Use New “Iceberg Upgrade” Technique to Go Deeper With Your Visitors

If Content Marketing is hot right now, Content Upgrades are even hotter. Iceberg Upgrades are a cool alternative.


We’ve talked before about how having the right Content Marketing strategy is crucial.

If you’re familiar with “content strategy”, you’ll have heard of this technique’s baby brother:

“Content upgrades”.

If Content Marketing is hot right now, Content Upgrades are even hotter. They focus on promoting extra value for your readers.

Except, most of the time, they do the opposite.

But here’s a bold suggestion. What if we left ‘hot’ behind, and went for a way cooler (literally) idea?

Enter: Iceberg Upgrades.

1. What most content upgrades do

Most content upgrades take the opposite form of an iceberg.

You know icebergs, right? A tiny bit of ice poking out of the sea, with the rest underwater?

Most content upgrades are tethered to a blog post. The post covers the topic at hand, then does one of two things:

  • holds back a portion of content behind, or
  • offers a small PDF with the addition of extra thoughts/notes

Both are behind an ’email wall’ (where you ask for their email address in exchange for the PDF) because you want their email address.

Unlike an iceberg, there’s not much going on beneath the surface.

  1. You know: it’s to get email addresses

    In fairness, you likely created the upgrade because you were told it was a great way of collecting email addresses.

    This is the intention behind the vast majority of content upgrades online right now.

    It is not ‘wrong’ per-say, but it’s getting a little dated, and savvy visitors are all but immune to at this point.

  2. They know: it’s to get email addresses

    Readers know. They’ve probably seen it before – you’re after their email address.

    Regardless of your motive, they assume the upgrade is ‘enough’ to warrant an email address.


  3. Time was all spent on the post. The upgrade was an afterthought.

    The best marketers know that writing a blog post is not a task one takes lightly.

    The best blog posts often demand a lot of thought, research and attention so that it truly serves the needs of the reader. Ideally.

    Then, once complete, an upgrade was quickly rustled up.

    The marketer’s intention was getting something rather than giving, and their attention was not focused on the content.

    Our “serve, don’t sell” mantra clearly highlights why this is upside down.

    (Encase you’re wondering where this is all going, no: the Iceberg Upgrade technique isn’t “spend more time on your upgrades”)

  4. Does this sound like you?

    If it does, you have yourself a ‘content upgrade’ – and it’s something many of the best content marketers recommend having.

    Assuming the motives were right, this is a great first step.

    Now, let’s explore taking things to the next level, with Iceberg Upgrades: the strategic ‘serve don’t sell’ version of a content upgrade.

What’s an Iceberg Upgrade?

As we’ve covered, most upgrades tend to be light on value, and honesty…sort of selfish.

They expect people to give up their email addresses, in exchange for ‘value’.

But the ‘value’ isn’t really all that valuable. The ‘upgrade’ isn’t much of an upgrade at all!

So, what’s an Iceberg Upgrade, and how’s it different to a regular content upgrade?

  1. It goes deeper, beneath the surface

    Iceberg Upgrades are ‘real’ upgrades.

    The blog post they belong to is good, but the upgrade is better.

    Not just ‘better’, but 10x better.

    Without sacrificing the quality of the blog post.

    The amount of effort required to create them makes them unsustainable if you don’t include this next point…

  2. It’s got a strategic advantage

    These take a long time to create.

    So, you need to be strategic about how you create them.

    Iceberg Upgrades are 10x better, but they don’t take 10x time to create. In some cases, they may even take less time to create than typical content upgrades.

    For an Iceberg Upgrade to truly be an Iceberg Upgrade, it needs to exist as part of a strategic content plan. A tactical play won’t be sustainable.

    In section 3, you’ll see an example of the sort of content plan Iceberg Upgrades require.

  3. It’s got its priorities right

    Iceberg upgrades exist for the visitor, not for the list.

