How to Create Effective Content Experiences

In this final part of the three-part Adaptive Content series, Tony and Chris discuss how you can use adaptive content to create richer content experiences that work for attraction, retention, and conversion.

In this episode:

  • The priority content areas you should focus on
  • Where to start, and what you need to pull together
  • How to utilize the assets you have, in the beginning and over time

How to Create Effective Content Experiences

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Tony Clark: This is The Mainframe.

Welcome back to the final episode of the ARC Reactor series and also the final episode of our Adaptive Content series, where we’re going to be talking about creating adaptive content experiences. How are you doing, Chris?

Chris Garrett: I’m doing good. I’m a little sad that we’re coming to the end of the series. It’s been a good one.

The Priority Content Areas You Should Focus On

Tony Clark: Yeah, it’s actually been nice, because we’ve been able to cover everything. One of the things that we keep talking about over and over again is how your strategy is an attraction, and a retention and a conversion strategy in automation through the whole thing.

One of the things that we’ve seen over and over again, and why we wanted to do this series, is that people think of those as separate activities, when really, it’s all the same thing.

Chris Garrett: Yeah, it’s kind of like passing the baton from one runner to the next in a relay race. You have to look at the whole race. You have to look at the start, the middle, and the end. You have to pace yourself, and you have to time it right. But that baton has to pass. You can’t drop it. You can’t throw it.

We see so many customer experiences fall, because they’re trying to go from the initial attraction all the way through to a sale, maybe a sale and a referral, without that middle piece, without that flow, without all that context, empathy, value — all the things that we talked about in the previous episodes.

Tony Clark: Exactly. The idea is adapting things to the right time for your customer and the tools that are available. We see this now more than ever because of the technology.

One of the greatest things in the world happened a few weeks ago. We now have Bloom County back. It’s available on Facebook, because Mr. Breathed can now be able to adapt his cartoons in real time to the news cycle. It’s funny that Trump dragged him back in.

It’s an example of the technology now at a point that allows a creator to create content for a very specific audience and to tailor it to the needs of the moment. That’s what designing an adaptive content experience is all about, really.

Chris Garrett: Exactly. That’s a really good example because of the disintermediation. There’s no gatekeeper. There’s a bit of fear involved in not having that gatekeeper, especially for a cartoonist, because he’s become a businessperson. He has to get some sort of income from it, whereas before, he just had to be a creator, and the syndication did the work for him.

It does mean that he can perfectly adapt his content. He doesn’t have to compromise his art. He can speak to his audience, because he doesn’t have these third parties controlling what he says and his tone and style and the content. He can go after Trump if he wants to because he doesn’t have to worry about some newspaper in New Jersey’s advertisers.

Tony Clark: That’s right. It’s funny, one of the showrunners was talking, and Tina Fey was talking about, how the Kimmy Schmidt show, once it switched to Netflix, they wanted to keep it somewhat older-family friendly so that you could watch it with your 13-year-old kid. But they did now have freedom where they could go after people, because they weren’t worried about advertisers. They no longer had to be restrained by what the network said: “No, you can’t say that, because of this particular advertiser,” or something.

These are all examples of adapting content and experience. The couple of words that we keep using over and over again are ‘context’ and ‘empathy.’ That’s really what you should design your adaptive content experience around. That’s what the whole strategy focuses on.

Chris Garrett: Yeah. It’s planning your content for your ideal target customer, not trying to please everybody in the world, not trying to look good to the entire planet. It’s a difficult thing, because there’s a sacrifice there. It’s sacrificing people who would never buy from you, though. You need to have the right message at the right time for the right people, but you need hone in on who the right people are.

It takes some planning. You have to gather your assets, and you have to work out your channels, and then you have to, as Tony says, construct a framework.

Tony Clark: That’s what we’ve been talking about in this entire series. It really is important when you’re adapting content for the audience. You need to plan your priority areas, because you have your attraction — what type of content is for getting people here — the retention content that allows them to stay there, and then your landing pages to convert. Then you need to look at your sales funnels and the customer onboarding: what happens after? This all should utilize adaptive content.

Chris Garrett: Yeah. It’s one experience. It has to be consistent and congruent. In the attraction, you’re going to be talking about the problems you solve, who it solves it for. You’re going to be using case studies and proof. It all has to be relevant to that target audience that you’re trying to attract. The retention content will follow those themes, and it will remind people. It will get people deeper. It will give people cliffhangers that speak to the next stage, the next step.

