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Are You Giving Away Too Much In Your Free Content?

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One of the most common pieces of wisdom in content creation is “provide high value.” For businesses who sell information, entertainment, or anything similar to their free content, their lifeblood is a stream of potential customers who enjoy your free stuff and have an interest in potentially buying from you. Content isn’t valuable if it doesn’t draw customers to your business.

As a business owner, it’s important to find the right balance between providing free content and making a profit. Take a look at the guidelines below, to see if your business might be giving away too much in its free content.

All About the Ask

Image via Flickr by CreditDebitPro

Content marketing usually leads to a call to action, the thing you want your audience to do. A business that teaches students how to create video games, for instance, can offer basic courses on beginner topics. The best strategy would be to offer a sample for free and charge for the full class. A top-to-bottom course teaching every fundamental topic, for example, could be mentioned at the end of this site’s videos or articles. Free content is a wonderful thing, but its primary purpose is to keep a business alive, usually as a magnet for customers.

In particular, in-depth content targeted at a specific audience should require some form of monetization or other compensation. There are lots of people who are casually interested in little elements of game development, but it takes a particular mindset to be interested in taking a thorough, advanced course. It’s not unusual to charge for this type of information. In fact, most customers expect it.

It’s Not Always Money

You should charge for the best work your business provides, but there are other options. One of the most powerful strategies is a three-level division of content. First is the free content, which is SEO optimized to reach as many customers as possible and is designed for relative beginners or those new to what your brand does. The second level is more advanced content, or more thorough content that uses rich media, as in detailed infographics, images, videos, or other visual aids. Second-tier content is typically offered in exchange for signing up to a mailing list, commenting on some of your free content, or sharing it on social media.

There are all sorts of ways to give content out with no price tag, but still gain a fair reward. This will help you gather leads who can potentially purchase third-level, paid content. Remember: as long as each next level feels like a substantial step up in value, you are leading people down the right path. You can be confident that those who buy from you reached the option after passing the lower two levels, assuring that they understand and appreciate what they paid for.

Consider Your Business Type

When deciding which content on your website should be free or paid, focus on your business’ mainstays. For example, an exterminator business can post free videos helping homeowners bug-proof their homes, but for businesses who make money predominantly in local service, it makes no sense to try and sell an advanced book on dealing with insects in the home or keeping them out. Research, in this case, would likely show that customers would rather schedule an extermination, and the business prefers that as well.

Following any trend without thinking things through will backfire. It can come across as contrived if your business doesn’t normally have a reason to offer paid content, but does anyway. In cases like this, the information is not what makes people want to do business with you, but your particular skills and tools. In that scenario, it’s best to simply give away your content for free and to offer some of it in exchange for lead generation, if you feel it’s appropriate.

Some Content Should Be Free

Content can be used to establish the advantages of working with you over your competition, attract influencers or peers in your niche, encourage valuable discussions in your industry, resolve common concerns or pain points among customers, and much more. However, it makes little sense to put this type of content behind a paywall.

In general, if your content is not made to serve a highly specific, qualified group of people who are familiar with your brand, then you should offer it for free and use it to capitalize on one of the other potential benefits, like increasing visibility on the web. When in doubt, look at your web traffic. If most of your audience expressed a mild interest in a certain piece of content, release it for free and see if it attracts prospects for something more advanced. If an article or video is generating more traffic than the others, you might want to consider charging for it.

Be Generous With Your Paid Content

Keeping some content behind a price tag doesn’t mean you can’t be generous. One of the best things about premium items is that you can reward your fans by sending them deep discounts. You can even offer some of your older paid content for free in exchange for joining a list or doing something to help your online marketing.

When a gardening enthusiast who knows your brand gets a chance to buy a fifty-dollar online mastery course for five dollars, not only will they likely say “yes”, but they’ll spread the news and get people talking about your business. But, naturally, if you never divide your top-class content into a paid category, you will never create this distinction in the minds of your readers, and you won’t have opportunities like this.

If your business relies on entertaining or informing lots of people, that will only become truly possible on a grand scale if you’re making some money while doing it, allowing you to expand and try new outreach strategies. There is no need to feel bad about charging money for something, especially if it’s valuable enough to someone that they choose to buy it.

While it’s unlikely to make you rich overnight, content marketing keeps growing and evolving in potential. It has the power to both increase your brand identity and cushion against business expenses. You and your audience can both help each other more when you create an appropriate, fairly-priced, premium piece of content, so if it matches your business, go for it!

About the author

Shane Hall