Is your content creation falling flat? Maybe you’re trying to close the sale at every stage, when instead you should be “selling the next step.” Konrad Sanders, the creative copywriter, is here to share his 13 Lenses approach to help optimize your words and sharpen your focus.
Rich: My guest today runs a charming team of strategic word slingers, known as The Creative Copywriter. They’re a fast-growing content strategy and copywriting agency that blend art with science to help bold brands sell more stuff. Brands like Adidas, Hyundai, TikTok, Thompson Reuters, Panasonic, aecom, Mercedes-Benz, and plenty of tech startups and scale-ups.
His mission; to break the boundaries of corporate dullness and help companies pierce through the noise with real talk word science and calculated creativity. Also, obviously, not afraid of a little alliteration.
Today we’re going to be talking about selling the next step with our marketing guest, Konrad Sanders. Konrad, welcome to the podcast.
Konrad: Thanks for having me, Rich. What a warm intro.
Rich: I appreciate, first of all, charming is just such a great word, right? So not enough marketers describe themselves as charming. And to be quite honest, most of them aren’t as charming as they think they are. So I think that’s great. And you’ve cornered the market on charm, so kudos to you, sir.
Konrad: Well I hope I won’t do that word a disservice now. The pressure’s on, right?
Rich: Exactly. You’ve got to step up to the plate now, as we say in the States. So you had shared with me a blog post that you wrote about the 13 Lenses that we’re going to be talking about in part today.
The 13 Lenses for Creating Content and Copywriting. It starts with you painting a picture of a beautiful sunset on a beach. No mention of the lenses, no mention of copywriting, marketing, or anything related to business. What made you take that approach, or why do you feel that’s a good way to hook your reader?
Konrad: Great question. And I think I will naturally dip into a lens in order to answer that question. Pretty much if you fire any question at me, I’m going to answer with a lens or two. That’s just the way I’m made. I’m going to start with, there’s a lens called the Creative Spark lens. And it’s, as you can probably tell, all about creativity and using techniques that we use.
You mentioned one alliteration, other poetic devices that just, again, can charm your readers a little bit more than the average B2B piece of content. There’s so much stagnation out there, there’s so much content saturation. And especially in the B2B world, it’s like copycats, lookalikes, soundalikes everywhere. And when it comes to creating that perfect piece of content, you want to balance many different ingredients, and that’s really what the 13 Lenses are all about. Which I’m sure we’re going to delve into.
And back to your question, rather than just off serving up the value, there’s a value lens that’s very important. Naturally, making sure it’s detail rich, making sure you are truly providing value to your audience. There are going to be hundreds if not thousands of other blog posts out there that are probably saying similar things to you, right? Unless you have a very unique angle approach or some new data that you’ve gathered yourself, most content, in most industries, there’s a lot of competition out there. And in order to really hook the reader and engage them, storytelling is one way to do that. And that’s the approach that we’ve taken there, and I’ve taken with that blog post, and something that we tried to weave into most of our content at The Creative Copywriter. And also a lot of the content we write for our clients as well.
And I’ll just mention that if your listeners go away and read that blog post, I hope they do, there’s a bit of a lengthier intro there. You can tell a story even in a couple of sentences. You can start a valuable B2B blog post, even just with a quick analogy. So it doesn’t need to be that lengthy, and it’s just a great way to hook the human brain. Because our brains are wired to digest stories. We grew up with storytelling. Our parents read stories to us. That’s how we passed culture down through the generations. So we’re hardwired to be engaged by them, and that’s why storytelling really just works as a way to immerse your reader into the content without them just going straight to kind of skim and scan for the bits that they want.
Rich: All right. And yes, we will, to your point, we will link to that in the show notes. So you can, if you’re listening from home or the car or the gym, you can check out those 13 lenses. Just look to the show notes. Konrad, what’s the concept behind selling the next step? What does that mean?
