How to Mix Premium and Supporting Content (and Why it Better Be Good)

it’s time to get serious — kind of.

In our series on the content marketing process, we’ve already written about the first two steps:

1. Define, plan, budget
2. Website elements

Both are vital for success, but Step 3 is content creation, and this is where your money will be made or lost, but it also can be fun. Just make sure you do it well. Here’s why:

If you don’t have the will or the ability to create quality content in house, either don’t bother trying or find an agency to do the work for you.

Let’s assume that you decide to go ahead with content creation. It’s vital to understand that it’s best to think of content in two categories: premium content and supporting content. Premium content is material that requires registration (usually name and email address) in exchange for access. Supporting content does not require registration.

There has been some debate about premium and supporting content. The principal argument for keeping content free (not requiring registration) is more people will consume and spread your content. David Meerman Scott did research indicating a 50:1 ratio in downloads in free vs. premium content — e.g. a behind-a-form offer that got 1,000 downloads would get 50,000 downloads if not behind a form. The argument for premium content is you need leads. There is no way to track, qualify or nurture leads if you don’t have at least a name and an email address.

We choose to take both sides. That is, you should do both, and mix premium and supporting content. You need premium content to acquire leads, and you need supporting content to increase your audience and for lead nurturing. There isn’t one perfect mix — the mix is something to experiment with — but generally speaking, it’s a good idea to have more supporting content than premium content. Here are five reasons why:

1. It takes just one piece of premium content to acquire a lead, but it takes multiple pieces of supporting content to properly nurture a lead and earn a sales discussion. (By the way, if you want to drive someone away, have a sales person call them right after they first download a piece of your premium content. Works almost every time!)

2. Many supporting content pieces don’t require as many resources to produce. You take the time to research and create a large premium content piece, and then can modify, rework and add to the material to create a variety of supporting pieces.

3. A series of blog posts, an example of supporting content, can serve to promote your premium content. After you write a premium content piece, it’s a good idea to write 3-5 blog posts that link to the landing page.

4. Producing quality supporting content will help your premium content get more downloads. A registration form is a barrier to entry, but if people love supporting content you’ve written, they will be more likely to fill out a form.

5. Supporting content is more shareable on social. People generally don’t link to landing pages on social; social shares of your supporting content expand your reach.

In the graphic above, you can see examples of content types that are most often used as premium content and supporting content. Any content type, however, can be either premium content or supporting content. That said, we don’t recommend putting your blog posts and infographics behind a registration page, since people aren’t used to having to register to view them and because both benefit heavily from social shares.

In closing, while it’s important to create quality content, you won’t be perfect from the start, and there is a lot of experimentation. At the very least, you should create a quality content piece and have a regularly updated blog, but also consider creating an infographic, writing an article or holding a webinar. See what works and what doesn’t, then learn, adjust and try again.

Of course, creating content isn’t the end of the process. Our next post on the process will be on tactics to promote your content, including things like email marketing, news releases and social media. Then we will conclude with measurement, which will help you make adjustments, so that your content marketing will get better and better over time.

Post written by HRmarketer / SocialEars HR team member Eric Anderson.

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