What if My Content Helps My Competitors?

When creating content, some think you should be careful not to reveal too much.

Perhaps, you should hide your “secret sauce” behind a paywall. Isn’t it all about giving just enough to make them want more?

Wrong.

Your content should provide value to your audience in and of itself. In other words, your free content — whether it be a blog post, a YouTube video, or a Facebook post — should be able to stand on its own as something valuable to the user.

A common fear about sharing content for free is that the competition might use it to compete more effectively. Another concern is that prospects may benefit from it to the extent that they will not need to do business with you.

Both concerns are understandable, but invalid.

Here’s why:

 

People want to do business with those who help them.

Prospects in your target market may consume your content and utilize the information, advice, and tips you provide without buying from you. But, ironically, it’s the ones who consume you most religiously that will be more likely to do business with you in the future. As soon as they encounter a situation they cannot handle themselves, you are most likely going to be the solution they turn to.

By helping others, you earn their admiration and trust, which makes them more receptive to your sales messages. The helpfulness of your content is known as its “Youtility,” a term coined by Convince&Convert CEO, Jay Baer. Youtility is a specific type of content marketing with a tangible, specific usefulness. Your brand’s short-term youtility can go a long way toward driving more conversions in the long run.

 

Competition – So what?

When it comes to business, it’s well known that execution is more important than ideas. Everyone has great ideas, but few implement them successfully. So, when you share ideas, tips, solutions, or ‘how-to’s,’ you can rest assured that most people who consume your content will never execute or follow through on your advice anyway. Most people are too lazy to do the work, don’t make the time, or are simply not as talented as you are in your area of expertise.

And, most of the people who attempt to copy your tactics without the substance will look hollow and cheap by comparison, even if they do see some gains from it. Those who actually do use the advice you provide in your content to their advantage and go on to be successful will be few and far between.

 

Collaborate.

Let’s not pretend everything is always “rainbows and gum drops.” This is business. Inevitably, there will always be competition. But, one can measure one’s success by looking to improve rather than by trying to tear others down.

Yes, you’ll always have competition, but your content can also gain you allies. While your content may help competitors or even generate new ones, it will also earn you more attention, respect, and admiration from others. Those who benefited from your content will feel more positively disposed toward your brand and, in some cases, may even feel a debt of gratitude. By getting more people to “like” you, your brand wins more supporters, or “cheerleaders,” who will want to partner or work with you. Pooling your resources, you can come up with ways to help one another grow and succeed.

 

Benefits outweigh the potential costs.

When it’s all said and done, sharing quality content will win you valuable relationships –clients, advocates, collaborators, partners, and investors — that will outweigh the annoyance of copycat competitors. As much as it might inspire competition, your content will also win over more prospects, put you on the map, and essentially drive more business than it will cost you.

When creating informative or useful content that attracts your target audience, you assume the risk of inadvertently helping your competition in the process. It’s just part of the price you pay for getting noticed, earning trust, and establishing credibility. Without putting out valuable content, you will not even be able to get your foot in the door of today’s competitive market, so you have no choice, but to do it. Dealing with the competition is simply a reality of doing business. Suck it up.

Think of benefiting the competition with your content as the cost of getting business. It’s worth it.

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3 Reasons Why You Should Provide Value for Free

Jeffrey Gitomer, sales expert and the author of the “Little Red Book of Selling,” has said:

“People don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy.”

Start off trying to make the sale right off the bat and you’ll likely have a tougher time achieving results. But, provide value, establish a relationship, and demonstrate why your product or service is something that will help your prospect and your offer will be irresistible. In fact, your audience may even be enticed to seek you out before you have to ask.

The best way to get attention, establish credibility, and gain leverage in today’s marketplace is producing and sharing content that your audience actually wants. Sharing organic content (video, written, audio) that your audience can consume for free is an important part of the marketing and sales process.

Ads alone just won’t cut it anymore.

An advertisement by itself will only get you so far. Ads are intrusive and interruptive by nature and technology now allows us to ignore or fast-forward them. There’s far too much competing for our attention to make us think twice about an ad from someone we’ve never heard of. And, the Internet allows us to filter out content we don’t want so that we only see or interact with content we find interesting. ‘If I don’t know you, I don’t want to hear from you.’ But, a well-timed and targeted offer to people who have been consuming and benefiting from your content is likely to be far more effective than a cold ask.

Still, many businesses remain unconvinced. They are resistant to sharing any knowledge or resources for free. I have encountered many people who are skeptical about the business ROI of organic content, particularly social media content. And yet, they will still pay top dollar for expensive advertising placements, PR, news mentions, and television appearances that do not always generate results worthy of the time and money spent.

Not withstanding, the objections to producing organic content online and the excuses for not doing so are numerous.

So, here are 3 reasons why you should provide value for free:

1. Attention

Before you get anyone’s money, you first need to get their attention! Providing value is not merely one method of getting attention. It’s now arguably the only way.

Brands need to come down from off their high horses and realize that consumers call the shots. Media platforms no longer provide companies with a captive audience. We’re scrolling through our Instagram feeds on our smartphones during TV commercials and our brother’s wedding photos are a hell of a lot more interesting than your banner ad!