Those content landing pages and conversion landing pages — content landing pages should be like the Wikipedia for your niche, but the conversion landing pages should be about saying that there’s an option here to get even more value, even more depth, more information, a better solution that gets you into the sales funnel. It’s all consistent. There’s the sense of that mission that they’re on, that goal at the end, the light at the end of the tunnel.

It doesn’t end when they transact, because what you want is a happy customer who’s successful, who is then going to tell all their friends how awesome you are.

Tony Clark: Exactly. Our smart, savvy listeners are probably guessing that’s the reason we put this at the end of the ARC Reactor series, because really, this is what we’ve been talking about this entire time: adapting the content for the right time. Whether it be attraction or using your social strategies, you’re using different types of attraction and advertising, SEO and organic. Then you have your retention. Really solid content draws people into your funnel and then conversion and then post-conversion is the customer onboarding.

You see how, if you have adaptive content, and you create this from a series of assets — here’s an example. You have a long-form article that goes into a lot of detail. That can be broken up into small pieces that can now be shared on social media, but also, you can set it up so that people come from different articles on the site that you’ve driven them to from social media to this page to better help them understand what they’re doing in your world. Then, as you take that same content, you use that to craft your landing page that you’re driving them to, so there’s congruence throughout. Then that goes into your onboarding.

The whole idea is you automate this so that when people go through each of these steps, they feel like the content has really been crafted just for them.

Chris Garrett: Exactly.

It could be as simple as not promoting your opt-in to people who are already on your list, all the way through to knowing what they’ve purchased and knowing where they came from and what their history with you is and suggesting the ideal next step. It could be as broad or as detailed as you need to be, but it’s about starting small, incrementally improving, testing and measuring, and then adding to this over time.

I think that’s a good place for us to go deep into exactly how to approach this.

Tony Clark: Exactly, I was just going to say, now let’s talk about this framework.

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Where to Start, and What You Need to Pull Together

Chris Garrett: Tony, where would you start? If you’re starting from zero, and you’ve got some content, but you haven’t fitted it into this framework, what is the first place that you should look at?

Tony Clark: The first place you need to look at is what you currently know about your customers. You can do that just from basic things: the types of material that’s shared, the types of comments you get, or just doing some basic Google Analytics tracking on page time and referrers. This gives you a very brief, very basic snapshot to start from. Because what you’re trying to do is to understand what your customer or prospect is doing at this point and how to get them to take action to move to the next point. You utilize these types of information.

There’s two things you need to do to start. One, start gathering together your assets and looking at how you can adapt those assets for the right time. For example, a podcast or audio content is great for listening when somebody’s commuting, but you can now take that and have the transcripts turned into an ebook, for example, or into a series of small articles. Look at your older articles you have and how they can be updated, broken up, adapted into different things. That’s the first thing: gather up your assets.

The second thing is to start inferring what different customers know and need to know to move onto the next step. Then you can start to put those together to build that basic entry framework into how I can get my customer to take action utilizing these assets that I have to move them further into the funnel.

Chris Garrett: Yeah. Getting a customer or a prospect to take action is simply putting a call to action in front of them. It’s an opportunity to take action. If they do take that action, then you’ve learned something valuable and hopefully delivered value to them. If they don’t take action, you’ve also learned something valuable.

Tony Clark: Exactly. We’ve talked about this before, how on MythBusters, they joke a lot of times they learn more from the things that fail than the things that actually work. You learn to better build. It’s the same thing when you’re talking about your audience. The types of content that get people to take action, you can track, and you can see, and you can understand what people are doing and when they’re doing it.

On the other side, you have content, and you have emails, and you have general lists of people that aren’t taking the necessary action to move them through the funnel. You can start to understand why that’s happening by watching it, or you may just start adapting the content.

Remember, this framework is a framework for a reason. It’s not a set-in-stone, “This is how everything has to be.” Because you have to be agile. You have to be able to iterate though content to better understand what it is that’s going to get people to take the next action.

Chris Garrett: Yeah. A good example of that is when we talked about having email sequences, autoresponder sequences, based on their inactivity.

