Where Does Sales End And Content Begin?
Are you old enough to remember the prehistoric, or rather pre-Internet, days of marketing? Way back when, you had people like the Amway Man and the Avon Lady selling door-to-door. You relied on salespeople to inform you about the brands and products they were offering.
Author Dan Pink likes to recount how 20 years ago, when you went to a car dealer the salesperson held all the cards because they had all the information—invoice price, cost of options, trade-in value, Blue Book price… pretty much everything you needed to know was closely guarded by the “middle man.” The buyer, however, was mostly in the dark.
This asymmetry of information was usually to the financial benefit of the seller. Today, however, the proverbial shoe is on the other foot. Now it’s the buyer who enters the deal with nearly complete information—sometimes even more than the dealer or salesperson!
In the wake of this role reversal, salespeople who want to succeed in the new economy need to become what Pink calls “servant sellers.” This is where content marketing converges with sales, and where some people confuse the two.
Content Forms Connections
The goal for content marketers should be to provide helpful information, answer questions, and generally deliver a good experience—before any sale is made.
That’s the role of content marketing today: To stay in touch with the prospect and keep them warm. Don’t get too pushy or overly salesy with your content marketing. Save the sales pitch for other channels.
By providing valuable information, at no charge, your content helps form a relationship. Now customer relationships that might have formerly taken place door-to-door can be formed online. Your content builds up trust over time so that when the reader is ready to make the purchase, you get the sale.
Content Is The Long Game
Think of a white paper: its purpose is to describe a common business problem and offer a solution in a largely objective fashion. The job of content marketing—whether in the form of a white paper, blog or newsletter—is to inform, not necessarily persuade or sell right away. Content marketing is the long game and patience pays off. Keep informing your readers with helpful, valuable content and the sales will follow.