Today’s consumers block out online marketing and sales content, but they respond to content marketing’s “Teach, Don’t Sell” approach. I’ll share three ways to do it.
The idea of teaching instead of selling seems to turn marketing on its head, and yet it’s at the core of content marketing. “Teach, don’t sell” is exactly what makes content marketing different from advertising.
But isn’t the whole point of marketing to sell? If you’re not selling, are you even marketing?
Even when you’re creating educational content, you are still marketing. You’re just marketing the content, not your products and services. You’re still selling those products and services, but the selling is just way in the background. Way, way in the background.
On the front end, you’re offering terrific, free content. The point of your marketing – your content marketing – is to build an audience that consumes and shares that content.
But why do that at all?
Sorry to tell you that, but it’s true. Nobody wants your marketing. We’re all up to our ears in advertising and marketing. We see 3,000 to 20,000 ads and brand messages per day.That’s why it’s so essential to teach, rather than sell, with your marketing efforts. It’s also at the crux of how content marketing can be so effective.
The point of content marketing is NOT to swamp people with ads or pitches; it’s to give useful, relevant information.
Unfortunately, according to the 2016 State of Small Business Report, 45% of small businesses are using their content marketing and accompanying social media to promote specific products or services, and 38% use them to share information about promotions, sales or discounts.
It’s OK to use your logo on content, but don’t mention how to buy anything. Ideally, don’t even mention what products or services you offer. The best content marketing is sales agnostic, yet it can still get the sale.
Here’s how: As you know, the average consumer is fed up with advertising. They don’t want to see or hear any more of it. To do that, they have developed “banner blindness”, a phenomenon where online viewers consciously or subconsciously ignore anything that looks like an advertisement.
Here’s the good news: You can get past those marketing blockers if you offer people great, useful, engaging information and refrain from your sales pitch.
As soon as you lapse into selling, or even mention your products and services, their suspicions will rise. They’ll remember they probably shouldn’t trust you at all. You’re “probably just selling something.”
And they’re right.
So how can you avoid triggering their “THEY’RE SELLING!” radar? Here are three ways, along with an example for each approach.
Use these well and you just might win your audience’s trust. With that hard-won trust, some day – when they need what you sell – they’ll think of you first. They’ll trust you with their dollars. That is the backwards, upside-down way content marketing actually sells.
1) Don’t include a call to action that asks them to buy.
Applying teach-versus-sell is actually pretty simple. Just don’t ask people to buy anything. Don’t ask them to call you. Don’t ask them to sign up for a catalog or a mailing list. Don’t ask them to request a demo.
You may put your logo and your website link somewhere on the content, but ideally you won’t even mention what you do. Why not? Because you are in education mode now. You are attracting and building an audience, not trying to make a sale. Put on a scholar’s cap if you have to, but put your business cards away.
You may include a call to action that prompts them to see another piece of content. If you are in the habit of regularly publishing useful content, you may ask them to sign up for an email newsletter, check out your YouTube channel, or to follow you on social media.
Here’s a super-simple example of this. It’s a rack card I picked up in a bank lobby. Notice how elegantly it attracts the right audience.
If you were the sort of person to want a self-care list like this, you’d be the sort of person this counselor would want to have as a client.
Note how she doesn’t say one word about calling her for an appointment. There is some professional information on the other side, but it’s a soft sell – she only mentions the services she offers.
Any small business, even a tiny start-up, could do this. I just checked Vistaprint, and you could get 250 rack cards printed and mailed to you for less than $75.
Of course, businesses have been sharing promotional items like this forever. Who hasn’t gotten a promotional calendar or a fridge magnet? But how useful are those, really?
Create information your ideal customers or clients really, really want. Then let them call you.