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Carol Forden

Carol Forden Freelance Writer & Customer Experience Marketing

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Stop Selling, Start Helping

Those of you who have read my posts have noticed that I don't post sales type content. This might be confusing, especially as a freelance content writer.

You're probably wondering how can you promote your business if you aren’t allowed to sell?

Oo how can Carol promote her content marketing services without selling these services?

Well, this rule has a good reason behind it, and believe it or not, it is one that will give your content a boost, allow me to show what I mean so that I can help you produce content that adds value.

On average, consumers are exposed to over 300 ads a day.  When they click on your content, the last thing they want to see is another ad.

People are busy and have a lot of content to choose from so cut to the chase in how your article is about to help them, tell them what they can expect clearly.

Being helpful offers a win-win alternative.

Valuable content costs a lot less than traditional advertising, but according to research, it reaps three times as many leads per dollar.

Consumers feel good when they read custom content, with 70% of consumers feel closer and trust companies that produce custom content.

As the Content Marketing Institute puts it:

Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty. And they do.

Being helpful vs. being pushy and selling

So, what does helpful content, rather than sales-focused content, look like?

Here are common differences between helpful and sales-orientated content, along with tips on how you can make yours more effective.

1. Give something valuable to the reader

One of the most important differences between a helpful article that will get you likes, shares and even customers, is that they give something back. This could be advice and tips, useful or new information, a solution to a problem or a free resource. These offerings will be relevant, valuable, and varied; in other words, not content that is disguised as an ad or a promotional video.

2. The article doesn’t use sales type language

In traditional ads, consumers can spot the sales copy instructing us to ‘try this’, ‘go there’, ‘wear that’ (‘before it's sold!’) Recent research has shown people are less likely to notice they are being sold a product or service when reading about them in an editorial. This is very good news for content marketers but can make separating ‘salesy’ from ‘helpful’ language a little tricky.

One simple way to do this is to focus on the reader, rather than you and your business.

References to a business’s company, products or achievements should be few and far between.

Avoid words and phrases like:

At XXX Dealership…

We will beat...

We guarantee…

Our dealership is…

Our dealership does...

Exclusive offer…

For a limited time only…

Hurry/act now today…

There is a time for this type of language, however, is it not in your content or articles.

Consumers, who are your readers are more likely to respond to language that is relatable, full of value, and has their best interests at heart.

That is what and how you will hold your audiences attention, build a relationship, drive trust and increase revenue.

3. The article isn’t filled with product/service links

This one is self-explanatory.

If an article contains lots of links to the dealership cars and service products, it is clearly sales-orientated.

Readers will notice this and will be less likely to trust your content as a result.

They’ll understand that the article, no matter how interesting it may be, is in fact geared towards one goal: taking their money.

This is why inserting links only when genuinely helpful, and 100% relevant, is what matters and what you should be doing.

Lead with content benefits your audience, and they will seek them out; littering your articles with links isn't necessary and actually costs you in both the short and long run.

4. The article has irritating UX

Don’t get me wrong – lead generation pages and sign-up forms are essential to most businesses, and when executed well, can be very effective.

Most consumers are used to them that one request won’t bother them. However, it’s another matter entirely when these features destroy the user experience.

Readers who click on your links have been attracted by the funny, or well-articulated title, and the prospect of finding something useful or entertaining on your site.

How will they feel if that click is followed by a capture form, another pop-up, and then a slide-out tab?

You might as well approached them on the street with a collection bucket.

A sign-up form in itself is unlikely to irritate readers, whereas the excessive use of pop-ups likely will.

If that happens, it won’t matter how helpful your content is – an irritated reader will click to close the article faster than you can say sold!

There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these sales tactics; even native ads are commonplace today and effective when deployed correctly.

But nowhere in the rulebook does it call for the use of them all together in your content. nor should you.

This only serves to frustrate and ultimately scare-off people you could have nurtured into a long-term relationship that delivered incremental revenue.

Leave a comment and tell me your take on sales-driven content. What’s good or bad, effective or boring? I’d love to hear your take on the place of sales in content marketing.

Ian Coburn

Thanks, Carol. Some good tips particularly for our industry. The bar I always mention to utilize when in doubt: Ask yourself, "Is this best for the customer?" That's the measuring stick. 

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