I’ve worked with many clients who insist that their copy needs to be extremely persuasive, pushy and in-your-face sales-y. Sometimes, these clients can be educated that the best way to connect with a customer is by providing value. In other cases, unfortunately, there’s no talking them out of the hard sell approach.
The validity of value-added content has been proven over and over again. Take a look at just about any highly-successful website and you’ll find the content isn’t focused on selling the business’ products or services. Instead, these websites take the approach of educating their consumers, solving a problem or meeting a need. Any business in any industry can educate their consumer. Check out these examples of how everyday businesses can use content to educate consumers:
- A daycare center offering child care tips and safety information.
- A pet store providing informative articles on caring for different types of pets.
- Wedding planners producing wedding planning tips, do-it-yourself centerpiece ideas, etc.
- Insurance brokers offering financial planning information and advice.
- Landscapers discussing different types of shrubs, when it’s a good time to plant a garden, how-tos.
- Bakeries offering tips on baking gluten-free cakes and cookies.
- A health food store producing articles on healthy eating, nutritional supplements, and vitamin and mineral intake and sources.
- A senior care provider providing tips on caring for an aging loved one, searching for long-term care or financing long-term care.
You see, it’s possible to provide value to your consumer without giving away all your expertise. Educating your customer, and providing free information, helps build trust, establish rapport and establish your thought-leadership in the industry. Giving away just enough information to leave them wanting more is the key to conversions.
Moving Beyond the Sales Pitch
The downside to sales-focused content is there’s only so much of it you can do. There are only so many ways to present the features and benefits of your products and services. Since Google’s latest “freshness” update, greater emphasis is placed on websites which have frequently-updated content. Offering value-added content leaves the door open to infinite possibilities, whether you’re delivering timely content via a blog or evergreen tips articles on your static website.
Consumers are largely immune to advertisements, and they’re not searching the web to be sold to; they’re searching for information. Readers who encounter web pages consisting of little more than shameless promotions are quickly overlooked. (Do you have a high bounce rate? This could be your problem!)
The Oprah Example: Selling Based on Value
Giving consumers information followed by a subtle sales pitch is often more effective than traditional means of advertising. FolkMedia.org offers a great example of education-based marketing at its best: It’s a tactic Oprah Winfrey uses well. She invites a guest to her show to provide value to her audience, to teach them something or to share knowledge in their area of expertise. After they’ve done so, Oprah mentions their book or their business. It’s a subtle endorsement, but a highly effective one that typically results in an impressive spike in sales.
You can use the same tactic in your own content delivery. Find out what your customers want to know, and share your expertise with them. It’s acceptable to include a subtle plug at the end of nearly every piece of content you produce.
Here are a few ways to identify content areas that will provide value to your consumers:
- Conduct a survey for every new customer. Ask them why they decided to purchase your products or services.
- Keep track of customer complaints and identify repeat offenders. Create content offering solutions for these problems.
- Monitor frequently-asked questions. Create content around questions that come up repeatedly.
- Consider the learning curve to using your products or services. Offer value-added tutorials to help your consumers overcome initial complexities.
Next time you’re creating content, take the value-added, educational approach. Give your customers information to help them solve a problem, instead of simply trying to sell your services.