From Cold Traffic to Repeat Buyer: How to Use Content to Get Out of the Marketing Friend-Zone

by Josh Barney

Way back when I was in my early teens, I went on a family holiday to the South of France…

…there wasn’t a lot to separate it from all the others. I had sun, sand, good food, sneaky sips of booze (when my mother wasn’t watching) and my annual attempts at perfecting a backflip dive into the hotel pool…

…but the first 13 days aren’t important, it’s my final night and the months that followed I’d like to tell you about.

I remember sitting in the hotel bar with my ‘holiday friends’, when a new family came down for their first night, amongst them was a girl, a couple of years younger than myself.

She introduced herself and after a few minutes, cornered me into an edge of the group.

A couple of my pals went off to play on the pool table, and the others chatted amongst themselves, leaving me trapped in conversation with somebody I thought I’d never speak to again.

She eventually plucked up the courage to ask me for my contact details. Mobile phones were fairly new at the time, so it was an easy lie to say I didn’t have one. Then she asked for my email address, MySpace account (remember that?), home address, home telephone number…

…you name it, she wanted it.

I declined, I was going home the next day after all, but little did I know, that later that night she’d get my home address from my mother.

A few weeks later, the letters started.

They arrived every week like clockwork and were loaded with crazy suggestions. I never responded and 20-30 letters later, she gave up.

Looking back now, it’s easy to see where she went wrong…

…and how relevant it is to content marketing.

The Content Relationship

stock image websites marketing

Every time you create and publish a piece of content, you are engaging in a relationship with your audience.

You are talking, and they are listening, and if you’re lucky, they’ll talk back.

This relationship is fragile, short-lived and rarely goes any further. Let’s try to change that.

We’ll start by going back to our personal relationship analogy.

Imagine you’re on a blind date…

…what’re the best things that person could do in the first ten minutes?

Be overly complimentary? Ignore you and ramble on about themselves? Constantly talk about the same subject over and over again?

These are just a few mistakes that are made in content marketing, but they aren’t the worst…

…what if they proposed in the first ten minutes? Or tried to get too close? Or asked a ton of personal questions?

Movement Must Be Your Aim 

social media posting planner

There’s a time and place for proposals, brand intimacy and personal detail exchange, but not immediately after your first meeting.

Our main content marketing strategy must be movement.

Producing amazing content followed by more amazing content will gain you a loyal and (hopefully) engaged audience, but it won’t do a lot else.

If this is you, don’t panic! You aren’t alone.

Loads of businesses set out to implement the increasingly crucial strategy of content marketing. They create amazing content that’s pretty, shiny and ticks a whole bunch of boxes, but they don’t think about anything else!

And then they’re friend zoned!

We want to move our audience through different stages of content, until our relationship is at the perfect stage to take things further.

But, how can we clarify movement? And what constitutes movement in content marketing?

The Perfect Shape

If you truly want to stop being friend-zoned by your audience, you’re going to need to implement a plan, a funnel shaped plan.

Just in case you don’t know what one looks like, here’s an example:

content funnel

Let’s break this down in terms of content:

  • TOP OF FUNNEL: Raise awareness and reach new audiences
  • MIDDLE OF FUNNEL: Build trust, expertise and positioning. Direct prospects towards purchase and generate leads. 
  • BOTTOM OF FUNNEL: Convert.

In order to create that all important movement and avoid being friend-zoned, we’ll dig a little deeper into each of these stages:

Top of Funnel Content

top of funnel content

This is your first meeting with your audience, and guess what?

Impressions count.

Content must position you as an expert, engage your audience, attract visitors and make people aware of your brand and the problem your product solves.

That’s a lot to cram into one piece of content, right?

That’s why you create more than one and don’t stop creating! If you thought you could record one video, or write one blog, and be done with it, you’re wrong!

Being successful at this stage is like going on a thousand dates and trying to charm every single person you meet.

This means a variety of:

  • Formats: People prefer to consume different types of content. To attract the most amount of people into the top of our funnel, we should produce content in a variety of formats, that means video, audio, written and visual (images/infographics)
  • Topics: Your product/service will have multiple strong points and (should have) numerous applications. Use your content to make your audience aware of the problems these strengths solve.
  • Targets: Can you produce content that will attract certain niches of your target audience? Draw them into your funnel with super-specific content. This doesn’t have to mean loads of work, it can be as simple as a 5-minute video on your mobile video.

The greater your variety, the wider your reach will be.

Middle of Funnel Content

middle of funnel content

The hardest part of the work is done in top of funnel, but there’s no time to take your foot off the gas.

We need movement and this is where we’re going to get it.

There are two awesome strategies that guarantee movement and both of them require the same kind of content as leverage…

…a lead magnet.

BOOKMARK this point, because this is the tool that will transform friend-zoned prospects into life partners…

‘A lead magnet is an irresistible piece of content that gives huge value to your audience in exchange for their contact information.’

In simpler terms, this is your hottest tip, your secret hack, a highly desirable chunk of knowledge that every prospect in your industry wants to know. A lead magnet is so valuable that most other businesses would never give it away for FREE.

This is what’s going to get you a second date (via their contact information).

There are many different ways to use your lead magnet. Two of the most successful techniques are:

  • Around Relevant Content: Create top of funnel content (that does all the important stuff we’ve already spoken about) that’s relevant to one of your lead magnets. If you’ve attracted an audience because they’re interested in a particular topic, they’re likely to want to learn more and give you their email address to get it.
  • Retargeting: Categorise your audience by the content they visited and then show each category a specific lead magnet around that area. This means you’re making relevant offers to relevant people and will massively spike your conversion and lead generation stats.

If you don’t know what retargeting is, check out our guide: Retargeting: The What, Why and How.

By using these tactics and a lead magnet as leverage, you will have achieved something that would be almost impossible on first meeting…

…a growing marketing list and a ton of hot leads to remarket to!

Bottom of Funnel Content

bottom of funnel content

We’re out of the friend-zone!

But, that’s not enough, we want a long-term, ‘til-death-do-us-part kind of relationship! And if we want that, we’re going to have to make our proposal as attractive as possible.

Your lead magnet has successfully grabbed your prospects contact details, so now you’re able to make specific offers to specific leads.

A great way to do this is to tag every lead by their actions (and the lead magnet they took!). We do this in InfusionSoft, but any decent CRM will allow you to do the same.

You can make the offer by email (by far the most popular), messenger chat, telephone, subscription access or retargeting (again).

The offer you’re making is specific, this means your content marketing funnel has already given you the upper hand, but its powerful effects aren’t finished yet.

If you really want to increase conversion rates create a tripwire offer to ease the transition of leads to customers.

‘A tripwire is an irresistible offer for an irresistible price.’

It builds trust, reduces risk and improves your relationship even more. A great tripwire is priced below £10 and proves to your leads that the products your business sell are amazing value.

Using a tripwire will greatly improve the likelihood of customers buying again and helps you maximise their value.


blog seo checklist

These strategies will produce movement and ultimately, make your content marketing efforts pay.

We see loads of businesses that are real action-takers. They work hard producing content and increasing their audience size, but despite great traffic and follower stats, they don’t see any real results…

…that’s not what you deserve.

Create a lead magnet, a tripwire offer and always aim for movement and you’ll never be friend-zoned again.

Josh is the Founder of We Imagine Media, an award-winning content marketer, best selling author and creator of the He creates and strategises content, sharing the most successful tactics with his lovely audience. He hates writing in the third person, follow him on the social links so he can get back to writing as himself.

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