We’re marketers.

Our goal is not to entertain or inform the people who read, watch, and listen to our content.

Our goal is to (eventually) make money.

To do that, we need to understand more than just how to write helpful content or good stories.

We need to know how to get people to take action.

The Most Common Mistake in Content Marketing

Despite what you may have heard, content marketing is not—at its core—about “creating and sharing valuable content.”

To be sure, to be effective at marketing, you will create and share content.

But don’t confuse the ends with the means.

Content is a tool, a tactic you use to achieve a goal—not a goal by itself.

A Simple Definition of Content Marketing

If “creating and sharing valuable content” isn’t the core goal of content marketing…

What is?

Here it is as simple as I can put it.

Content marketing is the process of:

  • Building an audience
  • Creating demand for a product or service within that audience

In other words, your job is to create and share content in a way that leads people to take action.

The Steps of Effective Content

For someone to buy from you, they’ll have to travel down a path:

  1. From stranger to subscriber
  2. From subscriber to fan
  3. From fan to customer

Step 1: From Stranger to Subscriber

Let’s say someone stumbles across a blog post you advertise on Facebook.

At that moment, the reader is a complete stranger.

She doesn’t know you, your work, your personality, or your goals.

All she has is the blog post she stumbled on while killing time on Facebook.

When she gets done reading the article, what action do you want to happen?

Opt-in to your email list? Like your Facebook page? Follow you on Twitter?

Whatever action you want someone to take after finding your content for the first time, make it explicit what you want them to do.

This is how you go from being a stranger to a person who has permission to send content to a subscriber over time.

Step 2: From Subscriber to Fan

Your subscribers should see a regular flow of educational content from you.

Share tips, strategies, and common mistakes made by people in a similar situation.

Your goal in this stage is to establish yourself as a true expert in your area.

Send interesting, helpful content on a regular basis and the person reading your content will begin to trust you—simply because he hears from you more often than anyone else.

Step 3: From Fan to Customer

The beauty of good content is that the “selling” part feels completely natural.

When you have something to sell, simply offer it to your subscribers.

They already trust you, so it won’t feel like you’re trying to scam them.

The more trust you’ve built with them over time, the better your sales numbers will be.

It’s no more complicated than that.

The key—however—is to begin building your audience well before you offer anything for sale.

If you try to pitch total strangers on your new infoproduct, you’ll have a much bigger challenge trying to make sales.

Yes, you can make sales to “cold” traffic.

But it’s much easier to make sales to an audience of people who already know, like, and trust you.

How to Turn Traffic into Subscribers

The best marketers are excellent at transforming traffic into action (and sales!) using their content.

Let’s look at how a few of them do it:

Nailing the Audience: Ash Ambirge and The Middle Finger Project

From the screenshot, can you guess who Ash is targeting on her site?


Pretty clear right? She’s targeting women who own a business—or women who want to start a new one.

Getting the audience right is critical.

By narrowing down to women entrepreneurs, Ash can speak just to them—to their unique problems, emotions, and challenges.

Many marketers make the mistake of simply targeting “anyone who might buy my products or services.”

By speaking to everyone, they speak to no one.

At The Middle Finger Project, every single word speaks to the female entrepreneur.

It’s just as true on blog posts as it is on the homepage too:


As Ash’s audience gets to know her, Ash gains the opportunity and credibility to offer workshops and training programs designed just for them.

She’s so in tune with her audience, she doesn’t even call her product page a sales page. She calls it: “Things I Made for You”:


Action items:

  • What group of people are you targeting with your content?
  • What are their common characteristics?
  • What common problems do they face?

Know the Audience’s Pain: Darren Rowse and CopyBlogger

As many new entrepreneurs have learned the hard way, blogging—by itself—is not a business model.

The difference between a blogger and a pro-blogger?


The lack of income is the biggest pain experienced by aspiring professional bloggers.

Darren Rowse knows a thing or two about this pain. He’s experienced the frustration himself. And he’s built a successful business helping others solve it.


Darren is a perfect example of someone who uses his personal story to create a compelling reason for people to subscribe.

Darren’s been there. His story gives him credibility, and he uses it well to grow his subscriber base:

Pro Blogger - Make Money Blogging

Over time, as his audience builds trust in him, he’s able to sell them a variety of eBooks around becoming a professional blogger.

Action items:

  • What’s the No. 1 “pain” your audience struggles with?
  • Is your content designed to help your audience solve that pain?

The Irresistible Power of Transparency: Pat Flynn and Smart Passive Income

I often talk to people who want to make money online, but they don’t take action because they don’t think they’re “an expert.”

As we discussed in our beginner’s guide to infoproducts, you don’t have to be an expert to create content people will love.

All you need is the willingness to be transparent about your journey.

Pat Flynn makes most of his money as an affiliate, but the strategies he uses are equally effective if you want to sell products or services.

For Pat, transparency is key to his ability to build and keep an audience.

As he says front and center on his home page, the value of his work is your opportunity to learn from his experiments (and failures).


If you look closely, Pat is also very good at getting people to engage with his content.

He does this in the simplest way possible: when people engage, he responds to them personally:


It’s earned him a reputation for being approachable, kind, and helpful—and it’s earned him countless email signups as a result.

Action items:

  • Do you have ways for people to respond to you in public?
  • When people engage with your content, do you respond?

Differentiate Yourself: Ryan Stewman and Hardcore Closer

Most sales consultants try to create a professional, corporate appearance. Not Ryan.


Ryan has found a group of people who respond to someone willing to lay it all out there.

The tattoos, the swear words, the brand “Hardcore Closer,” it all works together.

It says: “I’m not here to shmooze you or do the old-fashioned relationship-building stuff. I’m here to show you how to get results.”

Being different isn’t bad. If you’re different than everyone else and obviously confident about the results you provide, it’s massively attractive to people who just stumbled on your site.

As we’ve seen, once you have people in your audience, there is a natural opportunity to create and sell infoproducts to them.


Bonus tip from Hardcore Closer:

If you use a lead magnet to get people onto your email list, give the magnet a dollar value.

Take My Bribe Ryan Stewman

It’s a much more compelling offer that way.

Action Items:

  • Look at your competition. Do all the “experts” look and sound the same to you?
  • How could you differentiate yourself from everyone else in your market?

Use Multiple Channels: Ed Gandia and B2B Launcher

Finally, we’ve been looking mostly at blogs, but that’s not the only way to build an audience.

Podcasts have worked wonders for many entrepreneurs.

Ed Gandia used a podcast to build an audience of freelance business writers.

He started this while he was an active freelance writer himself, giving him tons of credibility with people wanting to follow in his footsteps.


To get podcast listeners to subscribe to his email list, he uses the same strategy many of the bloggers we’ve looked at have used: lead magnets.

Over time he used his knowledge to create infoproducts and coaching programs, which he then sold on his podcast and through his email list.


Action items:

  • What mediums are the people in your audience currently using? (Do they read blogs? Listen to podcasts? Watch YouTube videos?)
  • Wherever they are, could you create content to reach them?

The Payoff

All five of our examples have different audiences, different products, and different problems they seek to solve.

But if you look closely, you’ll see they all follow a similar pattern:

  1. Create content that gets you noticed
  2. Convert traffic into subscriptions (often using a lead magnet)
  3. Build trust through regular, valuable content
  4. Once you have an audience that trusts you, create and sell infoproducts or services to the people in your audience

No matter what you’re selling, the formula is the same.

That’s how you use content to get people to take action, pulling them all the way down the path from complete stranger to happy customer.