The most common reason most businesses hesitate to get started with content marketing might not come as a shock to you.
In fact, it’s probably held you back from clicking the PUBLISH button on a blog post before. Or, maybe it’s caused you to edit, and re-edit, and re-re-edit an email newsletter before finally hitting send.
Many businesses are afraid of giving too much away. They’re afraid that if they create amazing content, it will eliminate a prospect’s reason to buy their product or service.
It's a fair complaint, and some prospects will do exactly that.
If you put out any marketing content, this will happen.
Doesn't That Mean Content Marketing Won't Work?
If you give your stuff away for free, aren’t you training potential prospects to become entitled freeloaders?
If creating amazing content means no one will buy from you, why would you do it?
You wouldn't… IF that were true.
If that was the case, you'd do your best to avoid the content marketing craze. You'd divert your marketing budget towards "proven" channels like advertising, sponsorships, and partnerships. (Which is what many business owners do.)
But there's the problem with exclusively using those “proven” channels:
It's not working like it used to.
We're bombarded by a massive amount of advertising every day. Research from PageFair found ad blocker usage is up 30%. In December 2016, 615 million devices were blocking ads worldwide, and 62% of those were mobile devices.
Outbound marketing doesn’t work as well as it used to.
So what about content marketing? Is it actually effective at generating a consistent supply of motivated prospects? Let's look at the data.
- 18 to 49 year-olds rely on the internet — not TV — as their main information source, and 77% of internet users read blogs
- Content marketing generates 3x as many leads as outbound marketing but costs 62% less
- Small businesses that blog see 126% more lead growth than businesses that don't
- Once you write 21-54 blog posts, blog traffic generation increases by up to 30 percent
- Over its lifetime, one compounding blog post creates as much traffic as six decaying posts
- Nurturing leads with content produces, on average, a 20% increase in sales opportunities
It's cheaper than traditional advertising, produces long-term value, and it boosts revenue.
To sum up the data and give a short answer to the question, YES — content marketing works.
A ton of people think revenue will nose dive if you give everything away, but...
Top Businesses Can Give and Give and Give
And then something interesting happens. Revenue begins to climb.
Customers spend more time and money with them while the businesses spend less money on marketing — all while attracting more of the right clients.
Ramit Sethi, a personal finance adviser, states he gives 90 percent of his content and products away for free. His company brings in tens of millions of dollars in revenue each year.
HubSpot focuses its marketing efforts on its blog and premium content (e.g. downloads, lead magnets, guides etc.). They give away a massive amount of valuable content on their blog for free and receive over one million page views per month.
Its total revenue in 2017 was $375.6 million — a 39% increase from 2016.
One more example...
HelpScout used content marketing (via emails) to score a $300K increase in revenue. That's incredible when you realize they used content marketing to build their entire business.
These businesses rely heavily on content marketing. They give some of their best ideas away to prospects for free and they do it on a regular basis.
What's their secret?
They know something you don't...
It's impossible to give everything away
You simply can't do it.
I'm not saying it's impossible to share the wrong content. As far as content is concerned, there are definitely some things (e.g. company secrets, proprietary data, intellectual property) you shouldn't give away. That's not what I'm talking about here.
I'm talking about educational content.
It's impossible for you to give too much educational content away, and even if it were possible, it wouldn't matter.
You run an accounting firm. You tell prospects everything they need to know about everything. How to manage their taxes, dealing with general ledger problems, handling payroll - you don't hold back.
Are prospects eager to take these problems on themselves?
Not at all.
Sure, a few do-it-yourselfers will tackle it on their own, but these people are the exception, not the rule. People like that weren't going to hire your accounting firm anyway.
Most people don't have a desire for that.
Almost every single one of your prospects wants the same thing.
What (Almost) Every Prospect Really Wants
They want you to take care of their problems for them.
They want you to lighten their load so they can focus their time, attention and energy on something they feel is more important.
This applies to almost every industry. Take cars for example.
- Most people who request an Uber have cars and they know how to drive. They pay Uber anyway.
- Many of these people know how to change their own oil or know where to find that information, but they pay for an oil change anyway.
- The vast majority of adults know how to change a tire, but most pay to have it done anyway.
