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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:
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.
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!)
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:
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.