Recently, while at a breakfast event, I struck up a conversation with the man seated next to me. Making the mandatory small talk you do while waiting for the keynote speaker to take the stage, he asked me what advice I could give him about hiring a copywriter.

Aside from a million potential answers to this question (of course I pitched myself!), I gave my answer: hire someone who knows how to create consistency for your customer.

He wanted to know more. Knowing the speaker was coming on soon, I quickly told him not to focus solely on consistency in voice, tone, style, design, or even the words used—all of these are important, yes—but to make sure the copywriter understands how to meet a customer’s expectations.

Sending Mixed Signals

Let’s play out a scenario: You and I decide to have a blind taste test (because what else are we doing?). You’ll guess the foods; I’ll be responsible for serving them.

Before we enter the room, I tell you not to worry; all the foods will be warm and sweet. You immediately begin to imagine cups of hot cocoa with marshmallows, fresh donuts, and just-from-the-oven blueberry muffins. Your only job is to focus on what each food might be.

But instead of the serving you all the yummy things you’re anticipating, I actually feed you cold, pucker-inducing foods—think sauerkraut when you were expecting warm apple pie. How would you react?

Exactly!

That’s what you’re doing to potential leads when your content lacks consistency from piece to piece.

Expectations Create Intent

Whether you’re conscious of it or not, every piece of content slated in your editorial calendar—every email, blog post, landing page, or Tweet—creates an expectation in the minds of potential clients. That expectation develops into an intent. They begin to anticipate what’s next. It’s your job to make sure your content matches that anticipation, that intent.

In our imaginary example of deceit, you probably wretched at the thought of eating sauerkraut when you weren’t ready for it. That’s because the expectation I set in your mind was completely different than what I delivered. You thought you were going to be delighted; instead, you were disgusted. Now, obviously, I’m exaggerating a situation to make a point. No one is purposefully misleading potential customers (and if you are, stop it! Stop it right now!), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still happening. I’d suggest a review with this single question in mind: “Does this piece match the expectation of what led customers to it?”

Every piece of content—especially in your lead gen campaign—must address this question. Let’s say one of your followers on social media (a prospective customer) sees a link to a blog post called “5 Ways to Avoid Inconsistencies In Your Lead Gen Campaign.” They think, “Ooh, I could use some help with my campaign. I wonder what they’re suggesting.” They click the link, where they’re taken to your company’s blog. The post delivers the goods. The reader is satisfied and even learned a little something. They’re hooked. At the end of the post, there’s a CTA to learn more about creating consistent campaigns. They click again.

Except this time, they’re taken to a landing page for an upcoming webinar—one not about improving lead generation campaigns, but about how to write better headlines. If your reader was a hound dog, you just waded into the river.

It probably wasn’t intentional. As the marketer on the inside, this connection makes sense to you. Writing better headlines can lead to better consistency. Also, you know, on your end, that registration for the webinar is an important metric, so you want to send as much traffic to the sign-up page as you can.

On the reader’s end, though, they wanted to learn more about consistency and know they’re getting messaging about better headlines. Could they make the connection? Sure. And maybe they will. But it’s not an explicitly obvious connection, so it lacks consistency.

Essentially, you set them up for warm apple pie and delivered cold pickles.

This can also happen when someone joins your email list. They may sign up because they found some good, helpful, and truly valuable content on your site. They want more of that, so they hand over their email address. But after a few weeks of receiving your “newsletter,” they’ve gotten nothing but promotional materials, articles about how awesome you are, or sales pitches pushing them to buy things they’re not interested in. You might as well unsubscribe them yourself.

Give the People What They Want

Consistency in your words, design, and style are all critical to each piece of your content’s success, but nothing kills conversions faster than failing to meet expectations—expectations you’ve created, mind you (we won’t even talk about trust here). When a potential customer intends to read more helpful advice on a topic they’re interested in, and you throw them onto a page to schedule a free consultation, you’ve created a problem.

This is why, when creating any new content, you must first consider the intended action of every piece that will drive traffic to it, every piece that came before it—even if these pieces were created months ago.

If a social media post is written to engage a reader, the other end of that click has to deliver the goods. Sure, give them cues, match words, design elements, images. But above all, match expectations. Create a customer experience that delivers consistency.

Your customers may not say thank you, but their conversions will.

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Chris Cooper

About Chris Cooper

Chris Cooper is a conversion copywriter and content strategist based in Denver, CO. He owns Real Good Writing where he helps tech and SaaS companies write B2B copy that people actually want to read. When he’s not getting more customers for his clients, he’s fighting a tireless battle for proper use of the oxford comma. Visit www.rgwriting.com or connect on Twitter @ElCoopacabra.