See what I mean?
The gig economy (services like TaskRabbit or WeGoLook) takes advantage of this fact. They're service businesses — making tons of money — doing things that people can (but won't) do for themselves.
These tasks aren't complicated, but people everywhere have decided they have better things to do with their time.
It's no different for your business.
Why It's Impossible to Give Too Much Away
Have you ever heard the saying "one inch wide, one mile deep?" It’s a reference to the incredible depth of knowledge and understanding an expert can have on a single, very specific subject.
That’s essentially the reason it's impossible to give too much away.
Whether or not you like to admit it, you’re an expert. You could spend hours, or even days, talking about a single facet of your industry. Here’s why that’s so important in terms of content marketing:
- Your tolerance for topical information is much higher than your prospects.
- Prospects find too much content to be overwhelming.
- Prospects typically look for help when they realize they're in over their head.
- The deeper you go into your topic, the deeper your topic gets.
- Prospects need context, experience and insight to make sense of things. Knowledge alone isn't enough.
Content marketing on its own is a knowledge exchange, not an experience exchange.
Freeloaders that take your content?
They won't be able to replicate your results on their own. They’ll have the knowledge, but they'll need to go through the same amount of trial and error, struggle and failure to get to where you are today.
Your prospects need your knowledge, but they also need your insights and experience to get the real results they’re looking for.
The freeloaders aren’t a threat to you.
The Real Threat to Your Business is IRRELEVANCE
Creating content that's not tailored specifically to your prospect’s problem? That’s the real problem.
It's an epidemic. Salespeople make the common mistake of pitching their services to prospects, without identifying whether or not they're actually solving their prospect’s problem.
When this happens, prospects write you off.
In their minds, you’re categorized as the self-serving business that's only in it for the money. You're only looking out for yourself.
Here's why this is a huge threat to your business:
Your prospects will never tell you.
Get it wrong, and they'll smile politely, brush you off and move on. They'll ignore your calls and emails, choosing to work with a provider who actually gets it.
This is where your focus should be.
Solve your prospect’s biggest problems. Giving them a solution that relieves the stress and anxiety they feel.
Prospect’s stress and anxiety is the key to content marketing.
TV shows have mastered this.
At the beginning of an episode, they introduce a problem. Then near the end of the episode, they solve it.
But right before the episode ends, they introduce another problem. It’s like they sneak it in right before the credits roll. This provides viewers with a compelling incentive to watch the next episode.
You can tap into this, too. Treat your content like one continuous story, only instead of making up a problem and inventing anxiety, you’ll tap into your prospect’s existing anxiety about real problems they already have.
We’re NOT talking about manipulation or exploitation here.
We’re talking about providing meaningful solutions to your prospects — the main reason you went into business in the first place, right?
So… want to move prospects through your sales cycle? Here's how your marketing content can make that happen.
- Find their problems. Explain why it's a problem and how they can go about solving that problem. Discuss the consequences of ignoring their problem. Highlight a few of the mistakes do-it-yourselfers make and let them know there are more.
- Present the solution. Your solution should solve their problem completely. An ideal solution relieves or eliminates the negative consequences they'll experience.
- Share the next problem. There's always another problem on the horizon. Share a teaser to the next problem. Use it as an incentive to lead prospects to the next piece of content you have to offer. Repeat Step One.
- Lead prospects into a funnel. A marketing funnel creates structure. That structure creates peace of mind, security and trust. Prospects reading your content implicitly understand that you (a.) understand their problem (b.) know how to fix their problem and (c.) you're a trustworthy and knowledgeable source.
Pretty straightforward, isn't it?
But this simple process is something businesses continually ignore.
Your Prospects’ Greatest Solution
Many businesses are worried that content marketing will give too much away for free and eliminate their prospect's desire to buy.
But fortunately for you, that’s completely untrue.
While you CAN overload your prospects with irrelevant information, you can't over-educate them with solutions to their problems. It's impossible for you to give too much educational content away.
Prospects ultimately want you to lighten their load.
Content marketing is a knowledge exchange, not an experience exchange. Prospects need your instincts and experience, things you've developed through practice and time. With the right content marketing and an organized approach, you can be the solution to your prospects’ biggest problems.