A lot of people think about having a sequence based on the action that they did take, but what about all the people who have sat there on the list, they haven’t taken the action, they’ve not opted in to the next thing, they’ve not purchased, they’ve not registered for the webinar, they’ve not attended your Q&A, and they’ve not emailed you a question? What about the people who haven’t taken an action? You don’t want to leave them languishing and ignore them. That could be 95 percent of your audience. You have a nurturing sequence that tries to encourage them to take an action.

Then, if they still don’t take an action, maybe it’s because they don’t like video or audio. Maybe they’re not readers, and they do like audio or video. Maybe they like the live experience, and you need to encourage them onto webinars, but you’re doing it at the wrong time. You’re doing at 10:00 Eastern, when really they need it to be at 8:00 pm.

You can learn a lot from that. Also, through their actual triggers, through their actual actions, you can tailor it to that individual. That’s where adaptive content gets really powerful, right?

Tony Clark: Exactly. Because you want to segment based on what actions people are taking or their lack of action. One of the things you can do as well, is you can start moving a group further into the funnel, and then that group that has not taken action, they just may not be the right customer for you, or the right prospect for you. They can unsubscribe, or they can stay on the list and get the free content. Maybe they’re just free content people. They just like what you’re producing there, but they have no intention of moving further.

By segmenting those out, you’re able to provide a richer experience for those people who do take action, so that you can further nurture them into the funnel to allow them to take the kind of actions you want.

Chris Garrett: Exactly. It could be just not the right time for them. You don’t want to ditch them. There are so many gurus that actually recommend ‘cleaning’ their list. We’ve had people who have joined lists and then purchased three years later. The time was right, but not on our time frame, but on their schedule.

Don’t abandon people. But you do want to focus on the action-takers right now, and you need to give them what they need. It’s kind of a ‘no prospect left behind’ thing, but you don’t want the people who are ready to take action to have their time frame set by the people not taking action. That’s why one-size-fits-all content is really going to hold you back, and it doesn’t allow you to scale. You do need to tailor these segments, and to individuals, if you can.

Tony Clark: That’s true. Another way to think about is if you have a lot of detailed content, you don’t want to overwhelm somebody who’s at the early phase of your funnel. They may not be ready for that content. Or, if you want to think about it selfishly, here’s somebody who’s not taking any action, so why do you want to give away all your juicy content?

You need to think about, the further down the funnel people go, the wider, the better, your content gets. The content gets bigger as your funnel gets smaller. It’s a way to provide more rich and more informative content for people who have continued to take action and move through. That’s what this framework is all about.

Basically, think of two funnels facing the opposite side. One funnel with the spout up is your content, and the funnel with the spout down is your actual sales funnel. As your people move down into the sales funnel, the amount of content and information and the more rich experience you provide them gets wider.

There’s two reasons for that. One, you don’t want to waste your best content on somebody who’s really not interested and is not your customer. If you also look at it from the customer’s point of view, if they’re not ready for that level of detail, that level of rich content, it may overwhelm them, and they may never move forward.

It becomes more detailed as you go. As you also do that, you gain more details about the customer. That’s why we’re really big on the whole membership model as an opt-in approach.

Chris Garrett: Exactly. We learn so much more about the individual’s wants and needs, but also, they’re more willing to give that information, because they’re more invested in the process. The more invested they are in the process, the more consumption and action and results will happen for them.

We often talk about the problem with free information is that the level of trust is low. I’ve seen it with my premium products. If I’ve given something as a gift, if I’ve taken pity on them, and I’ve let them into one of my programs for free, they don’t take action on it. Sometimes, I’ve been shocked how they will resent it.

Somebody who invests their own money or actually invests time or takes a lot of steps, jumps through some hoops to get the information, they’re more invested. They actually take action, and then they get the results.

You don’t want to overwhelm people for free at the start of the process. After they’ve got to know you a bit, after they’ve taken some action, you can start layering on the detail. As Tony says, at the same time, you’re learning so much about them.

If you do use the membership model — and some of the tools we’re building for Rainmaker will allow you to do this in an automated way — you can gather that information through inference, through inferring, and also through their actions, and also through them filling out information.

For example, view their postal address, or their business industry. That’s useful information to know that they’ll have to type in. What they’re interested in, and the things that they take action on, you can infer.

