July 13, 2015 | Sarah Danks

Angie Schottmuller on Writing to Win

This year at the 2015 MnSearch Summit we once again had a stellar lineup of speakers. Last to arrive — but certainly not least — was Angie, a marketing optimization advisor from right here in the Twin Cities of Minnesota.

Angie’s entire presentation circled around the Jurassic World movie (like a pack of ravenous raptors), and she drove home a great point that all of us should be focusing on: taking a content-first approach to marketing.

Design vs Content

Customer context dictates content. And, as Unbounce’s Oli Gardner has taught us: copy informs design; not the other way around.

By putting customer context and value-added content first, you can exceed business goals. Here are the steps to achieving a content-first approach:

  • Discover user context
  • Create value
  • Draft content
    • Plan design
    • Optimize

Angie dives into each step to show us how to stay one step ahead of the Tyrannosaurus rex:


Think to yourself: Who’s your audience? What’s the context? What question/problem needs solving? After all, conversion rate is the measure of your ability to persuade visitors to take the action we want them to…

“For you to achieve your goals, visitors must first achieve theirs.”

~ Bryan Eisenberg

… and to do that you have to align the business goals (what we want to accomplish) with user goals (what they want to accomplish). One way to do this is by using customer journey maps.


For each stage along the way, plan resources to answer questions. Keep in mind, don’t SELL — rather, help facilitate good decision making with quality content.

To find the best content for your audience, try performing content interviews.Get to know your audience directly:

  • Interview customer service
  • Run website polls
  • Survey recent customers
  • Start discussions on social media
  • Poll your sales team

Some helpful interview tools Angie recommends: Hotjar, Qualaroo and Stipso. Also, take inventory of what you already have on hand: images, videos, social proof, downloadable resources.

The most important thing to understand — why? i.e., Why DOES (or DOESN’T) your audience click…buy…act…convert?

Research Competitive Threats (SWOT Analysis)


Brainstorm and create “bait” incentives.

Companies with 30+ landing pages offering content generate 7x more leads. What’ve you got to offer? Keep it simple — help users make good decisions.




Get inspired by eBook masters like Hubspot and Unbounce. Think about it: 50%+ conversion is doable with 1- to 2-field forms and high-value, decision-aiding, downloadable “bait.”

Some bait incentives:

  • Coupons
  • Free trials
  • Tools
  • Quizzes
  • Events / Webinars
  • Contests
  • Edutainment
  • Resource Downloads (eBooks, graphics, brochures)

Angie tells us:

“Conversion success is proportionate to the user’s perceived value of effort versus gain.” 

~ Angie Schottmuller

Gated Content — to gate or not?


Driving Facebook ads ($1-2 per click) to gated videos grew free trial conversions by 11%.


The key to both persuasion and efficiency? The right order in content drafting.

  1. Call-to-Action (CTA)
  2. Hero Shot
  3. Key Points
  4. Headline
  5. Boosters

#1: Page purpose = call-to-action (CTA)

Avoid the ever-popular “submit” CTA. If you get confused as to whether or not you should be using “submit,” think of the stance Michael Aagaard takes:

” ‘Submit’ only works well as a CTA if you provide dominatrix services.” 

~ Michael Aagaard

So, what copy should you use for a call-to-action? Well, for starters, use the CTA formula that answers the user’s question. Specifically, the CTA should fill in the blanks:


The days of “Submit” are fading into the past. Capture more leads with stronger CTA copy.

#2: Hero shot

Know that 65% of people are visual learners. Imagery is very powerful; be sure to use a good hero shot. What’s that?

A hero shot, according to Angie, is “a credible photo or video of a solution that encompasses relevance, context, value and emotion to support, eduate, or persuade a customer.”

Need to see it in action? Here’s a product shot vs. a hero shot:



(Angie loves Jeeps so it’s no surprise she chose this as her hero imagery example!)

7 hero shot persuasion factors:

  • Keyword relevance
  • Purpose clarity
  • Design support
  • Authenticity
  • Added value
  • Desired emotion
  • Customer “hero”


Here’s the hero shot scorecard grading:


You probably won’t score “legendary” on every hero shot you add, but it’s imperative to stay out of the “villain” status!

#3: Key Points

What 3 things to you want users to remember?

WIIFM = What’s In It For Me? (THEM … not YOU)


Support claims with authentic evidence.

#4: Headline

How to construct a successful headline — here are some preferences that take them from good to great:


Killer headline = number + trigger word + adjective + keyword + promise

Some psychological trigger words:

  • Free
  • Don’t Miss
  • Secret
  • Sexy
  • Effortless
  • Time-saving
  • Controversial

Clarity trumps cleverness when it comes to conversions.

Helpful tip: use customer “content” for your marketing content:

  • user-generated photos
  • star-ratings
  • reviews/testimonials

#5: Boosters

Social proof, urgency, confidence, cues, supporting info

angie-mnsearch-draft content


Layout + appearance

So, who’s really on first? Users, value, content, forms, mobile?

Content hierarchy list items: logo, office hours, CTA, headline, hero shot, confidence/urgency boost, form, social proof, and supporting info.


For help with your content’s structure and layout, check out this landing page content worksheet. Content hierarchy specifications dictate required page “layout” placeholders.

Here’s the basic web page “template” anatomy: Layout (html structure) + theme (css/style) + content (text & media)

Remember: create content and THEN select or create the best page layout…

…not the other way around!


Content + design

Revise content and design together for devices, audiences, referring traffic, etc. And, revise and optimize PRE-launch; not post.


Remember: optimization requires iteration. You’re not going to get it perfect on your first try.

Key Takeaways for Content-first Marketing

Adhere to these steps in your content-first approach:

    1. Discover user context
    2. Create value
    3. Draft content
    4. Plan design
    5. Optimize

Make content your hero!

Plan value-added content “bait” for every buying stage. Always pair WHAT and WHY together. Use formulas and customer wording for persuasion aids.

Begin core content with CTA and end with headline. Set team expectations for pre-launch optimization.

And remember:

Design sets the stage; content converts.

Want to see the entire presentation? Check it out here.



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