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Nov 19, 2008
Case Study

How a Consultant Uses Content to Create New Revenue Stream: 4 Tactics

SUMMARY: Providing relevant educational content to prospects can generate leads. But don’t just think of content as one-off pieces of collateral.

A retail consulting firm developed free and paid online content that built on each other to intensify relationships with website visitors. By moving prospects down a path from free articles to enewsletter subscriptions to online training, the firm has boosted revenues and enlarged its prospect database.
CHALLENGE

Debra Ellis, Founder, Wilson & Ellis Consulting, wanted to grow her consultancy, which helps retailers with their multi-channel marketing. But she didn’t want to spend any more time on the road speaking at events or chatting up potential clients on the phone.

Instead, she looked to her company’s website and email newsletter as channels to attract prospects and develop a new revenue stream for her company. Her team had already seen some success with educational content, such as free articles and practical tips. She asked herself what other types of content she could offer that would benefit multichannel retailers and build relationships between prospects and her company.

“Once I started that process, I realized that hiring a consultant wasn’t my first choice,” says Ellis. “Companies are best served when they do things themselves, so I asked myself how to help people who don’t know where to start.”

Here are the four marketing tactics Ellis and her team used after assessing their clients’ biggest challenges and most common questions.

CAMPAIGN

From the analysis of their clients, Ellis and her team developed a strategy based on educational content. It combined free articles and newsletters for prospects with paid ebooks and online workshops – the new revenue stream.

Their goal was to create a natural path for visitors to become engaged with the firm. That path led from free content to adding members to their email database to buyers of ebooks and workshops to possible consulting clients.

Four marketing tactics

Tactic #1. Promote free articles that walk visitors through a learning process

To begin a relationship with visitors, Ellis began highlighting a series of free online educational articles.

Ellis had a database of more than 100 articles written for their website and guest columns in trade publications. The team examined Web analytics data to find the 10 most popular articles based on:
o Number of clicks
o Length of time spent on the article

Top topics covered broader industry trends, as well as tactical issues, such as:
o “Five Trends Reshaping Multichannel Marketing”
o “How to Dominate the Internet Marketplace”
o “How to Improve Inventory Management”
o “Is Fear of Benchmarking Costing You Money?”

They organized that content under a “Free Articles” tab on the company homepage. An introductory note on the page told visitors that the articles could be read in any order, depending on their own interests.

For each article, Ellis and her team identified a related topic that would mark a logical progression for visitors’ education. Then they added links to related articles at the bottom of each page, making them prominent with bold text that said, “Next step.”

For example:
o “Multichannel Marketing 101” linked to “Six Trends that Change the Way We Do Business.”
o “How Well Do You REALLY Know Your Customers” linked to “How Much Money Do You Waste Marketing to Hit-and-Run Customers?”

“For me, the trick was providing people direction – ‘This is what you do next,’” says Ellis.

Ellis monitored website activity to assess whether visitors followed directions. If visitor trends showed that readers of one article tended to click back to the main page and read another article, she added that article to the “next step” section.

Underneath links for further reading, the team also added links to paid products, such as ebooks and online workshops. They also added a link to subscribe to an email newsletter. (See below for explanation of those products).

Tactic #2. Promote newsletter subscriptions with incentives

Like most consultancies, Ellis had been operating an email newsletter for several years to communicate with clients and prospects. But she was unhappy with subscriber growth. To boost subscriptions, the team changed the way they promoted their email newsletter, Multichannel Magic eTips:

- They redesigned the homepage and moved a link for the email newsletter subscription from the left column to the right column.

- They replaced a graphic of an envelope with a floating “e” above it with a gray button that said, “Subscribe.”

- Ellis wrote a new ebook, “10 Signs Your Company is Sinking,” and offered it as an incentive for new newsletter subscribers.

- The team added text beneath the “subscribe” button that offered five reasons to subscribe to the newsletter, including:
o “You receive actionable information to increase your growth and profitability”
o “You get exclusive articles that are not available on our website. (Is your competition reading them? We’ll never tell!)”
o “All tips are tested and proven to work in real companies.”

- They included a link to subscribe to the email newsletter as a “next step” in most free articles.

Tactic #3. Offer premium ebooks that expand on free articles

Ellis created ebooks as an interim step between free content and consulting services. Topics for the ebooks included:
o The New Rules of Multichannel Marketing
o Analytics Made Simple: How to Measure, Rate, & Improve
Customer Acquisition & Retention

Ebook prices ranged from $99-$149. Customers could add a review session with Ellis’ team for $349-$399.

They promoted the ebooks on the homepage and as “next steps” in appropriate free newsletters. Links to ebook purchasing pages were also included in email newsletters.

Tactic #4. Create in-depth, online workshops for advanced training

The final step in the content marketing process was the creation of online workshops to train retail marketers and their operations teams on key tactics. The first workshop, for instance, offered an intensive course in multichannel analytics. It allowed customers to use their own teams and in-house data to create a benchmarking program.

Customers could enroll either their marketing or operations teams for $799. Or, they could enroll both their marketing and operations departments for $1,199.

Attendees received workbooks and datasheets to collect and monitor important customer data over a 10-14 week period. During that time, attendees communicated with Ellis’ team by email to ask questions or to ask for help in implementing their own benchmarking program.

The team promoted workshops on the homepage, in the email newsletter, and as a next step in relevant free articles.


RESULTS


Ellis’ strategy is filling out the firm’s email database and generating new revenues at the same time – both key components of the campaign. Since making the changes, Ellis has seen:
o 138% boost in Web traffic
o 79% more newsletter subscriptions
o 42% lift in overall revenue

“I was amazed,” says Ellis. “It was way beyond my expectations.”

By tracking website activity, Ellis also has noticed an escalating engagement from visitors. Typically, a first-time website visitor will read a few free articles. Then they’ll return later to read more. By a third visit, most visitors subscribe to the email newsletter.

Adding incentives for an email subscription also has helped:
- Subscriptions jumped 22% the week after the team added the free ebook offer.
- Subscriptions grew 7% after adding five reasons to subscribe to the newsletter.

The revenue growth has come from sales of ebooks and workshops. The first two sessions of the “Analytics Made Simple” workshop, for instance, sold out.

At the same time, Ellis has been able to cut back on the in-person events and telemarketing she used to do to promote their consulting services. And offering free articles and in-depth training on some of her company’s key tactics isn’t cannibalizing consulting revenue, which has held steady.

Indeed, she is creating a new pool of clients who may need more consulting help down the road. “I already see that with the workshops,” says Ellis. “I have clients who say we are now at this point [with benchmarking], but we want to move to the next level.”

Useful links related to this article

Creative Samples from Wilson & Ellis Consulting’s Content Marketing Strategy:
http://www.marketingsherpa.com/cs/wilson_ellis/study.ht
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Wilson & Ellis Consulting
http://www.wilsonellisconsulting.com

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