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What are the Critical Elements of Strategic Content?

As marketing and conversion optimization expert Oli Gardner likes to say, “Never start a marketing campaign without a dedicated landing page.” Your website is not the best place to send campaign-specific traffic. When you want users to do one thing, there can be too much distraction on a homepage to get that sort of targeted action.

Think about each piece of content you create in the same way: Never start a story without a targeted focus. What purpose does it serve? How is it furthering your mission or further illustrating it? Which business outcome might it support? What are you hoping readers will do after reading it?

The good news is that you can often create a dedicated landing page or a strategic piece of content by working with relevant content that already exists. It might be as simple as writing a new headline, adding a relevant picture, and including a call to action.

Here are the five elements you need:

1. Clear Purpose

If people can’t determine the purpose of your story/page from the main headline and subhead, you’re doing something wrong. If you have words you’re using in your advertising, build some of those in.

Stay focused. If it’s not relevant, remove it — even if it’s valuable information. Save it for another story where it can make more of an impact.

The other five-second rule: If someone looked at your story/page, could they tell what it pertains to in five seconds? Headline and relevant hero image are key.

2. Hero Image

Make sure your imagery is eye-catching, specific, and authentic to your story/page. Use images to provide context. Try to avoid stock images and irrelevant images I.e. Even if you have a great shot of a student with their family or a student on a trip, if the story doesn’t focus on either of those things then it doesn’t work.

3. User-Driven Perspective

Take a step outside the administrator/marketer’s box and think about things from the user’s perspective. What problem are you solving for your prospective students? What opportunity are you telling them about?

4. Social Proof

Don’t tell your prospective students how great you are — let your other people do that for you, particularly current students and alumni. Social proof builds trust and helps persuade others. Statistics and percentages can make an impact, and using your students’ own words can help to make a real and authentic connection. This might be a testimonial or quote from one of your alumni or current students.

Your social proof needs to be real and legitimate or else it will work against you. Make sure it’s relatable and realistic — even if it’s a quote from a student or alum.

5. Call to Action

What do you want your reader to do next? If you have a specific call to action, make sure your button design and button copy are clear and user-friendly. Use contrasting color for the design so that people know where to click.

CTA buttons should always complete the sentence “I want to…” Hint: Almost no one wants to submit a form. Why are they submitting the form? They want to… Stay Updated. Get More Information. Learn More. Get the Inside Scoop. Find Out About Upcoming Events.

Even if you don’t have a campaign-specific CTA, think about your general goals and how your content might support those. It could be a good opportunity to encourage people to sign up for your newsletter or like your Facebook page or even just read more of your stories.

This entry was based on takeaways from “Get People To Swipe Right On Your Landing Page” a workshop presented by Sean Powell and Megan Jennings at the 2017 Call to Action Conference in Vancouver.

Have questions about this post? Get in touch with Colleen Donnelly at cbm@wharton.upenn.edu.
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