Konrad: Yeah, I like to say this a lot when talking to new prospects, clients, and anyone really in the marketing industry. I believe that too many companies propose on the first date, right? Or have got this talk that I give sometimes, and I draw the analogy of going into Tinder – not that I’ve had the pleasure of using it myself – but going into Tinder and just saying, “will you marry me” as your first message. In that context, we can all probably understand that the response you’re going to get is going to be an adverse response, probably not the kind of thing that you are hoping to achieve by going into Tinder. And my point there, the analogy I’m drawing, is that the temperature is too hot, right? You’re coming in too strong.
And the same really applies to marketing across most industries. Your target audience, most of them will not be ready to buy yet, and that’s a very important thing to say. That’s why I believe content marketing simply exists in the first place, right? Because on average, only about 3% of your target prospects are in what we call ‘buying mode’, are ready to buy. That means there’s lots of other people out there who are just not ready to buy.
And you can see this from looking at average web stats, the average conversion rate for a website is one to 2%. And even at the top end of, let’s say, e-commerce sites, you might get up to 10%. And even if you had perfect copy, perfect UX, a perfect offer, if there were such a thing, you wouldn’t be converting more than let’s say 15% of people on your website. Because there’s still that 85% who are information gathering, right? They’re not ready to buy, so you can’t convert them. It’s like when you’re just browsing in a shoe shop and there’s no way in hell that salesperson will come over and convert you. You’ll just say, “No, I’m just browsing.” In fact, it makes you leave the shop when they come over.
And the point of selling, the next step is looking at the context of your target audience and the fact that your prospect is out there in the world. We’ll be at one of these five, or in fact, we now say six stages of awareness. And this was a methodology coined by Eugene Schwartz in Breakthrough Advertising, which I believe was from the sixties. So an old book, but it still very much applies to the digital world. And the idea is that your target prospects will be unaware of the problem. So unaware that they’ve even got a problem that your product or service solves. Usually we’re not marketing to those people.
Generally, businesses have built and marketing strategies have built around people who are problem aware and below. But in some cases, you might have a revolutionary new product or service, and your target prospects are wondering around out there not even understanding that there’s a pain point that you solve. So you might need to educate them. And the point is that if they’re unaware, you can’t just go up to them and sell your product or service, right? You need to sell the next step in that journey in those five stages of awareness.
And what you need to do is basically educate them about the problem. That’s the way you should communicate to that prospect at that time, at that step, at that stage of in their customer journey. They might be problem aware, either because you’ve educated them or because they suffer from that problem.
Let’s talk about back pain. I’ve got lower back pain right now, right? That’s a problem I’m aware of. If I am problem aware and I don’t yet know about the solutions, so let’s say in this example, I don’t know. I’m searching online for, ways to solve lower back pain. I’m problem aware. So the way. For you to communicate to me as a brand is to sell the next step in that journey and educate me about the solutions, right?
And that’s where content marketing comes in. Writing an article 12 Ways to Solve your lower back pain Today, for example. And again, you’re selling the next step. You’re not trying to sell your product to me yet because I don’t know what that product is or does. I’m just looking for ways to help and learn about how to solve my, lower back pain.
Next step is solution aware. Solution aware is, again, let’s use me as an example. If I’m going into Google and searching for ‘ergonomic furniture for lower back pain’. You can tell, let’s say you are the brand selling ergonomic furniture. You can tell that I am solution aware because I’m typing the solution into Google. And at that stage, we want to sell the next step.
And really, it’s where we’re getting lower down in the funnel, and here’s where we want to push them towards and highlight the benefits that your product in this case, or service, really that those things that your product or service really offers. And then essentially we’re making them what we call ‘brand aware’.
In Breakthrough Advertising, Eugene Schwartz calls that ‘product aware’. But I think it’s a bit confusing these days, because you might have a service or a product. We prefer to call it ‘brand aware’. When they’re brand aware, essentially what we want to do is, we’re turning the temperature up here so we’re getting more salesy, for want of a better word. At this point we want to essentially make them most aware. So give them everything they need to make that decision. They’re brand aware, they know what that solution is. Ergonomic furniture. Brand A is offering that to me.
