Guest post from Russ Henneberry, who writes, speaks and executes on content marketing plans for small businesses. He writes a daily blog about how tiny businesses can make mighty profits using a personal computer, a little imagination and a few well placed dollars.
Companies must now create their own attention to promote products and services. To do so in the past, we interrupted interesting content with offers for products and services.
The formula used to look like this:
Content + Offers = Sales
(Think TV, radio, and print ads here)
Over the past decade or so we devious consumers have been chiseling away at this formula. We have invented ways to avoid the offers with DVRs, iPods, satellite radio and more.
We are rewriting the formula to read:
Content – Offers = Nothing, Nada, Zilch
As a result, smart marketers are learning to create content that inherently but craftily contains offers.
Consider American Idol. Product placement such as a Ford commercial wrapped in an American Idol video or a Coca-Cola glass on the same table as Jennifer Lopez has become the norm. The singers (content) are entertaining the consumer, but that content clearly contains an offer that makes Fox, American Idol and Ford and Coca-Cola money (presumably).
Call it “blended content.” Content that has value while making an offer.
But your offer cannot be overt. Try standing in front of a video camera and talking about the features, benefits and pricing of your products and see how many YouTube views you get. You will be able to count them on one hand. As a result, your business must become the singer. By becoming the singer, you are creating the valuable content around which your products and services can be sold.
Good, successful content has two attributes:
1. Provides value
2. Makes an offer
I’m not suggesting that your business be entertaining, necessarily. Entertainment is likely the wrong value proposition for your business. More likely, in place of entertainment the value in your content might be:
- Protection (of the consumer or something they love)
Here are three levels of blended content offers (and some examples) that graduate from the subtle to the more overt offer:
Level 1 Offer – Continuing the conversation
One of the most valuable and subtle goals your content can have is to add “permission assets.” Asking for a “like” on Facebook or a follow on Twitter. Or, making an offer to get a free piece of premium content to join an email list. In all of these cases, you are getting permission to continue the conversation. People that start out by connecting with you via social media or email may eventually become customers.
Example: In a blog post by an accounting firm entitled “5 Steps To Reducing IRS Audit Risk” the offer in the article might read:
“In the ‘Legal Loopholes In The Federal Tax System’ free report that we provide to our email community we cover these steps in more depth. You can join the email community here.”
This blended offer indicates that there is additional value to be had by “continuing the conversation.” You gain a permission asset while they receive additional value from your business. In the future, you will be able to make more overt offers to these “permission assets” because you have sustained the conversation.
Level 2 Offer – Educating prospects about your offers
Your content assists in qualifying and disqualifying prospects for your products and services.
Example: In a YouTube video by a divorce attorney entitled “Is Your Divorce Attorney Gambling With Your Children?” the offer in the video might read: “In a recent case, our firm represented a father of three that retained full custody of his children by following this advice…”
This blended offer provides social proof for your business, teaches them your process and provides real value to your prospects or existing customers.
Level 3 Offer – Asking for an order
There’s nothing subtle about this type of blended offer. This is an overt offer.
Example: In a blog post by a veterinary office entitled “5 Signs Of Canine Heart worms” the offer in the article might read:
“Nothing can substitute for a canine heart worm screening by a professional veterinarian. Receive 20% off of all heart worm medications through the end of April by calling 555-555-5555 to schedule an appointment.”
While some business blogging experts will tell you that making an obvious offer like this is a bad idea, I maintain that making these kind of offers is smart if the valuable content provided is relevant to the offer.
Surrounding offers with valuable content is nothing new. Socrates was likely dropping subtle hints about his line of branded togas on the streets of Athens. But it has never been more critical to learn to blend offers into your valuable content.
What are your thoughts? What are some other ways to blend offers into valuable content? How has it worked (or not worked) for you?