Tony Clark: That’s true. Also, when somebody makes that level of commitment, it allows you to understand that this is a prospect who has moved farther into the process and is interested in purchasing. Also, of course, this applies to people who have made the purchase. Your actual customers who have bought from you, and then your repeat customers, you can provide other information based on what it is that you’re providing, the types of products and services you have.

You think about this as, you’re developing the relationship. As you’re developing the relationship, the amount of information that you have available to them, and the types of content experience you have for them, grows and becomes more rich.

Just as Chris said, we’ve seen this over and over again, and you’ll hear about this in articles about free products. When somebody gets something for free, or when they beg to get into something after the fact, you’re going to find that they’re less committed. You’re going to have higher refund rates. You’re going to have people that are not as involved, not as active in the process.

If you can try to attract the right audience, and then you use the content to flow them through, by the time they get to the sign-up point or the purchase point, they feel confident that they made the right choice. They are now part of that community.

That’s what using adaptive content as your sales tool, versus marketing automation — it was really designed to turn over to a sales team — is why this works best for content creators and small businesses that can adapt everything to develop a community.

Chris Garrett: That’s right.

We get to the last piece of this framework, which is the observation and optimization piece. What do we do when we get to this place where we’ve built some nurturing sequences, both for the people who take action and don’t take action? We’ve been adding some detail. What do we do then? Where do we go?

How to Utilize the Assets You Have, in the Beginning and over Time

Tony Clark: This is where it’s really important to track and measure what people are doing. This is where the actions that you’re taking apply to the actions they’re taking. This is where the adaptive part of the content comes in.

You’re measuring content, and you’re changing the content — or providing more, providing less, providing different branching choices — based on actions people are taking. Measurement is very important.

You also optimize that experience. As somebody gets more familiar with your offering and moves further into the funnel, you’re optimizing that content for them. They now understand. You don’t have to keep explaining over and over again. Imagine if you watched a show, and you had to — over and over again — see the pilot introduction of the characters every single time. It would be very annoying. Even in a pilot, it’s annoying.

You want to optimize the content for your prospect, or your customer, as they move through it to better cater to what they’re using. It also allows you to focus that content better, to move them in a direction you want, either to a purchase or further into the funnel, more engagement with your community.

This is where that final piece is very important, because this is really a cycle. It’s all an iteration. You set up all your content in the first steps we talked about in this framework, but you have to measure so that you know how to really adapt that content. That’s the adaptive part of this.

Chris Garrett: Yeah. It’s adapting to the audience, but also being agile about what the best opportunities for your long-term business goals are and really focusing on where we can get the best bang for the buck. You’re going to have so many opportunities, but there’s going to be an audience you can most reach, most easily help, get the best results with. They’re going to be the people that you’ll want to focus on.

We talked previously in an episode about segmentation. Who are your 20 percent customers who are going to give you 80 percent of your business? Who are going to be the lowest support burden, but also the ones that are most pleasurable to work with and who you can get the best results for? How does that fit into your long-term business goals?

There’s so much emphasis on that quick win, that short term sale, the pressure selling techniques, hypnotic sales language. Very few people focus on what happens after the sale and the long-term business and how you can actually build a business, rather than just sell a one-time product.

Tony Clark: Absolutely.

Really, to sum up the entire framework, the basic concept of the framework is first, you need to plan your priority areas. What is it that you’re doing with each piece of content? Is it for attraction, retention, conversion? Is it moving them further into the sales funnel? Or is it more of an introductory thing?

After purchase, it’s customer onboarding or membership onboarding and how to move them into the funnel. What priority are you setting for each piece of content?

The second thing is, you need start inferring from the types of actions, or inactions, that your customers or prospects are taking so that you know how to adapt that content for their right time. Also, look for opportunities where you can change content and adapt content to better further your goals and your customer goals.

Finally, you need to build on this information as you learn, to better understand where they are and use the concept of the two reverse funnels. One is you’re coming into the funnel, and you’re giving less content at the beginning so that you don’t overwhelm. You measure all of this through. You track, see what they’re doing, see how they’re doing, continue to optimize the content, and continue to adapt it to better fit the customer for the right time.

That wraps up this ARC Reactor series and our Adaptive Content series. Coming up next, we’re going to do a short series on measuring and optimizing through your entire process.