When you're writing an article, inserting the next step should be really simple.
It is, if you are clear about what you want the customer to do next.
But, hey, we all know what we want the customer to do next, yet there's still doubt. Are we doing the next step right?
Here are three methods for implementing the next step.
Method 1: Editorial Next Step
In every article, your core goal is to get the reader to experience a new world. The reason the reader reads your article at all is because you're taking them on a new journey.
You may be showing the reader "how to increase prices without losing customers". You may be showing them "how to fix a roof on a garden shed".
In every case, you set out to change, or at least nudge, the customer into doing something.
So your final stage in most articles would be to nudge a reader to move to the next step.
This is what I'd brand an "editorial next step".
In effect, the editorial nudge has no sales activity - it's just saying something like: "read more articles on pricing strategy" or "read the continuing series on how to create more durable roofs" or watch the video on "One Man, One Cow, One Planet". All very fine, if all you want to do is "complete" an article, or get the reader to read or do something more.
But what if you want the reader to buy something as well?
Ah, that's the "sales next step".
Method 2: Sales Next Step
This is simply a call to action to buy something. Or to do something that is likely to lead to sales.
If the customer has to fill in a form, opt-in, jump over some barriers, sign up, pay for something etc, then it's a sales next step.
In this case, you know there will be at least an iota of resistance when the person reads your message.
And it's more than likely that your message will be "salesy" - sign up for this course, sign up for the workshop, and so on.
Which leaves us with just one last method to the next step.
Method 3: The Embedded Next Step
You noticed the "One Man, One Cow, One Planet" nudge didn't you? And you felt curious when I mentioned it once. Then I mentioned it again. Now imagine I never once told you to see the documentary; you'd still be slightly eager to check it out.
And the reason was that the information was embedded as "editorial" content.
For instance, if I'm writing an article on pricing strategy, and I give examples of how we did the 5000bc.com pricing strategy, then I'm embedding a next step.
And the embedding is clearly a sales pitch. Or is it? Some people may not see the sales pitch in it at all.
It may appear to be 100 per cent editorial.
And that's the beauty of the embedded next step.
It's not asking you to buy anything, there's not a link in sight, there's nothing. But part or all of the article revolves around the product or service.
To summarise. The editorial next step is to get you to do/read something. The sales next step involves more resistance, and some sort of sales pitch, however minor.
The embedded next step has no links, no call to action, nothing. But it still becomes the focus of the article. So where do we apply these next steps?
The editorial next step is usually placed inside the article itself.
Often just after the summary. It's more than likely to be the last few sentences of the article.
The sales next step has a clear demarcation. It sits away from the editorial and is clearly a sales-based nudge. Anyone looking at it should be able to tell it's a next step leading to some product/service offering.
The embedded next step is embedded in your article itself.
The "One Man, One Cow, One Planet" reference could have been an embedded next step, if I had anything financial to gain from it, but I don't.
So there you have it, three ways to get the customer to the next step.
Now insert it into your articles. You can insert just the editorial next step or both editorial and sales. Or all three.
Be clear what you want the customer to do, and they'll do it. Because you're the one who provided the next step for them to take.
Sean D'Souza is chief executive of Psychotactics and an international author and trainer. Click the link to read more articles by Sean D'Souza - and get a report on Why Headlines Fail.