When you live and breathe content marketing every day, clients’ concerns can sometimes take you by surprise. One question I didn’t anticipate but that I’ve heard more than once from clients who sell a service rather than a physical product is, “Isn’t content marketing giving the very thing I sell away for free?”
That’s an excellent question. The answer is yes…and no. It’s all about value-added. Here’s what I mean.
Let’s use brain surgery as an example. I am not a brain surgeon (nor a surgeon of any other kind). So a brain surgeon could give me step-by-step instructions on how to do a procedure, and I still couldn’t pull it off. No matter how accurate and detailed the instructions were, they wouldn’t make me a brain surgeon. In the same way, content alone doesn’t make up for experience. Your knowledge, experience, and expertise add a layer of real value that even the best list of “how to” steps can’t accomplish. It’s that “secret ingredient” that only you can provide. (And, if somebody really could replicate your service just by reading your blog posts, that’s probably not the strongest business model anyway.)
So, no, content marketing is not about cannibalizing your own business by giving everything away. Well-executed content marketing drives business to you, not away from you:
- Quality content reassures people that you know what you’re doing.
Publishing top-notch, knowledgeable content reassures people that you know what you’re talking about. Why do you think college professors have that pesky “publish or perish” rule? If everybody else is demonstrating their knowledge and expertise, and you’re not, your customers might just assume you don’t have any.
- Content allows you to grow your own customer base.
Look no further than home improvement stores for an example of this. Those brands do an excellent job of making DIY projects look easy. In doing so, they expand their customer base from experienced DIYers and/or contractors to everyday folks who decide they’ll save some money by giving that project a try themselves. You may give away valuable knowledge in terms of how to use different products, but doing so will expand your customer base to include people who didn’t grow up with a hammer in one hand and a drill in the other.
- Content provides a foundation for trust and respect.
There’s a lot to be said for being a consumer’s “go-to” resource. If I have a question about cooking, I don’t bother with a Google search. I go straight to Fine Cooking. I’ve been a subscriber for years, and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the folks at Fine Cooking have taught me almost everything I know about cooking. Likewise, if I have a medical question, I go straight to the Mayo Clinic website. I know I can go there for advice that’s both reliable and objective, so why waste time looking anywhere else? You want your readers to see you in that same light.
- Content saves time and effort when it comes to nurturing leads.
How many hours have you wasted fielding calls from customers who were obviously not ready to buy what you’re selling? Or going to meetings that never resulted in a sale? Thanks to content marketing, today’s consumers are much further down the sales funnel when they make first contact. Estimates vary, but the general consensus is that as many as 90% of consumers do online research before making a purchase. Let’s say your business sells and installs in-ground pools. The more content you put out there, the less time you have to spend explaining things like gunite vs. lined pools, a pool’s effect on electrical bills, local codes regulating gates and fences, time requirements for upkeep and maintenance, etc. The point is that, if you find yourself answering the same questions every single day, save yourself some time already! Write a blog post and get it over with.
The people you build relationships with through content marketing might not be ready for your product or service today….and maybe not even next week. But content marketing does ensure that, when they are ready, they’ll think of you first. And, because they’ll already have educated themselves by reading your content, you can focus on closing the sale instead of explaining the basics.