Implementing Premium Branded Content



If you’re reading newspapers online you’ll notice something different about them from a few years ago: paywalls. Now, instead of complete, unfettered access to your favorite newspaper, you are limited to a certain number of articles per month, and then after that, you will need to pay.

What you may not know is that brands are slowly adopting a tiered content model, and while it may not depend on buying a subscription, the reader is expected to complete a transaction.

Is this new model of premium content a fit for your brand? How can you implement this type of content model?

As brands become publishers, they’ve exhausted all the ways they can monitor the funnel between their content and a purchase, so they’ve turned to other models to qualify potential buyers and get their permission to market to them earlier in the process. This new model works well for many brands, but it may not necessarily work for yours if your brand:

  • Is charitable in nature
  • Offers medical information or advice
  • Is difficult to understand without an explanation (you will turn potential users/visitors off.)
  • Is so new, there is no real track record (start-ups: take note.)

If your organization falls outside of these notable exceptions, a premium content model might be for you.

Defining Premium Content

The word “Premium” describes the value a customer puts on your content. It has very little to do with the time, effort, or money you might put into creating the content. Premium content should offer something the customer can’t get anywhere else, for instance:

  • Advice from industry experts
  • Advanced instruction on a topic
  • Content involving a famous influencer
  • Video content of something you previously covered in print or a gallery
  • Special events (such as Google Hangouts)
  • Exclusive chats

You want to offer your customers not only something informational or genuinely entertaining in nature, but you also want to think in terms of areas where your competitors haven’t been treading to get the most interest from customers.

Why Have Premium Content

Content is the best way to qualify and acquire customers, and having premium content is like having a loyalty program. Loyalty programs give regular users of a system special perks for the time and expense they spend using a product or service. In exchange, the brand gets to know these high-value customers more easily and can tailor services to them. Premium content is a loyalty program for your brand’s publishing efforts. While you offer great content and experiences, a customer provides more information so they can learn more. This is a great way to make customers feel special and for your organization to foster a stronger relationship with its customer base.

Ways to Make Content Exclusive

While your brand is indeed a publisher, it’s not a publisher in the way that the New York Times is. You shouldn’t put premium content behind a pay wall. People simply won’t pay cash for your content.

Instead, you should think about ways in which you can put your content behind an opt-in or permission wall. This includes asking users to “pay with a tweet” (to notify their networks they are engaging with your content). Gating is another popular method set up by many blogs, whereby a user is interrupted and asked to Like a Facebook page or otherwise follow that brand.

Another method to permission-gate your content is to simply prompt the user to sign up for content digests from your brand. This way, as a customer interacts with your newsletter, you can get to know them better, and subdivide your list to target customers for special offers, events, and more as your relationship progresses. You can even adopt the LinkedIn model and ask these customers for more information as they move forward with you, and ask them for their preferences along the way, so you can tailor to their experiences as your relationship progresses.

This is not only a great way to get to know your customers, but is also a great way to A/B-test your content and to inform your free content too.

Extending Your Premium Model

If your premium content is working out well for your brand, consider extending your brand options by holding small, exclusive events for your customers. Consider allowing them early access to new products, or an exclusive version of a product, or issuing personalized versions of swag for them. This will help you galvanize loyalty with this group.

Premium content is a gateway to customer loyalty and a new breed of influencers who can help you spread qualified word-of-mouth without additional spend on your brand’s part. A little planning, and setting up a good funnel to capture and increase permissions is all you need.


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