To rise above the noise and break through the clutter, create and share quality content that provides your audience with value. You can use video (highly recommended in 2017), audio (podcasting), or written content (articles, blogs, newsletters) to story-tell in a way that is native to each platform or marketing channel.

Creating content that provides information, entertainment, inspiration, or some other kind of value will attract your audience to your brand. Social media insights and analytics tools provide you with data about user response, which supplies you with valuable information about your audience. These insights can help inform what you do next and sharpen your marketing efforts.

Often, it takes many quality impressions (quality is the keyword here) to get a conversion (sale, sign-up, subscription etc.). So, be relentless. Aggressively give away content that your audience enjoys and be prepared to engage with your audience in a human, direct, and transparent way. If pulled off strategically and with the audience’s interests in mind, all this content will also delight your current customers and transform them into brand loyalists who will repeatedly do business with you.

2. Credibility and Brand Narrative

Sharing content can establish you as a thought leader or expert in your field. By sharing informational content on a frequent and consistent basis, you become a resource for people and a trusted authority. Write blog posts and bylines, share how-to videos, and answer questions on forums.

But, a word of caution: Only speak about topics in which you truly are proficient and qualified to address. Faking knowledge to score credibility points may fool some of the people some of the time, but it will make you look like an idiot and a dishonest hack to those who actually do know what they’re talking about.

Depending on your brand or your industry, you can create content which entertains. While I don’t recommend this unless you actually have the talent (or hire people who have it), creating videos, podcasts, or blog posts that are humorous, inspiring, motivating, or fun can help you craft a brand narrative or story that will resonate with your target audience.

3. Leverage

A common objection to regularly sharing great content is that competitors can steal it to build their own brand. They may even use the information that you give away to compete more effectively against you.

While that is true, it’s a risk you’re going to have to take. As stated above, you need to share content to even get noticed, let alone achieve business results. Sharing content that may help your competitors is part of the price you pay to gain entry to the market and play in a digital landscape where attention spans are divided across numerous platforms and devices.

Dave Kerpen, founder and CEO of Likeable Media, a social media marketing firm,  wrote about a time when someone told him that he managed to build his own social media marketing company thanks to the knowledge he gained by reading Dave’s blog.

“I felt devastated at first,” admitted Dave. But, only a few days later the CEO of a major tent company called him saying that she’d like to work with his company, because she was so impressed with his content. “I know we want to work with you,” she said. “Because I’ve seen how you guys think in all these articles you’ve written and shared over the last few months. I have $200,000 in our budget. When can we get started?”

While providing value for free may assist your competitors or even create new ones, there is no doubt that quality content attracts leads and helps drive sales. Not only that, but the credibility you amass and the free help you provide builds you leverage that inclines more people to get behind what you’re doing.

The results of your content cannot always be traced in a direct, linear fashion and they may take a long time to materialize, but those who have been helped by your content will likely be more interested in establishing a partnership or mutually beneficial relationship with you.

Yes, there will be many — perhaps, the majority — who will benefit from your content and never transact. It’s not always give to get and, worse, if you make it obvious that you’re trying to get anything out of it, people will be turned off.

It may seem like a hassle to give anything away for free, but if you don’t put out content, you’re bound to get left behind in a competitive market. Think of content as your currency that buys you attention, leads, and business. Without it, you can’t even hope to break into the conversation, not to mention boost your bottom line. In order to be a winner, you first have to be a contender. Content is what puts you in the ring.

Plus, the value of free content is not always quantitative or measurable. Numerous people who benefit from your content may share it or talk about it with their friends who may then turn into your customers. Prospects who seem to one day suddenly convert may have been seeing your content on multiple channels for years. A decision maker, influencer, or competitor may feel so grateful to you for your free content that they may eventually approach you about doing something that will help both of you succeed.

Sharing free content can pay off and earn you so many rewards in many unexpected ways. So, keep at it!

Content is Your Currency

Most of us have heard the common phrase, “You have to pay to play.”

In our time, when there is so much competing for our attention, this phrase rings truer than ever before. If you want to get people to pay attention to your brand or your business, you’re going to have to pay for it.

I don’t mean in money, but in providing value.

The only way to stand out in such a crowded market where you’re not only competing with other advertisers, but funny cat videos, baby pictures, and loads of other things on the internet is by providing content that is relevant and something your audience actually wants to consume and engage with.

 

Quality content is the price you have to pay to earn people’s attention. Until you have their attention as well as their interest or affection, you cannot expect as many prospects to engage with you in a meaningful way.

Giving away good content doesn’t always generate a great deal of short-term sales, but it builds brand, relationships, and generates more success over the long-term than can ever be achieved by skipping the courtship and going straight for sale.

Newer or smaller companies with smaller budgets are going to have to work especially hard to create content in order to get on people’s radar. They simply don’t have the inflated budgets or the brand name recognition of the bigger corporations.

But, what they lack in funds and reputation, they can make up for in speed. Decisions, implementation, and changes can be made much more quickly in a smaller organization than in a larger one. In a big company, every idea has to be vetted and scrutinized by a board of directors and a legal department before passing through a chain of command.

