Use Your Content to Teach Your Customers

The sales will follow.

Here’s a question I received from a potential client, following my Friday Tip post called ‘Show, Don’t Sell!’: “How exactly do you use content to ‘show’, without ‘selling’? Isn’t every post a sales pitch, to some extent?”

My answer? Use the content to teach.

Content marketing is all about sharing stories that help build a relationship with TeachShowpotential customers by providing them with something entertaining and/or useful; something of value.

Shilling your product or service in an ad masquerading as content won’t work. What is valuable is teaching a customer something that they didn’t know (or reminding them of something they knew but have since forgotten)?

Let me give you an example. In the not so distant past, I was the co-owner of a monthly community newspaper, located in the Kawarthas, near Peterborough. My then husband and I bought the paper, but neither of us came from a journalism background. So buying the business, buying a house and then a dog (in that order), moving from Uxbridge, and putting together the next issue was a TOTAL trial by fire. A fire from which we emerged relatively unscathed because we chose to keep the paper precisely as the previous owners had it, at least for a while.

Luckily, the sellers, who became our trial by fire trainers, had done their homework and they introduced me to a new concept: ‘infotainment’. That is, content that is written and paid for by an advertiser, that teaches the reader something about the advertiser’s business but that does not contain any direct sales pitch, though it did include a byline / bio for the writer.

These days, we know that by a different name: branded content.

Back in 2003, it was a great way to fill up a newspaper on a limited editorial budget.

Our most popular ‘columnist’—I’ll call him Bob—was a contractor who would do a Q&A piece each month to give homeowners information on how to get things done around their homes and properties. The most popular post of all time was a non-technical how-to piece on installing a corner shower unit that didn’t leak. At no point in the article did he say anything like: “I can do this for you because I’m amazing.” That was against our publishing guidelines. He didn’t need to be that obvious: Bob later told us that he received a lot of feedback on that post, some of which converted to sales. Great! That was the point!

Bob TAUGHT people about installing corner showers and in so doing, SHOWED readers that he was an expert in his field and that if they were in need of his services, they could TRUST that he knew what he was doing.

He taught, he showed, he built trust and he leveraged the notion of branded content to the hilt. He got more business.

That’s what I mean by ‘show, not sell’. Give your readers something they need. Explain a concept they don’t fully understand. Teach them how you can help them without being overt about it and show your EQ—your Expertise Quotient. You’ll get more business too.


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