterling Woods, Rob served as a senior executive for several niche media and e-commerce companies. Rob started his career as a consultant at McKinsey and holds degrees from the Harvard Business School and Dartmouth College. He has taught Product Strategy at Boston College.