What I need to do to make that decision of whether to buy or not, I need all the information, right? Everything, the pros, the cons, and the USPs. Is it the right fit for me? And at that point they’re most aware, and essentially you want to make them an offer they can’t refuse. It might be with a salesperson, it might be a landing page where you’re using conversion copy to really push them over the edge and use a sense of urgency, sense of scarcity, all that kind of sales psychology to sell and get them to get their credit card out and pay, essentially.
So those are the five stages of awareness. We added one because we like to do things like that. And we call it ‘truth aware’, which is beyond that point. And I think it’s a very important part of the customer journey that we need to look at. Which is you’ve already sold them something, right? They’re already a customer, and that’s a great place to make more money. Essentially we want to increase customer lifetime value, maybe upsell, cross-sell, push referrals, turn them into brand advocates. Those people are actually now truth aware. They’ve tried the product or service, they know the most about whether it really works, whether it’s really good. And again, if you’ve got a great service or products, then you want to turn them into brand advocates and utilize that. We call it ‘after funnel stage’, that truth aware stage.
So back to your question, what selling the next step is about being contextual with your messaging and making sure that you are thinking about what stage of awareness they are and communicating in the right way. Not just going over and trying to propose to someone who has never heard of you or doesn’t know what your value proposition is.
Rich: Konrad, it sounds like we obviously need to write content or write copy for each stage that people are at. Because we don’t know where they’re at in the journey. But assuming that they come through say Google, they’re identifying themselves as being one of those six stages, correct. Or probably one of the five stages, the first five stages you mentioned.
Is there a balance that you strive for when you’re creating copy for a company? Like, we’re going to do all five evenly, or we’re going to put more focus on lower funnel or top of funnel, or does it really depend on the business?
Konrad: A great question. I think that naturally in terms of volume of content, you tend to do more at the top of the funnel. Because it’s the kind of place where you’re trying to hook and engage them, and you’re trying to answer those initial questions. And there’s usually probably more questions, it’s much broader. And also top of funnel content, you are usually trying to get people to subscribe to it. You want it to be fresh. It’s going out on social, it’s being promoted on social, so you’re not going to say the same thing over and over again. You’re not going to promote the same article every day, every week, et cetera.
So I think from us as an agency and what we offer to clients when it comes to volume, it tends to be more there, right? In terms of volume, just because you’ve got to keep it fresh for social and those reasons that I’ve mentioned. But it’s very crucial to make sure you have those other pieces. And you’re quite right, sometimes we have some insights and some signals that help us understand where they are in that funnel, in that journey.
For example, as I mentioned, the Google search. Did they mention the solution or the problem, for example, or your brand name? If they mention your brand name, again, we know that they’re brand aware. At other times there are all of those prospects out there that are consuming your content and landing on your website from different places where we don’t know exactly where they are in that journey. And I think the funnel analogy itself is a bit problematic. It’s great to have analogies, right? They help us to digest concepts quite quickly and easily. The reality is, there’s what we call the dark funnel, right? There’s the fact that people aren’t just sliding down this nice funnel to conversion and that’s it. They’re jumping about, they’re forgetting about you, they’re telling co they’re colleagues someone might be solution, to where they tell their colleague who’s problem aware, et cetera.
So yes, you just have to create content for all parts so that they can navigate your content and find the information that they need. But in some cases, we can be a little bit more, let’s say, tailored and strategic in that. Let’s say someone is searching for something specifically, and we know from the Google search that they are problem aware. And so we want to create an article or maybe some gated content that would take them from problem to solution aware. If they’ve taken that bait, they’ve given you their contact name, their contact details,, they’ve taken the bait. And we know that piece of content, that gated content, the idea of it if they’ve read it is has basically sold the next step in the funnel. Then we’ve got a good idea that most of the people who are on that email list are at that stage.
So then we can create an email tdip, for example, that sells the next step that starts to warm them up. And if they’re solution aware, we’re probably going to want to make them brand aware and start introducing more of the salesy stuff, more of that kind of warmer, hotter sort of copy and content that starts to introduce why you as a brand are the right fit for them.
