Around 10 months before Covid closed the country down, I was hired by a gym and personal training business to do some content strategy work. The owner had been to a content marketing workshop and was keen to start a new blog, but didn't have a clue what to say or how to say it. He wanted my advice and help on how to write blog content that would bring in more sales.
He'd looked at other blogs for inspiration and had jotted down a few ideas…
Why most business owners are crap at choosing what to write about
My client, the gym owner, wanted to put up a “quirky” post about the gym's new mascot (a stray cat), and their recent fundraising efforts for a national charity.
He wanted to differentiate his business from other gyms, and thought the best way to do that was to talk about themselves and their “wacky” sense of humour.
He's not alone in believing him and his business are the epicentre of other people's lives. We like talking about ourselves – that's just human nature.
I pointed out to him (tactfully) that neither his current customers, or potential new ones, cared one iota about his furry friend or his charitable notions.
Not only that. His posts had no SEO value. Why write about stuff that no-one's searching for?
I know what you're thinking…
Ok, clever dick, what should a gym write about then?
I don't run a gym, or offer personal training. But I do know that people fundamentally have no interest in you or your business. They only want to know what you can do to help solve their immediate problem.
To come up with content ideas, you first have to put yourself in the shoes of someone who needs your services. Then, try to understand what is really motivating them in their search.
As a starting point, I told my client to post this message up on the canteen wall to remind staff of the real value of the services they provide:
People don't buy gym memberships or hire personal trainers; they buy better versions of themselves.
Too often, businesses get confused (or are totally clueless) about the emotional triggers that drive people to make purchasing decisions. If you get this right, the content you create will have far more impact.
Starting the content planning process
First, we surveyed a sample of previous customers to understand their “real” reasons for taking out gym membership or taking an exercise class. We wanted to uncover their true motivations, not just superficial or meaningless statements.
One of the survey questions was “What was the overriding reason that motivated you to visit our gym or take a class?”
Here are some of the responses:
- Regain my self-esteem and improve my mental health after years of being overweight.
- Feel my old, youthful self again after raising children.
- Shop for clothes without feeling upset and embarrassed about my size.
- Improve my chances of getting a new job.
- Look in the mirror again without hating myself.
- Be comfortable meeting old friends I haven't seen for years.
- Get healthy after my recent illness which the doctor put down to being overweight.
- Show my friends and family that I can actually achieve something when I set my heart on it.
- Make my kids feel proud of me.
- Go for a jog without having to stop every 50 metres or feel like my heart's about to explode.
- Stop people staring at me when I walk down the street.
- Going on holiday. I want to fit into the aeroplane seat and lie on the beach without feeling like a huge mound of lard.
- So I wouldn't be embarrassed about my body when going on holiday with my mates.
Funnily enough, none of the responses mentioned anything about the product, the brand or the physical effort required.
The real motivational trigger was an emotional one – the determination to become a version of themselves that they were happier and more comfortable with.
So what about writing the actual content?
The customer survey helped uncover the ‘real' reasons why people go to the gym or take up exercise. So we wanted to take this a step further.
We spoke with a number of the survey participants in more depth and used these conversations to produce a number of blog posts focusing in on their ‘real' reasons for buying the product. We made sure each of the user stories had a different emotional trigger, so we could target a wider audience.
We then optimised the blog posts using keywords related to the emotional trigger.
For example, one of the participants said she took up exercise to help with stress and anxiety. So we made sure the meta tags and headings included phrases that someone with similar motivations would search for:
- How exercise can improve mental health.
- Best exercises for anxiety and stress.
- What exercises are best for preventing panic attacks.
- How does exercise affect dopamine levels?
- Can exercise really help with anxiety or depression?
We took a similar approach with all of the posts we published. The aim was to target a diverse range of keywords and search questions to ensure wider visibility in Google's search results.
But don't blog posts need links or something?
If the keywords you're targeting are reasonably competitive, you're going to need some backlinks.
