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!

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I'm a writer and digital marketer. Communicating your brand's message and helping you to connect with the right audience is my specialty. If you are interested in: branding, marketing, copywriting, social media, search engine marketing, inspiration, success, and enjoying life, then my blog is the right place for you.

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