    The ‘why’ behind the upgrade isn’t “to get email addresses”, but “to surprise readers with a level of service they’re really not used to getting”.

    Email addresses are still requested, but for a totally different reason. And it’s a reason readers believe in, and even want.

    This is because icebergs are always growing. A request for an email address isn’t a trade, but a service: you’re making sure they always have the full iceberg.

    You’re asking their permission to let you take them diving to explore it.

3. An example of an Iceberg Upgrade

Since we invented Iceberg Upgrades, and it’s new, the best example we’ve seen so far is one we made ourselves.

Let’s unpack one so that you can get a clear sense of how it works, and how it could apply to your business.

It starts with the Master/Branch Content Technique

This is another technique of ours (blog post pending) that creates structure around the posts a blog has.

It’s a hierarchical content structure that allows you to strategically create value, that maximizes the value of other pieces of content at the same time.

Iceberg Upgrades start with this so that the key content types are clearly identified.

An Iceberg Upgrade is created for each Master

Regular content upgrades are created around each Branch (blog post). Iceberg Upgrades are created around each Master, instead.

This makes sure that future content can contribute to the Iceberg.

Make sure that, each time you create another Branch, that you also create additional value to the Iceberg.

This is the Iceberg Upgrade’s secret to growth.

The upgrade is impossible to refuse

If a reader likes the branch post, they’ll love the master post. And if they love the master post, they’ll LOVE the Iceberg Upgrade.

With so much contextual much value in it that they’ve demonstrated an interest in, why on Earth would they refuse it?

Shocker: readers want to give you their email!

If you can provide them with massive value.

One of the beauties of Iceberg Upgrades is that they’re always growing.

And if a reader wants what’s already in there, they’ll absolutely want the additional free content that will be added in the future.

By asking for an email address in this case, it’s not really an ask at all. It’s a service.

You’re effectively saying to them, “There’s more coming. We need a way of giving it to you when we’ve created it. Where shall we send it?”

This is an entirely different conversation from, “To get this file, we want you to give us your email address. Deal?”

4. How to start using Iceberg Upgrades

Hopefully, the value is now clear. Iceberg Upgrades:

  • Make people want to give you their email address
  • Offers are far more powerful, valuable and service-driven
  • They force you to use a proper content strategy
  • …they make people want to give you their email address

So how do you get started with Iceberg Upgrades?

1. Strategize your desired outcome

Start by creating an overall strategy for your content.

Don’t just wing it: create a structure and a plan.

  • What’s the goal of the content?
  • What outcome do you want to lead people to?
  • How are you going to use them to serve others?
  • How will these upgrades lead the right people toward a buying decision?

These are the questions we’ll want to answer, as part of the strategy.

2. Ideate your Icebergs

Once you have the overall content strategy mapped out, next comes the Icebergs themselves.

You next need to ideate how each of your branches (posts) can contribute to an Iceberg Upgrade. Remember, each Iceberg Upgrade belongs to a master (collection).

Come up with at least 2 ways each branch can contribute. If you can only think of one, you risk playing a limited game. Think bigger, and make sure it’s all from a place of service and contribution.

3. Create your first Iceberg Upgrade

The first one won’t be your best.

Your first of anything is rarely ever going to be your best.

So, create the first one, already – let’s start, so that you can get better at it!

It’s the fastest path to creating bigger and better value for your audience.

Start gathering together those value-adds from the last point, and compile it into your Iceberg Upgrade.

4. Let it grow (or, snowball?)

Remember, each time you create a branch (post) from now on, it’s going to create additional value that you can add to the Iceberg Upgrade.

Each branch (post) is now playing a bigger game.

Over time, your Iceberg Upgrade will snowball into a massively valuable mega-offer – and it’ll only get more compelling as time goes on.

How to apply all this

When it comes to creating a successful content strategy, one of the main goals of that strategy is to provide as much value to readers as possible.

The Iceberg Upgrade technique is a great way to do that.

How might you integrate this technique into your content strategy?

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