Because getting a link from an established, relevant and trustworthy website back to your blog post sends a signal to Google that your article deserves some attention.
Google likes to promote relevant websites higher up its search results pages, so the more high-quality links you get, the higher you'll rank.
So we did some research and made a list of 20-30 websites whose target audience was the people our posts were aimed at.
With our post “exercise and its effect on stress & anxiety” we chose a number of local charities and health practitioners who were already offering advice to people suffering from stress, anxiety, and other similar conditions.
Once our post was published, we emailed these sites and sent them a link. We asked them to read the post and, if they felt it had something of value to their readers, to add a link from one of their previous posts.
In most cases, we suggested some posts on their site which seemed a natural fit for the link back to our post.
Overall, around 1 in 5 of the sites we approached ended up linking back to our post.
What about converting the web traffic to sales?
Traffic is only a good thing if it converts. Otherwise it's just like having people walk around your shop without buying anything.
A “conversion” comes in many forms though. It could be a newsletter sign-up, a phone call, a contact form enquiry, a livechat question or even a blog comment. The aim should be to make some sort of connection with your prospective customer, so that they ultimately buy or sign-up to whatever it is you're offering.
If you get 1,000 visitors to your website in a week, and 50 of these sign up to receive your newsletter, your conversion rate (for newsletters) is 5% (1 in 20).
With the right sort of targeted email campaign, you should be aiming to convert a number of these ‘soft' sign-ups to paying customers.
To ‘convert' a website visitor, you've got to jolt them out of their default position (which is to do nothing) by taking some sort of positive action. This is a lot harder than you think.
How did we improve conversions for our gym-owning client?
First, we made sure that the offers on the site appealed to the people who were clicking through to the blog posts from Google's search results.
Why was this important?
Why understanding searcher intent is key to conversion optimisation
We knew that someone landing on our blog post about “exercise and its effect on anxiety” was probably suffering from anxiety (or knew someone who was) and wanted to find an exercise-related solution.
So we convinced our client to offer a series of gym classes called “Mindful Exercises for Reducing Anxiety & Building Self-Esteem”. These would be specifically geared at people who were nervous about coming to the gym and wanted to combine calming, meditative techniques with some dopamine-inducing exercises.
The added incentive of packaging the classes in this way was that they appealed to those who wanted to be among like-minded people, not your typical ‘gym bunnies' .
Our client offered a series of similarly targeted classes, based around the content we published. Essentially, they completely changed the messaging around their exercise classes. Previously, they used terms like “30 minute weightlifting class for beginners”, whereas now their promotional language was more focused around the problems it was solving for its target audience, e.g.
- Couch to 20kg. Easy-peasy strength exercises for absolute noobs.
- Small group classes for those who don't know a dumbbell from a kettle bell.
- Leave your shyness at the door, you're among like-minded friends now.
- Feel fantastic about your new self as you start feeling stronger after only a few fun sessions.
What impact did this content have on sales?
Here's a taste of how the new content strategy helped grow the business:
- Average daily website traffic grew from 80 visitors to over 470 per day.
- Email database grew from 450 sign-ups to over 3,500.
- Year-on-year revenue growth of 112%.
But growth like this only happens when you execute a strong, coherent plan rigorously and consistently. It takes time, resources and patience. If you're not fully committed to the process from day one, the chances are you will fail.
Need help with your content strategy?
Whatever business you're in, there will always be an audience for useful, engaging content – the sort of content that solves problems or takes a unique perspective to other stuff that's out there.
The challenge isn't just what to write about, it's how to develop a voice and style that will set you apart from your competitors.
Obviously, you need to have an excellent product or service first. But if you don't communicate your benefits clearly and cleverly, you're going to leave sales on the table.
This is your chance to put distance between you and your competitors by turning you boring, ineffective website into a revenue machine.
Get in touch with me today to chat about growing your sales with the help of cleverly-crafted content.