The good news is there are many cost-effective options that cash-strapped companies can use to get their name out there, such as organic social media marketing, SEO, paid social media ads (which are still under-priced for their value), and email newsletters.

But, all of this will take time and effort. In addition to all of the daily responsibilities of launching or running a business, brands are going to also have to create, share, or curate a great deal of media that will captivate the interest of their target markets. Most will have to outsource many of these responsibilities to others.

While it’s increasingly harder to buy your way to the top with expensive advertisements and commercials, you can now do it by frequently and consistently sharing content that educates, entertains, inspires, or serves as a resource of information. Once you gain a following, the selling part is easy. And the best part is that great content also inculcates brand loyalty and increases customer retention.

Giving away content and sharing it so often may sound like a lot of work, but content marketing becomes far more manageable as you gain experience with it. If you’re thinking that it’s annoying and not something you have to do, remember that content is your currency.

Why should anyone care about you or your business? Pardon my language, but honestly, why should anyone give an F about what you sell or what you have to say? You need to give them a reason to care. Depending on your business your content might have to establish thought leadership and demonstrate credibility. Maybe you’ll have to share useful and friendly tips. Or maybe you’ll have to make people laugh, smile, or feel warm and fuzzy.

Regardless of the substance of your content , it’s a value exchange and you won’t always get something in return — certainly not right away. But if your content is quality, you consistently put in the work, and you remain patient, you will ultimately reap the benefits.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed about coming up with content to create and having trouble getting started, here are some ideas.

How to Make Your Spring Ecommerce Marketing Bloom

This post originally appeared on cartonomy.com/blog

Spring has almost sprung! Soon enough, we’ll emerge from the cold of winter and enter the longer, sunnier days of Spring. As the last of the snow begins to melt, now is the time to awaken your target audience from their hibernation and get them excited about your products.

While Spring may not be the time of year when retailers have their highest amount of sales, there are a variety of ways ecommerce stores can capitalize on relevant, timely themes and trends of the season to drive more business in the coming months.

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No Such Thing as “Passive” Income

Many people think you can just create a business that runs by itself and generates income with no work on your part so you can spend the rest of your days chilling  on the beach catching some . Simply put a few widgets in place and you can have a business that functions like a self-sustaining machine on autopilot while you kick back and relax. 

Judging by some of the ads on YouTube, a plethora of Instagram accounts flashing fancy cars and mansions, and the sudden explosion of new apps and people calling themselves startup founders, you might get the mistaken impression that you can now easily create a “passive” income stream that allows you to collect riches for the rest of your life.

Don’t fall for that lie.

And, don’t be seduced by phony “get-rich-quick” schemes and online hucksters who get rich off telling you that it’s easy. New technology has made creating a sustainable business or a lucrative side-hustle easier than ever before, but don’t get it twisted that it’s now a piece of cake. All the tools and apps in the world won’t help you if you don’t have the talent, work ethic, openness to learn, and willingness to deal with failures and setbacks.

Nothing is as tried and true as good, old-fashioned hard work. Even in an age of IoT, robots, and mass automation, hard work is necessary if you want to achieve success. This has always been the case and always will be. Anything worth having takes patience, dedication, and sacrifice.

If big gains are achieved quickly and easily, chances are they were not earned ethically or legally and the rewards certainly won’t last. To choose short-term gains at the expense of building long-term growth and a trustworthy reputation is to set yourself up for tremendous losses in the future. To achieve lasting success, there are no short-cuts.

In short:

Grind your a$$ off and you have a chance at succeeding.

***

On a personal note:
This is the philosophy with which I approach business, because every truly successful person I know has won this way. The people I emulate are the people who hustled day and night and did right by their clients and customers. As I steadily build my own content marketing agency, I am finding out that it takes hard work, consistent dedication, and patience. Perhaps not immediately, but as I grow, I’m already starting to see my effort pay off. I have no doubt that over the long-term this approach is what will help me achieve my goals.

 

How to Start Selling More with Instagram

This post originally appeared as a guest post on cartonomy.com/blog.

Like most social media networks, Instagram simply wasn’t built with last-touch attribution or CPA campaigns in mind. As a result, proving ROI from Instagram has been challenging.

All that may soon change as the app continues to roll out features that make it easier for brands to convert leads into sales — and more major updates are still in the works. 

Here are some of the new or recent features you should know about if you’re looking to convert more leads through Instagram:

Read More

 

 

Michele Lando on Turning Your Side-Hustle into a Full-time Business

Both a writer and a stylist, Michele Lando is a freelancer and a writer who helps people get the jobs they desire. While a copywriter or a graphic designer make a business look attractive to consumers, Michelle makes job candidates look attractive and employable to employers.

I first discovered Michele on Instagram where her artfully done photographs, keen eye for aesthetics, and inspiring captions often catapult her posts to the Top Posts sections of hashtags related to writing and freelancing. As of this writing, she has over 9,000 followers.

In this interview, I asked Michelle what she does and how she made a full-time career out of her passions.

To read the full interview in The Huffington Post, click here: Read more