Providing Useful Content Trumps Selling

Posted May 17, 2013

— Janine Popick

Whether you’re in sales or marketing, you’re pretty much trained to talk about how awesome your product or service is and why people should buy it. Always be closing, as they say. Well, what if you stop selling and instead be genuinely, honestly helpful?

Members of our content marketing team recently attended the New Media Expo in Las Vegas and had the opportunity to hear Jay Baer, a social media strategist, author, speaker and president of Convince and Convert. Baer made the case for providing helpful, useful content instead of selling to your customers.

Baer explained the concept of "Youtility" — providing valuable content for your readers and customers, to the point where your company becomes valued, trusted and synonymous with being useful. When the time comes to make a purchase, your company is the obvious choice.

My team’s favorite quote from the presentation was, "Sell something and you make a customer today. Help someone and you create a customer for life."

Here are three more takeaways from the presentation:

Discover What Customers Want

In traditional marketing, you tell people why your company is great. With content marketing, you show them. But content marketing isn’t just about your company; it’s about your customers and their needs. When you discover their needs and then create content that meets those needs, you give them a boatload of usefulness, not a sales spiel.

You can discover your customers’ needs in all sorts of ways, like figuring out what your current or potential customers may be searching for online. This will help you determine what people need, what challenges they may face, or what they’re specifically looking for.

Give Customers What They Want

After you discover what your prospects and customers need, you can create compelling content that answers those questions and needs. For example, say you discover that your potential customers have questions about how to choose the best email service provider (ESP). You could create a variety of content that addresses features to look for in an ESP—write a series of blog posts, create a video on YouTube, make an infographic, produce a podcast, conduct a webinar and/or TweetChat about it.

By creating a variety of content across lots of different channels, you provide highly useful and accessible information, and you give people various ways to interact with and consume your content.

Keep at It

Providing useful content isn’t something you can put on your to-do list: Come in on a Monday and bang it out and check it off. Why? Because your customers’ needs change, technology changes and of course, trends change. You’ve got to work hard to stay ahead of the curve and do the legwork for your customers. And when it comes time for them to make that next purchase, they’ll look to you. 

Being useful is the new selling. What do you think?

Janine Popick is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse, a provider of self-service email, social and event marketing solutions for small businesses. Connect with her on Twitter at @janinepopick.

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