So you can be quite strategic in a sense, whereby if we’ve got gated content, we know where they are, you can start planning these segmented email drips and really planning out what those what those emails are, what that content is to take them to the next level. While at the same time still creating content for every stage of awareness. Like knowing, again, knowing that it’s not in reality, it’s not just a case of people. All your customers are not going to come along, take that bait, and then follow the drip and open every email. They jump around and you just have to cater for a messier journey. Because in reality, that’s how it works.
Rich: Yeah. I love the idea of the email newsletter and the auto-drip campaigns that you might set up. I was also wondering, if you have complete control over a client’s website and content marketing, does it make sense if you look at content that you create for each one of those steps to create content that naturally leads to the next step? Yeah, it’s a lot to ask somebody to read through five different blog posts that ultimately lead you down to the sales page where they convert. They’re probably, as you say, going to step off the merry go round at some point and then hopefully get back on. But do you create that in your copy where there’s the next logical step at the end of the blog post that leads them to the one that’ll take them further down the funnel?
Konrad: Yeah, definitely. And this will fall into what we call our ‘action lens’, which is all about a call to action and conversion. And I would say that you should always do that, yes. While only a small percentage of people are going to click that CTA, download the next thing, open an email and follow that drip or that journey, that funnel. It’s a missed opportunity if you don’t, and that is one thing I do see with a lot of companies that we would go and work with.
They’re creating content and I think they’re just assuming that you just slap this kind of top funnel content up, someone’s going to read it and then pick up the phone and call them. Like we said, most people aren’t ready to buy. If they’re not ready to buy it, they’re probably just going to do one – as we say in London – going to go back into LinkedIn, Instagram, Google, wherever they came from, and they might just forget about you. So I would always have that call to action. I would always offer that next slice of the pie, that next step in the journey. Because yeah, you’re going to convert some of those prospects. And if you’re doing a good job of feeding them the right information at the right time, you know there’s going to be more for them.
I think again, the idea of gated content, you want it to have a high perceived value. Probably higher perceived value than a blog post, for example. You want it to be the kind of thing where they’ve read that blog post, suddenly there’s a popup or a nice call to action where they go, wow, it’s a bit of a no-brainer. They’re going to give me all of this value, and it’s free. All I need to do is give my contact details. That’s really what you want to do, is make it this value exchange where they’re giving you this tiny, little piece of value, which is name and email address. No one really wants to do that, let’s be honest. That’s why you want to really serve them up something that seems, like it’s really going to change their life or give them those answers. They really want to solve that key business problem that they have.
So yeah, back to question. Yes, always think about that CTA, always think about that next step, and make sure it’s there. Not everyone’s going to take that bait, but it’s a missed opportunity if you don’t include it.
Rich: You talked about a few ways that people might get to our website, social media, search. In the brand lens, you mentioned that we need to be consistent with our brand voice regardless of the channel. Yet obviously, certain channels have different vibes, LinkedIn versus Instagram, TikTok versus YouTube. How do we balance those opposing forces where it feels like we have to show up in at least business casual in one place and Bermuda shorts in another?
Konrad: Yeah, you’ve got lots of good questions today, Rich.
Rich: Thanks. I’m on a roll, man.
Konrad: Yeah, you’re on a roll. This is a tricky one. I wish I could give you just like a quick, easy 1, 2, 3 answer. But the reality is, I think it probably comes down to balance again. And this is the reason why I created the 13 Lenses, exactly because of questions like this. Because it’s difficult. When you really get into crank either copy or content that needs to do what it needs to do, which is compel, convince, convert, nurture, et cetera, in a very noisy world, very digital world, and very competitive industries, you have to tick all of these different boxes. And the brand lens is one of those kind of overarching boxes within it.
Like a few kind of things to tick, as you said, consistency being one of them. Consistency in voice, making sure that your brand essence is emanating from every sentence. Making sure that your brand values are also doing the same. But at the same time, context is important. As I mentioned, we have the context lens. And other than stages of awareness, one of the areas within the context lens that you need to think about is the platform and why people are there, and what are the nuances of that platform. And the fact that, yeah, different kind of strategies work in different platforms.
