Rachel Claver is a marketing strategist, specializing in lead generation and content marketing.
OPINION: When I want to explain marketing concepts to small business owners, I like to use ways that people could understand and remember. I often tie them to other things I already know a little about. One of the most consistent analogies I use is: “Be a Spider, Build a Web”.
So it stands to reason that I wrote a book called exactly that. I wanted to help small business owners understand content marketing, and how it can work for their businesses in the simplest way possible. This column explains how that spider’s web relates to marketing, so you can also use it to think about your own content marketing strategy.
For us to understand marketing as a spider, we need to understand a spider’s web.
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Webs come in all shapes and sizes, and some created in a slightly different way but for this, I want you to imagine a web made by a garden spider.
Their webs require a lot of patience, and objects to catch on. The spider starts by finding a strong anchor point. They attach their silk to it, and spin an anchor thread to another stable surface. They pull this thread tight to make it strong, then spin a bridging thread to another strong surface then travel back down to the anchor, pulling in each line, so there is a strong triangle shape.
From there, the spider drops to the center of the triangle, releases their spider silk and lets the wind catch the thread. It lands on an anchor or bridge thread, and then is pulled tight. This is the first radius of the web.
The spider repeats this up to twenty times, creating radius lines from the same centre, adding a few double threads to strengthen key lines, or to help frame the web tidily. Once the lines are all out, the spider checks which lines will best withstand all weathers and unexpected events. Some of the radius lines will be cut, leaving the strongest.
It’s now time to make the capture spiral. Starting at the furthest point of the centre, the spider weaves their web, dropping their silk around in an ever-decreasing spiral. The closer the spider comes into the centre, the closer the lines become, and the sticker the web.
Every now and again, the spider does a U-turn in the web, and backtracks to ensure the web lines are strong, especially around the outer edges of the web’s spiral. Once completed, the spider moves to the middle of the web, which is called the hub. This is where they wait patiently for visitors to their web.
The end result of their hard work is a beautiful and intricate design. Just like your content web will become.
Let’s take those stages and apply them to a content strategy
The Anchor Point
The anchor point is where we start all of our content from. It is your well-defined and liveable values, your core offers, your position in the marketplace, and has a clear focus on who your ideal customer is. It’s often the part small business owners find the hardest to get right. Those who do find it’s easier to build a business that aligns with what they do best, and create content that both attracts their ideal customers, and filters out who are not.
The Trust Bridge
Our web is topped and strengthened by the trust bridge that helps shape our web. We need to check our business is already delivering on our promises, that our marketing lines up with what we deliver, and that we are successfully creating repeat and referral customers. If we don’t make this trust bridge strong, the marketing we do will just amplify any cracks in our service levels and we’ll have to spend far more energy acquiring new customers over and over again.
The Decision Hub
This is the center of your web, and is where we convert our marketing leads into customers. We want people to be ready to buy, without us needing to push them or manipulate them into doing so. We allow them to make their own way to the decision hub (using different types of content), and then often use our websites, email marketing, and events or webinars to help bring them to the decision moment.
The radius lines
Each radius line is a type of marketing. Some of us have many, some of us only have a few. It doesn’t matter how many radius lines you have, as long as they are all working together to help attract people to your web, and keep them there. We want our web to be sticky.
Some of your radius lines might be quite short (but strong), because we use them when someone is quite close to making a decision. This could be your website, or perhaps an event.
Others might be thicker on the outside edges where we get most of our visitors, and then have hardly anything close to the Decision Hub. An example of that would be Pinterest, which is really good at getting people onto the web, but not great at keeping them there by itself.
Platforms like Instagram, or LinkedIn can have a long, and strong line right from the outside of the web to the decision web. That’s because you can use different types of content, and different types of activities to help people from initial interest, all the way to ready-to-buy.
If you use print media, radio, or have a bricks and mortar store, all of these also fit into your web. If it’s a place you demonstrate your content, and help people come closer to you, it’s got a place on the web.
The capture spiral
If you imagine a spider’s web, you know the spiral starts off big, and gets smaller and smaller the closer it gets to the hub. It also gets stickier, and harder to escape from. So we need less sticky and “intense” content for people who are just getting to know about us. These are reels, TikToks, Pinterest pins, things that don’t require a commitment.
The goal of this content in the capture spiral is to get people interested in you enough that they give you a follow.
Once they are on our web, we start off with educational, and information based content that helps them trust us, then move into more motivational, intent type content that builds that trust further along with a desire to get to hang out with our brand further .
The stickiest part of our web is at the Decision Hub. This is our sales type posts, or offers, and our strong call to actions.
When we look at the type of content we create, we need to create more of the less sticky content and know that some people may never make it to the really sticky converting stuff.
One of the most exciting parts of creating a content web is you allow people to find you where they hang out. Your future clients and customers will come to your web at different points, depending on where you’ve spun your web.
Most of them will enter from one of the outer edges where there is less commitment, less personal interaction and they can watch for a while, and check you’re one of those kind spiders they’re looking for.
Sometimes you’ll get someone who jumps right in and skips the outer parts. If they’ve come with a person who’s worked with you before, or knows you, they’ll feel safe enough to jump into the middle tiers of the web right away. They may also do this if they’re a risk-taker, or they’re jumping from someone’s web.
It’s rare for most people to jump right into the center (the Hub), and be ready to buy, and if they do, you’ll often have to spend time in sales meetings building rapport and trust. This is something you won’t need to do with people who’ve hung out on your web for a while. You’ve already let them take their time developing their trust, and they’re ready.
As we explained before, each radius of your web is a type of marketing. One will be your website, the rest social media platforms, marketing activities and email marketing that helps draw people in.
Some have heavier lines on the outer of the spiral, perfect for attracting the new people onto your web and less as the person gets closer. (For instance, Pinterest is a powerful source for initial interest, but it is harder to help build engagement and community the closer people come to the center and make a purchase.)
Others will be sparse at the top and have a whole lot going on closer to the Hub. If webinars are part of your content marketing web, they will only be an initial entry point to risk-takers, people in intense pain (and you’re meeting them “just at the right time”) or people who’ve been told to attend by someone else already on your web.
No matter when someone enters our web, they get to choose the pace of the journey to your Hub. If someone enters the web halfway to the Hub, they’ll still move around the web in exactly the same way as if they had entered on the outer parts of a web. Building trust takes the time it takes, and each person has slightly different ways to check the trust lines you’ve built. It’s not our job to choose their direction, or their pace. We’re just here making all the paths we can to make it easier to find us at the Hub.
Our job is to be patient. Trust in the stickiness of the web. And resist pouncing on our new visitors to bite. In other words, we need to be a kind spider.
This is an abridged excerpt from my new book Be A Spider, Build A Web: Sticky Content Marketing for Small Businesses. You can hear more on the MAP IT Marketing podcast this week.