The phones rings, and without looking at caller ID, you pick up. Instead of hearing your mom’s voice, you’re connected with a salesman. That’s usually your cue to end the conversation. But wait! Can you answer just this one question, please? To be polite, you do. Twenty minutes later you’re still trying to find a way to get off that unexpected sales call.
Sales pitches are annoying and disruptive, but it’s hard to blame the salesmen or their companies. They’re just trying tell you about a great product that they really believe will help you. They’re also trying to keep their organization afloat.
As an online community, you have to do much the same thing. You have to communicate value and convince people to join, but people don’t want your sales pitch either. In fact, like most consumers, they often don’t want to talk to anyone at all. They want to research and get their information online. You have to find a way to help them do that while still communicating your value and relevancy.
That’s a tall order, especially because according to Marketing General, difficulty in communicating value is the top challenge facing communities today. A top challenge, yes. Insurmountable, no. One of the best ways to communicate value while convincing people to join – and stay – with your online community is with the information that your community publishes online. Collectively, that information is known as content.
Your community can create quality content, give that helpful information away for free, and use it to explain the value of membership in your community. Free content is a proven method for explaining value that will resonate with your members. Research from Content+ even found that 70% of people prefer getting to know an organization through content, and 60% of people feel more positive about an organization after reading custom content on its site.
To take advantage of people’s attraction to content and create the best, most persuasive content for your association, follow these five easy steps.
5 Steps to Creating Compelling, Convincing Content for Your Association
Step 1) Include Relevant, Helpful Information
The best way for your content to showcase your community’s value and give people a reason to join is for the content itself to be valuable.
Valuable content is relevant to readers and helps them solve a problem or learn something important to their lives or jobs. One example is content that explains recent legislation that’s impacting your industry. What do the industry’s workers, and your community members, need to know about that legislation? Use a blog post or webinar to tell them.
Consistently create content around topics that your community members and potential members are interested in. If you need more information on what those topics are, collect activity data from your online community. Pages that your members view, blogs that your prospects read, and offers that they download are all insight into the subjects members are interested in.
Step 2) Differentiate
Even if you’re not directly competing with other online communities, you still need a differentiator. Why? Because you’re still competing for members’ eyeballs and attention.
a. Why is your content and your association different?
b. How can you help prospects and members in a way no one else can?
Having a solid differentiator means making your content different from everything else available. It needs to stand out.
Some easy ways to differentiate your community and its content are by showcasing expert advice in interviews, or predicting future member needs and creating content around them in advance. Don’t be afraid show off your community’s personality and the member experience as part of your differentiator, either. You’re building a relationship with prospects and members, so content with more personality often makes them feel more connected to you.
Step 3) Encourage Immediate Action
Your content’s ultimate goal is to convince people to perform an action – namely join your community or renew their membership. Since you want people to perform an action, your content also has to have an immediate action attached to it.
To attach an action to your content, give people something they can do immediately during or after consuming your content. Possibilities include reading another blog post, taking a survey, or signing up for your newsletter or community.
Include a call-to-action, or several, in your content. Your calls-to-action should be visible and clearly explain what action you want members to take. Having that immediate action available to members keeps people engaged with your community, and will ideally lead them closer to membership.
Step 4) Use the Right Structure
Most internet users don’t read content. According to comScore and Nielsen Normal Group, 79% skim articles, and they skim or read most of their content on mobile devices, not desktops. Your content needs to have the correct structure for both mobile users and those that skim.
Mobile-friendly content is typically in a single-column format, with responsive design that changes the size and orientation of your content depending on the reader’s device. Mobile-friendly content that makes it easy for readers to skim also includes bold headlines, subheads, bullet points, and short paragraphs.
Use these elements to format your content so that it’s easy for people to access and consume. It would be a shame to lose prospective members just because they were tired of long paragraphs and zooming in to read small text on their smartphones.
Step 5) Distribute Content Effectively
Your relevant, helpful, beautifully structured content doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t distribute it effectively. Start with your website, and also include key pieces of content in the prospect section of your online community as well. Other content distribution channels include:
- Social networks
- Your email lists
- Digital ads
- Promoted content
- Partners’ online properties
Everywhere you post content should also have teasers that reference the benefits of membership in your online community. Some effective teasers might be giving prospects only parts of articles, or the first few articles in a longer series. Make sure prospects know that if they want access to your complete content library, they need to become a member. The desire to access all your content, as well as your other member benefits, will compel prospects to join your association.
Bonus Tip: When you own your content distribution platforms, such as your website and online community, you can use them to gather extra information on your members. Track member and prospect behavioral activity and the types of content they engage with most. Identify trends in what members are interested in, and provide more content around similar topics in the future.
Creating Compelling Content Takeaway
Content with relevant, helpful information is an effective way to communicate your community’s value, and can be used to convince people to join and renew their membership.
Create content that’s easy to consume, and is effectively distributed in order to read the most potential members. The more compelling content that your prospects consume, the more likely it is that they will understand your community’s expertise and value, giving them the motivation they need to join.