So how do you keep consistency while also, navigating the waters of different platforms? It’s a case of brand tone versus purpose of that post. And you can write something in a slightly different way, and you can write a personal story about yourself. For example, on LinkedIn it works quite well versus an email in a drip to prospective clients. Whereby the tone, the underlying kind of tone is still the same, that core tone of voice, while the approach and the formatting and the purpose might be different. For us it’s just about looking at both.
And one thing that we do as an agency is we create brand voice guidelines. And you start at the top level when it comes to branding, we do brand DNA. So brand strategy and then brand voice guidelines is one of the kind of outputs of that. Branding always starts quite abstract, and it’s what are our four main values? This and that. These core words and then you need to go away from that kind of more top-level abstract stuff and work towards more concrete tangibles for branding to be, in my opinion, useful rather than just let’s pat ourselves on the back and go, “that sounds cool, that sounds like us.” What does that actually mean?
And for us, we create brand voice guidelines where we take our clients on that journey. Like these are the core values. This is a brand narrative. You know the story about the brand and how you fit into the market and what your unique value proposition is, et cetera, but wrapped up in this nice narrative. And then we go down into right brand voice, words and phrases that we should be using, and not using of a tone of voice access. So from, professional to casual, where are we on that sort of access?
And then we go to pretty much usage examples. And that’s when we would delve into what does your brand voice look like on social? And again, it could be it, depending on how much the client wants to pay us, it could be delving in and segmenting even more. So diving into each social platform, how we should be writing, how that voice should be expressed in those platforms. Then emails, for example, then website copy. And again, yeah, the context. Does change and it is different.
And I’m going even tomorrow with our team, I’m doing a LinkedIn training with the team, which you have to keep up to date with that because there’s things that trend and then suddenly three months later, it’s no longer, it’s been overused, it’s become cliched. Even approaches to LinkedIn that were working a year ago suddenly aren’t. So social platforms are an interesting one because yeah, you have to keep up to date with what’s working, what’s not, what’s now cliched, what’s overused. And that’s why we have to constantly internally, we do constant training and evolve our methodologies. But at the same time, the essence of your brand voice will still be there.
And you come back to the abstract like charm, right? You mentioned that word. That’s one of ours, in terms of our brand voice pillars. And I’m hoping you’ll see in our website copy, in our eBooks, through to my personal brand, LinkedIn posts, you should see that essence of that charm being one of them. There should be this almost golden thread that weaves through all of those posts, even though the approach, the formatting, the style, the purpose is quite different. So I hope that kind of answers your question. I wish I had a simple solution, but I don’t think there is one.
Rich: No, but I think you did a good job of explaining some of the different forces that you need to consider as you are crafting those different messages. There are a lot more lenses. We didn’t even get to half of them. I think this is actually a great read and people should check the show notes, get the link for that.
But Konrad, if people want to reach out to you, if they want to learn more, follow you, where can we send them?
Konrad: I think LinkedIn is a good place. I’m quite active on LinkedIn, so if you can drop a link to my LinkedIn profile in the show notes, that would be brilliant.
And yeah, also on LinkedIn we’ve got a kind of LinkedIn newsletter called Word Science, which is monthly. So I’m not going to be bombarding you once a month, delving into the art and science of copywriting. Also looking, we’ve got an AI segment as well, because naturally generative AI is something that we are keeping a close eye on and doing a lot of use case testing internally. So we’re sharing the results of that, basically where the strengths and limitations are.
So yeah, LinkedIn and you’ll find that blog post about the 13 Lenses. Naturally, there are lots of other useful blog posts, which hopefully you’ll find are very charming and using all of those 13 Lenses that we’ve been talking about.
Rich: Awesome. Konrad, thank you so much for stopping by today and I really appreciate you sharing all your expertise.
Konrad: Thanks, Rich. Appreciate it.
Konrad Sanders knows how to pack a punch when it comes to checking all the boxes with your marketing copy strategy. Learn more about his 13 Lenses you should be using to sharpen your own copy, and be sure to connect with him on LinkedIn for more words of wisdom!
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 25+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.