Do you know the difference between content marketing strategy and sales? Is there, in fact, a difference?
Isn’t the very term content marketing strategy synonymous with sales?
In a nutshell, no. There is a distinct difference, and failing to make the distinction can grind your marketing efforts to a halt.
The Ick Factor In Your Content Marketing Strategy
Consider this scenario:
You’ve signed up for an email list from a site you found in a recent Google search because it fit your needs, or appeared to, at least, ideally.
You eagerly await receiving content and tips that’ll help you find answers for which you’ve been searching.
You get the usual welcome email. So far, so good. The business is embracing you with open arms and piquing your interest in what’s to follow.
Then, Bam! Almost immediately your email box explodes. Suddenly you’re inundated with this offer and that offer, and better act quick demands, loaded with yellow highlights, big bold lettering, and exclamation marks.
Oh, the exclamation marks.
The words may be different, but the message is clear. Buy my stuff! Buy my stuff now!
You’re getting a headache just looking at the page.
And as you scroll up and down the landing page, searching for a good reason why you should buy their stuff now, you can’t seem to find one.
And what’s more, what do you actually know about this business? They’ve given you little in the way of authority to spark your trust in their brand or let you know what’s in it for you.
So what do you do? Well, if you’re like 99.9% of us, you unsubscribe as fast as your little fingers will let you.
Another marketing effort by a business that has bitten the big one. They screamed too loud, too soon, and lost.
It’s a lose/lose on both ends.
Seriously, this is not the way to do business. Don’t be that guy. Don’t piss off your readers. There are plenty of small businesses out there doing it right. If you make this blunder, you’ll send people their way.
If you’re lucky, they won’t tell anyone else how bad their experience with you was.
No One Likes Being Sold To
The example I just gave you may be a bit extreme, but I’ve seen this very scenario all too often. I bet you have too.
Too many small business owners make this mistake. It could be a rookie mistake, which is forgivable. Or it’s lack of understanding of the difference between an effective content marketing strategy and a sales pitch. And the golden key, the magic, lies in that difference.
When you launch your small business, and you have products to sell, the desire to get them in front of people is almost irresistible. Patience is in distinctly short supply. I guess it explains why it’s so easy to jump right to the sales pitch. But it’s a temptation you must resist.
And resistance will pay huge dividends in the long run.
Jumping too fast to the sale makes you appear needy and desperate. Or sleazy. Think used car salesman.
Here’s a business mantra to live by — People like to buy, but they hate being sold to. Click & Tweet! Print that out and post it on your wall, if you must. It’s that important
We humans are peculiar that way. We want help to be available when we’re ready to buy. Otherwise, we want the seller to stay in the background. Preferably out of our sight. We don’t want anyone breathing down our necks.
Like a good waiter in an exclusive restaurant, they should be available but never hovering over your shoulder.
The Heat Seeking Missile At The Mall
Have you ever walked into a shop in a department store mall and seen the salesperson veer your way like a heat-seeking missile? You inwardly groan and hope they’re just on their way somewhere past you.
But sadly, no, they took aim as soon as you walked in the door. The salesperson instantly begins offering insincere compliments, thrusting items in your face, and just plain being a nuisance.
That dress you tried on that makes you look 50 pounds heavier? You look absolutely gorgeous in it! You’re no fool. You’re being sold to. And it’s pissing you off.
You’ll never find out if the products are good or not because you’ll be too busy running toward the door.
Contrast that experience with, say, shopping at Nordstrom. You may find yourself cheerfully dropping hundreds of dollars without batting an eye, all the while smiling and chatting away with your new best friend.
Yes, the salesperson is nearby, but they stay a respectful distance away — available when you need them or have a question, but not crowding your space.
How To Sell Without Selling
When it comes to your content marketing strategy, you want to be like Nordstrom. Don’t push. Instead, educate. Build the relationship. Take the time to get to know your customer.
When you’re patient and take your time to establish your authority and gain trust and respect from your target audience, they’ll not only be willing to buy from you, but you’ll be hard-pressed to stop them.
That’s where your blog posts and other web content come in — to establish your brand authority and build trust with your potential customers.
Make It Their Idea
Building your brand authority through a good content marketing strategy is not difficult. Being patient while you do it can be. Patience is key.
Focus on benefits, not features.
I’m sure you’ve heard this one before. The difference between benefits and features is sometimes hard for new business owners to grasp. But when you develop a content marketing strategy surrounding your product, you want to focus on what’s in it for your customer, not for yourself.
It’s not about you. It’s about them.
Instead of talking about what makes your product great, focus on the need it fills, the problem it solves.
For example, if you sell cameras, don’t prattle on about all the nifty features included with the camera. While most people may know what an F-stop is or that there is such a thing as shutter speed, all they want to know is will it take good pictures.
Will the camera capture great photos of their children at play? Will they be able to take pictures at a concert or outside? Can they get great closeups or take stunning shots of the Grand Canyon?
What will the camera help them do, and how easily will they be able to do it?
These are the questions that are first and foremost in the customer’s mind. Not the nitty-gritty of the camera specs. Those are secondary. Nice to have, good that they exist, but not the focus of interest for the customer.
Educate, then sell.
When you write your web content and email incentive copy, aim to provide tons of value, then give it away for free.
That’s right, Free. At least some of what you offer. Selling comes later.
Your blog posts should be mostly educational, entertaining, and valuable.
Address the questions and concerns of your target audience and provide educational articles, helpful tips they can put to immediate use, and actionable concepts.
Then, every so often, go ahead and provide a link to a product for sale. But don’t lead with the sale. Start with educating.
The sales will follow once your audience trusts you.
Understand your audience.
If you don’t know who your audience is, you don’t know what they struggle with, what concerns they have, or the nature of their pain points. Research your target market and build your content — and your products for purchase — around their needs.
Google Adwords is one place to search keywords specific to your market. Ask questions on social media. Send out surveys.
Even Amazon can be a source when researching the needs of your target market. Search for topics you think will be of interest to them and see what pops up. Read comments and product reviews. They’ll give you great insight into how your target audience thinks.
A good content marketing strategy will help your business grow and be profitable. Understanding the difference between selling and marketing, and how the two overlap, is key to attracting and building a customer base that will not only buy from you, but they’ll tell others that they should buy from you too.
Educate and provide help.
Guide and nurture.
And soon you’ll have customers begging to buy from you.
When they’re ready to buy, you’ll be right there, ready and willing to help.