By Peter Springett | @PeterSpringett
How much further can you take curation? Walking through Prenzlauer Berg, a fancy district of Berlin, we passed one of the new wave of cooking shops that ‘curates’ food and recipes. Step inside and you’re confronted by dozens of stands, each displaying the recipe and ingredients for everything from pumpkin risotto to Jamaican jerk chicken.
At first glance, it’s a pretty good deal. Ingredients for one portion cost about five euros (although meat is usually packaged and priced separately). Not much room for mark up, if any, but each display is surrounded by high-end accessories – chopping board, coffee jug, spatulas – and of course there’s a recommended bottle of wine. The business model pretty much relies on this upselling approach.
To be fair, the curated food movement has been around for a while now. And it’s pretty well suited to Berliners in this part of town. On the one hand young couples and families, increasingly time poor and cash rich. On the other, an even younger wave of residents attracted by the start-up culture of the city, and eager to extend a student lifestyle recently curtailed by legislation that reduced five or six-year degree courses to three years in line with the rest of Europe.
Use content to open doors
For anyone who curates or produces content, a lot of this will sound very familiar. It’s pretty tough to squeeze any mark-up out of original or curated articles, blog posts or YouTube videos. Deals with affiliates and other partners can give you a boost, but advertising, apart from the Zoella’s of this world, is a dimes and cents business.
No, the real trick for success with content, as with our aforementioned cook shop, is to find ways of directing consumers to aspects of your business that offer more obvious ‘value adds’. If your 500-word blogpost is a single portion of risotto rice, then a day of strategic content is the designer chopping board (that needs bees-wax treatment before you can even start slicing your peppers).
In fact, everything you ever write or produce should open a door to the next stage in the buying process. And that’s where you need to think creatively. Put yourself in the shoes of your clients. Nobody wants a pop-up ad or soft gate opening over an article any more. Unless you’re the New York Times or the Economist, don’t hack off your visitors with constant offers that explode over the screen.
The call to action rules
Follow a few clear rules about calls to action. Keep them concise, unambiguous and easy to follow. If there’s a cost attached, make sure you explain clearly the ROI that this will generate (no one’s going to hand over cash for some ‘nice’ advice).
Make sure too there’s a clear link between substance and offer. A good fisherman knows what he needs to land a specific catch. Don’t bait your content with a description of long-form writing skills and then offer the page visitor a day-long writing workshop. For anything over 500 words they’ll be looking for a competitive copywriter, not a consultant.
Finally, consistency is everything. If you’ve got a house style guide for content (and you should have), then make sure you apply the rules to the call to action. Be personal and ‘active’. “You can reduce the cost of your monthly Google AdWords bill by 30%” sounds better than “Find out more about how organisations can save on their AdWords budget”.
Back to the cook shop. It’s easy to chuckle at the idea of buying a miniscule packet of oyster mushrooms for your fettuccini sauce. But watching the customers at the till it was pretty clear the display worked, with about one in two buying one of those marked up accessories. Wine was moving pretty fast too. Just goes to show that if you know how to curate and display your wares (online or off), the business will start coming in.
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