A Double Daily (10.28/29)
Tarot and content marketing . . .
For newcomers to the Exploration Project: This post is part of an intermittent series that focuses on Tarot in relation to real-world issues. If you’d like an introduction to the whole range of themes explored in the newsletter, here’s a quick guide.
And for everyone—fair warning! I tried to do a short version of this topic, but I got more and more worked up as I was writing. So, it’s long—over six minutes long, in fact, adding up to (at least) two Daily Notes.
I’ve had this topic in mind for quite a while, and in fact, wrote this in a previous Note:
Content marketing is a manipulative formula for getting people to buy things. The transactional goal is not always obvious, but it’s always there.
And the mechanics of content marketing are exactly the same, no matter what the product—including Tarot.
I don’t think Tarot practitioners should ever persuade someone that they need or ought to have a reading. And content marketing is about nothing but persuasion. It may look like information-sharing or community-building, but underneath all that, it’s a calculated methodology designed to convert prospects into buyers.
In my view, that’s not the way Tarot should be treated.
I would add to that now—I don’t think Tarot practice should ever be marketed to would-be entrepreneurs as a money-making scheme.
So there’s my basic argument. And here’s an expanded version, in two parts. The first offers background about content marketing. The second focuses on a Tarot example.
About Content Marketing
If you know a lot about content marketing, feel free to skip ahead. But for anyone who’s not familiar with the CM model, here are some basics:
The first step is creating “personas” or “avatars” that describe the types of people who might buy/read your product. They have names (Holly Housewife, Mike Mechanic, VP Vincent) and representative details (education, age cohort, demographics, values, ambitions, problems, so on).
The next step is figuring out some free incentives that would appeal to all or each of them. Incentives, which are known as “lead magnets,” are offered in exchange for an email address. Examples: a white paper, a mini-course, a template/printable, a raffle entry, a discount code—just about anything that might appeal to a significant segment of potential buyers.
Now create multiple “landing pages” (single-page mini-sites) tailored to the interests and probable search habits of your target personas. Use big images and short, emotionally resonant messages. Add pop-ups to ensure visitors are prompted repeatedly with whatever freebie is on offer.
Anyone who takes the offer (by providing their email info) has “opted in” to whatever marketing ploys you care to use. And each of them is one step along on the “buyer’s journey”—a pre-defined series of stages that will take people from “prospect” status to “purchaser” status. The other side of the buyer’s journey is a matching set of stages known as the “sales funnel,” which provides a handy way for sellers to track how many prospects are getting closer to purchase, and craft strategies to encourage them.
Since only a small percentage of prospects “convert” to become purchasers, you have to pour a lot of folks into the top of the funnel. So you need to attract traffic by publishing large amounts of “content,” using specified SEO keywords—terms and phrases most likely to be searched on by your target personas. And you have to post/promote content on social media platforms (and groups) frequented by your targets.
In creating content, you need to maintain a consistent, recognizable “brand voice.” Brands in most consumer spaces try to achieve a warm, personal tone, and often feature a relatable figure (a problem-solver, role-model, mentor) who shares their experience and directly addresses the prospect. Larger brands hire copywriters to create content, based on “briefs” that describe the target persona(s), specify the targeted funnel/journey stage, and list the required SEO keywords. Many brands use ghostwriters to create/simulate the personal style of the “relatable figure.”
Brands with a big budget make sure prospects will see targeted ads in various places whenever they are active online. Brands with a small budget “drip” email incentives—special sales, limited-time promotions, personalized messages, etc. Either way, they monitor results and keep adjusting the strategy, depending on what works (increases engagement) and what doesn’t.
Many people take the buyer’s journey without ever being aware of the process they are participating in. And to be clear—they may benefit from the inducements offered. Not only that, they may really want or need a product/service they eventually buy.
But on the other hand—they are also being manipulated (even tricked) along the way. And even if they never buy anything, their participation in the process benefits the brand by adding to visitor metrics, increasing reach, improving search ranking, etc.
In a niche space like Tarot, where there are relatively few sophisticated competitors, skillful content marketing can gather a sizeable share of the potential audience. And the next thing you know—a high-traffic site, with a well-managed brand, can come to be viewed as an authoritative source. Keep that in mind as we look at the next part of this story.
About Tarot and Content Marketing
So what set me off about this topic was coming across a job posting on LinkedIn, seeking a content writer for a Tarot site that “inspires over 15 million people a year and serves thousands of students through our online courses, membership, books, and audio products.” I won’t name the brand, but you can figure it out quickly—and as a matter of fact, you can see the job posting, and draw your own conclusions.
Here’s the headline:
“If you are a sales-focused Copywriter with a passion for writing high-converting emails, sales pages, webinars, ads, and videos in the personal development industry, and you’re inspired by high-growth, startup culture, then read on… “
The super-detailed job description comes out to more than 1200 words, which is very, very long in LinkedIn terms. But the word “Tarot” is mentioned only once in the job requirements, almost at the end—and it’s noteworthy that the ideal candidate for this work doesn’t need to know anything about Tarot, or have any Tarot experience. They only need a general “interest” in personal development.
A good candidate should be “highly motivated by the direct results of your copy, always striving to increase conversion rates, email opens, click-through rates, etc.” The selected writer will work “with the Marketing team to develop our customer avatars, and create copy that connects deeply with these psychological profiles.”
If you follow the breadcrumbs to this site, browse around—and I think will see all the tricks of content marketing on full display. If you’re attentive, you will also see the “upselling” strategy, by which Tarot-curious visitors are led, step by step, to envision themselves as Tarot entrepreneurs.
According to this site—you can “start earning money as a Tarot reader in no time.” Just begin with a FREE “masterclass.” Then take the 7-step $500 course—and “when you start charging for your readings, this course will pay for itself … in just a few readings!”
But to become a real professional, you may need the $1500 course! (Payment plans available.) And after you have $100,000 in annual revenue, you can sign up for one-on-one “mentoring.”
For me, this raises more concerns than can be discussed in even a Double Daily. So I’ll leave it there.
I’ve been on the inside of content-marketing agencies, and I know exactly what they do and how well it pays off. I don’t like it, period. But I don’t like it even more when Tarot is not only the “product” but also the “hook” that gets people enmeshed.
Even so. If someone reading this is affiliated with the site I’ve pointed to, I hope you will correct anything I’ve said that was unfair or inaccurate. It’s true that I left out some content rhetoric about the company’s mission and values—but I honestly feel it’s hard to know what’s sincere and what’s not when the marketing agenda is so plainly visible.
I should close by saying (so I won’t have to send out another apology!) that offering something of value as a way of inviting people to connect with your product or service is not in itself a bad thing. In fact it can be a very good thing, if approached with honesty and transparency!
But as a rule—honesty and transparency are not the qualities that drive revenue in a marketplace dominated by skillful, methodical manipulation.
If you made it to the end, many thanks. And I really do want feedback.
On Sunday, a look toward the future of EP. C