Content marketing is now an established and expected part of any online marketing strategy, but how do you use it to generate sales? Can you use content to make sales long-term?
Why Content Beats Advertising and Cold Sales
The original version of this article was inspired by a great lady who is sadly no longer with us. She specialized in international and cross-cultural marketing and had been spending a lot of time and effort in building up her Flagship Content which had started to show real dividends in terms of traffic and attention.
She had been taking calls at her home in France from as far afield as South Africa, even though she had never contacted anyone in those places about her services.
As a sales tool, content has some advantages:
- Not obviously a pitch or an advert – Content doesn’t immediately throw up barriers like other “sales material”
- It can be given away – Trying to get someone to spend even $1 can be tough, but giving something away is less intimidating.
- That said … People do buy it – Our ProBlogger book is purchased in bookstores, but I have still gained customers from it over the years.
- You can iterate – While you can to some degree set it and forget it, it’s not necessarily one-and-done, you can keep tweaking it to improve the message and your results based on conversations and feedback.
- People share it – The best part about it being packaged as valuable content is people will share it on your behalf because they see a benefit, not as a favor to you. If someone hands off your ebook to their boss or their own client then you are even more likely to get in front of a decision-maker.
Content is advertising that you don’t want to throw away.
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Process as Proof
If you are selling “done for you” services, one of the best ways to convince a prospect that you can perform the task, and do it well, is to explain exactly how to achieve it to get the best result.
It’s easy to say you are the best person for the job, but when you walk someone through the process they get to understand not just how you do something but also why you do it a certain way.
That sets you apart from people with less experience, but also gives you an opportunity to talk about experiences and anecdotes that further paint a picture of someone who has “been there, done that”.
There is a famous story about Claude Hopkins helping the Schlitz Brewing Company revitalize their advertising. It is so famous I will just give you the main notes here, but if you are not familiar with it do check it out.
At the time all beers had a similar approach in their advertising.
Claude noticed how detailed and nuanced their process was, and how they took a lot of care to produce their best, but they didn’t communicate that.
The company objected that everyone had to have similar processes if they wanted to make good beer.
Of course, the campaign was a huge success, making the company’s product synonymous with purity.
Flagship Content Sells, With One Caveat
Today you will hear about content selling everywhere. Back when we started out there was a lot of skepticism, and not just from the professional naysayers.
As a matter of fact, a long time ago I was shocked to discover my own free ebooks were getting other people sales. You see, even though I advise other people on this stuff I had made one major mistake with my own Flagship Content.
By the way, as a side-note, if you want to know the difference between Flagship and Pillar/Cornerstone content, check out my Linkbait, Diggbait, Flagship Content article.
Flagship Content can sell for you. But you have to tell people what they need to do. If you don’t ask you don’t get.
Clients mentioned my ebook to me and how much they liked it. I know they have passed it around within organizations. It was even being used while engaging freelance copywriters as part of their briefs.
I, however, forgot to add a call to action.
There is a good chance that if at the end of that little Flagship Content ebook I mentioned
I might have pulled in work directly from it. As it happens I am happy for those other copywriters (grrr) but still, lesson learned.
How does Flagship Content sell?
- Attraction – You know your content is Flagship when that is how visitors find you. If people talk about your content then it will draw new pre-sold visitors to your door.
- Education – In your niche are there subjects where people get confused? Is there something that you are especially well-equipped to help with? Demonstrate your expertise, and prove you are the person to come to.
- Trust – What do you get when you combine third-party endorsements with great educational content? The answer, of course, is a good foundation for trust.
- Decision – Is your approach an alternative to another method? Are you aiming to differentiate yourself from competitors? Work it carefully and you can help the reader, (potential customer) take the decision in your favor.
- Action – Finally you give the reader tools so they can take action, at the very least ways in which they can get in touch with you. This is where I slipped up, my only call to action was to make sure people knew to subscribe so I didn’t miss all the people who came by my ebook through other channels. Don’t make the same mistake, it doesn’t need to be a hard sell as by this point they will already be convinced you know your stuff.
Getting it Out There
Unlike your cornerstone/evergreen/pillar resources, which are vital by the way, this content goes out into the world, educates your potential customers, and brings folks back to you.
Encourage people to share. The more hands you get your content into, the more customers you create.
While this content could be a series or a large post, it is more portable as a file that people can download, send around, and print out. If your content is video or audio, provide the option to save as well as listen online.
I have seen business cards used as an excellent Flagship Content delivery system. What is the number one problem with business cards? People throwing them away. Put an attractive headline and a link to a free download on there though …
Just like on those TV talk shows, if you are in an interview and you have not been asked about your content, don’t miss the opportunity to plug it yourself.
Take your best resources to the next level and get them off of your blog into a portable form.
While series and comprehensive articles are excellent Flagship Content, they will provide you with many more benefits if you supply the option to download, especially if you gain opt-in permission to send follow-up messages.
Help your content make sales for you!