A compelling content offer is equal parts form and function. It's an intriguing page-turner, informative as a textbook and sleek as a sports car. Sounds like a tall order, right? That's why many companies look at the content offer as some sort of mythical beast, where people speak of its power in hushed tones around the office, but no one has actually seen a good one out in the wild.
Needless to say, we're proud as punch to inform you, our fellow marketer-at-arms, that our well-honed approach to content offer design is now yours as well. That said, take the following best practices in amazing content offer design, couple it with dynamite copy, and start driving leads and conversions that are bound to put a smile on your accountants' faces.
Let's Start by Taking a Step Back
In case you're unfamiliar with the concept, a content offer is a gated piece of content sitting behind a landing page. The user gains access to the content by providing the company with their contact information which, naturally, helps stoke the conversion fire. Some of the most common types of content offers include:
- White papers
- Case studies
As you can see from those content types, content offers inherently lend themselves to B2B customers, making them a particularly powerful tool in a comprehensive B2B inbound strategy. However, offers aren't exclusive to that list of content types. Basically, any piece of content that provides enough value to the user for them to divulge their contact information can be a content offer. While we tend to focus on copy-based offers with dazzling design here at Creative Cave, the premise holds true for nearly any content that oozes value for your customers.
Basically, any piece of content that provides enough value to the user for them to divulge their contact information can be a content offer.
Value Through Design
That concept of adding value should permeate every facet of your content offer. Remember, your offers are a two-way street, where potential customers provide you with their valuable information in exchange for something that can solve a problem or enhance themselves, their jobs, or companies. Simply put, the content offer exists to serve a purpose, to enlighten and educate your customers, and help steer them through an often complex buying process.
Design is essential in those enlightenment and educational roles, working in conjunction with copy to create a visually appealing and informative piece of content that leaves the customer better off for having read it. That's really where design shines brightest, in its ability to accompany an often hefty dose of copy to keep the reader engaged and interested. Keep these eight basics in mind as you start to layout the design for your content offer.
- The adage less is more is especially relevant with your content design. Don't feel the need to fill every square inch with visuals as that approach almost always does more harm than good.
- Likewise, don't be afraid of white space and giving the copy room to breathe. No one wants to read a content offer that makes them feel claustrophobic.
- Vary the weight and size of the copy to keep people dialed in. After all, variety is the spice of life, right?
- Always take into consideration readers that quickly glance over the offer in search of places they want to dive into your content waters. If they don't see any entry points in the offer that pique their interest, they're going to stay on the pool deck.
- If possible, try to convey thoughts visually rather than through copy as long as it doesn't scrimp on information and value.
- Be mindful of the client's branding when choosing fonts, colors, and types of graphics.
- When working with images, give some thought to using lifestyle pictures vs. subjects looking at the camera along with appropriate subject demographics.
- When you finish your draft, ask the subject matter expert (SME) or a reliable third-party to give it a once over and provide you with suggestions or comments before sending it to the client.
Aside from those specific best practices, we have a more general pearl of wisdom that can save you an awful lot of frustration – don't be in a rush. Like it or not, creativity and inspiration tend to operate on their own schedules, so always be sure to relax if at all possible and take breaks as you go.
Like it or not, creativity and inspiration tend to operate on their own schedules, so always be sure to relax if at all possible and take breaks as you go.
If you find yourself stuck, don't break out into a cold sweat over it but, instead, go work on other things and let your mind take a breather from the design that has you spinning your wheels. Take it from the experts when they say how important it is to step away from the project when needed, returning with a fresh set of eyes.
The Nitty Design Gritty
As helpful as high-level guidance is in steering you to the content offer promised land, a look at our design process under a more powerful microscope might just be the key to unlocking your content greatness. So on that note, here's a closer look at the steps we take when designing each and every content offer.
1. Read the Copy and Understand the Offer
Assuming you have well-written, informative copy to draw from, use it as a foundation as you set sail on the design seas. Narrow in on the piece's objective, communicating with the SME and writer to ensure your perspective and vision for the design meshes well with the intended focus. Once again, your design should accompany the copy, not overwhelm it.
Your design should accompany the copy, not overwhelm it.
2. Use Another Document For Ideas and Considerations
Using the copy as a source along with your fertile imagination, start putting ideas together in a separate document for visual elements that will fit the content well. These particular elements either emphasize or convey information that copy simply cannot handle on its own:
- Pullout quotes
Start mapping out the design in that separate document to see how and where those visual pieces should fit together. In essence, you're telling a story with them, so keep concepts like flow and narrative in mind as you start assembling everything.
3. Wireframe Your Layouts
This step is where things start coming to life. Wireframing your layouts in SketchBook will help you get a better idea of what sizes to use for graphics, text, and other elements. It's also beneficial in organizing the offer and understanding what elements should fit on a page and where.
Adobe Comp is another useful digital resource for this step, allowing you to quickly and easily sample different configurations until you roughly find the sweet spot. The software also makes it easier for the next step as you refine and finalize everything in Adobe InDesign.
4. Design the Content Offer
Yes, we showed our hand in that previous step, but that's okay. Adobe InDesign is the market standard for designing and publishing digital layouts, and for good reason. It does everything we need from design software and works seamlessly with the other components of Adobe's Creative Cloud. That ability comes in handy when you have to create your graphics & charts or edit images in Illustrator or Photoshop.
Also, depending on the length of the offer and your layout, consider adding a table of contents and page numbers if they make the document more readable. Using hyperlinks for your sources is another quick way to amplify the information you're delivering to the reader, making it easier for them to read further on a particular topic.
Lastly, before you wrap it up and call it a day, be sure to check back with the copy and make sure you haven't forgotten any important points or missed the mark. This is where consulting with the SME or writer on your finished product can be extremely beneficial before presenting the offer to the client.
Before we send you off on your merry way to create fantastic content offers, we have a few more advice nuggets to provide. For your reference, we often use the following at different points in our design process.
Stock Photography Resources
- Adobe Stock
- Envato Elements
- Google Docs/Word/Notes
- Autodesk SketchBook
- Adobe Comp (wireframing)
- Adobe Illustrator (creating icons/graphs/charts)
- Adobe Photoshop (editing photos)
- Adobe InDesign (designing/publishing the PDF)
That's our content offer design process in a nutshell. Granted, this is what works exceptionally well for us, but that's not to say that slight alterations won't benefit your final product. Just be sure that your design is the peanut butter to your copy's jelly, stay true to the client's branding, and add value with your visual elements. And if you stumble along the way, give Creative Cave a shout. Our insights and experience can help you transform your content offers into the stuff of marketing legend. Or something doggone close to it.