Ever wondered why some smokers can quit cold turkey but others spend years doing program after program only to relapse every single time?

(What this all has to do with advertising & content retargeting we’ll get to in a second. Promise.)

So did a guy from the University of Rhode island (James O. Prochaska) and a few of his cronies.

The question wasn’t so much why it was hard to quit (that’s the literal meaning of addiction, after all), but how and why some people were able to overcome and maintain the pull away from their addiction seemingly all by themselves.

So they studied the mental stages people go through in regards to quitting a bad habit / starting a good habit, and came up with these six different mental stages:

1. Precontemplation:

Not really thinking about quitting, but they’re aware smoking isn’t good for them.

2. Contemplation:

Fully aware that smoking isn’t good for them, and are starting to consider how quitting would benefit them.

3. Preparation:

Reading up on how to quit and trying to make a plan that will make their quitting most successful.

4. Action:

Throwing their cigarettes and lighters into the trash can.

5. Maintenance:

They haven’t smoked for some time and have put behaviors in place to make sure it stays that way.

6. Relapse:

They get drunk at a friend’s party and don’t decline the cigarette they’re offered. So then they smoke again the next morning because of the stress of it all. They’re back in the preparation stage.

So my assumption (and I know addiction is way more complicated than my simple conclusion) is this: some were better at sticking to the plans made in the preparation stage and therefore were better at maintenance, not reaching step six.

AND if people spent adequate time in the precontemplation, contemplation, and preparation stages, they’d be much more likely to stick with their plan than if they jumped right into the action stage.

So basically, “cold turkey” isn’t really cold turkey.

They’d been building up to the action part for months, and that momentum carried them through into successful maintenance.

Nice story, Chelsea. Now what the hell does that have to do with my content marketing?

Glad you asked.

Because here’s the thing that’s so fascinating about precontemplation through maintenance stages of the transtheoretical model: it’s essentially people convincing themselves of a lifestyle change and giving themselves the motivation to follow through.

And advertising—particularly advertising done via content marketing funnels—is designed to do exactly the same thing. At least, that’s the goal of it anyway.

Even the shittiest of content marketers can tell you it’s a good idea to have a blog because it establishes authority and builds trust with your target audience.

And if you’re launching a new product no one’s ever heard of before?

You’re going to have a hard time getting hoards of people to buy in and stay happy customers if you don’t build up their thinking patterns around it.

Why Content Retargeting is Such a Freaking Gold Mine

Retargeting has already proven itself to be one of the most effective advertising methods out there.

It’s the reason you see Amazon spending so much money on Facebook ads to throw the items you’ve shopped for into the middle of your news feed.

Because you haven’t bought that external hard drive yet, but they know you’re thinking about it.

And if they put it back in front of your face a few more times, the chances that you’ll pull the trigger and purchase are much, much higher.

But beyond pictures of ecommerce products, word’s getting around that content-based retargeting is where it’s at in terms of qualifying leads, increasing quality traffic, and decreasing cost per acquisition.

I’ve seen a handful of smart marketers outline a process like this:

  • Run PPC ads to a baller blog post that’s crazy educational.
  • Based on the blog post that person read, use pixeled retargeting to run another set of PPC ads to get them to download a relevant lead magnet. (You get their email address.)
  • Use pixeled retargeting again to run PPC ads shown to people who’ve opted in and guide them to a landing page. (At the same time sending them wonderful content via an email autoresponder.)

The idea behind it is to put a thought into someones mind via the first PPC campaign to the blog post, expand on that idea with a lead magnet, and bring the thinking into action with the landing page targeting. (You see how this is lining up with the transtheoretical model now, don’t you?)

And every single person I’ve seen that does this says it increases their conversion rates while decreasing their cost per conversion… even though they’re “wasting” money on the first set of ads because they’re not making sales in direct return for them.

Content Retargeting + The Transtheoretical Model = The Best Marketing Strategy of All Time

Here’s how the transtheoretical model can be applied to content marketing and retargeting:

1. Precontemplation

Your prospects don’t even know you exist yet… let alone that they need what you’re selling. Via content marketing like guest posting or running PPC ads to your content, you can simply get them thinking about the pros and cons of their situation surrounding what you sell. For example, if you sell marketing automation software, get them to think about how much time they’re wasting doing things manually by sending them to a commitment-free blog post that blows their mind on the topic.

2. Contemplation

They’ve thought about what you’ve said, and recognize what you’ve said is a good idea. Now is when you need to swoop in with more information and argumentative evidence that they can’t really continue to go on without making some sort of decision. Ebooks and webinars are particularly effective to accelerate their thinking to step three.

3. Preparation

Here they’re actually thinking about buying from you. They’re doing research, reading reviews, and will listen to anything you have to say from a numbers perspective. They could easily become your customer within the next 30 days. If you offer a free trial, now’s the time to do it.

4. Action

They’ve bought from you. They are your customer. Woo! You’ve won the biggest part of the battle, but now you can’t stop. You want them to keep buying from you, after all. Not just be a one-and-done number or a quick churn. Content like video tutorials, support documents, or even live support can go a long way in taking them from liking you enough to buy to loving you enough to stick around.

5. Maintenance

These are the paid subscribers / regular customers who continue to buy from you without a second thought. This is where you want all of your prospects to end up. And where you want them to stay. (No relapsing, thanks.) Keep customers happy and engaged via emails, special offerings, groups, and encouraging them to share their experiences.

Put the Theory Into Action

I’ll admit, this post was a little more theory-heavy than my usual, practical, get-it-done-and-get-going instructional posts.

But the knowledge was too good not to share. Because in a successful content strategy, while top-of-the-line copy is essential, it’s only part of the puzzle. You’ve got to have a funnel to.

copy power

And when you reverse-engineer both your copy and your funnel?

You’re going to win. It’s just not possible not to. (Unless you have a really shitty product, but I know that’s not the case.)

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