Content Marketing That Gets You Buyers

You can write for your idea-spreaders, and you can write for your buyers. Find a bridge to your success.

One gets you seen and the other gets you business. I say do both. Here’s a post about content marketing with the mindset of ways to get you buyers.

How Do You Appeal to a Buyer?

Why would someone come to your blog or newsletter in the first place? Precious few of your buyers are thinking, “I’m bored. Entertain me.” They’re thinking, “I’ve really gotta up my game. I wonder what ______ has for me that will improve my universe.” And that’s what you’re writing towards.

Make Your Buyer the Hero

If you’re writing to try and do business with banks, write a post that would help them understand their processes better. Trying to encourage people to hire you to paint their house? Shoot a quick video that shows your five steps for getting a house ready for your people to come in and do work. Make the buyer the hero, though. Not you. They’ll understand that you’re there to help, but they have to come away feeling like the hero.

In Harry Potter, people like Ron and Hermione and Hagrid and Albus, etc, etc (I can’t believe I remembered all those names), but they want to BE Harry Potter, or feel like it’d be to ride along for the adventure. That’s what you’re shooting for in your content creation. It doesn’t always have to be that fanciful. (If you’re a plumber, you might have a harder time creating magic than, well, a movie and book series about magic.) But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to make the buyer the hero.

Here’s a quick example of two post titles (say for an email newsletter). Tell me which seems the most likely to make someone open:

* How my amazing company saved some bunch of clueless people a lot of money.
* How Smith’s Apothecary spent 42% less on advertising last year, and how YOU can too!

B. Say B. If you don’t, well, you’re just toying with me. But if you want to know the truth, I see more and more articles written that sound like A. People don’t care about your awards. They don’t care about how great you are. THEY want to be the hero. They’re looking at you with big “what’s in it for me” eyes, and they will tune you out if you don’t give people that.

And Never Waste Content Without Offering an “Ask” of Some Kind

If you’re not putting some kind of potential hook to future business into your efforts, you’re not content marketing. You’re writing. And that’s great. But it’s not going to help your business, as such.

So what should you do? Hard sell each time? Soft sell? A mix? A mix.

The ask should be something reasonable and related to the content you’ve created. Make it too jarring and people won’t really seek to play along. For instance, in a post written by a company that offers home improvements, maybe something about how to get your bathroom looking better in seven easy steps, you might invite people to subscribe to your newsletter, or you might ask them if they want a free appraisal, or you might offer them something that lets them commit just a little bit, without going too deep too fast.

The hard sell method – Now I’ve given you this free thing, so buy my expensive thing. That doesn’t work so well. Most times. It might also depend on your audience.

But What If My Product Is Dull or Boring?

Not every single product or service is right for content marketing, but then the company might be the subject instead of the product. For instance, if you make toilet paper, the product itself isn’t especially interesting. The company’s commitment to using more recycled materials, however, might be very interesting. You might sell house insurance. Have you seen how people market insurance? There are tons of ways to perk that subject up (talk about what goes wrong – be funny, etc). If you sell legal services, maybe your content marketing is about the more interesting related-but-not-your-clients cases you’ve read about in the news.

There’s always an angle. As dull and boring as you want to believe that you, your product, or whatever are, you’re not getting off the hook that easily.

How Do I Convince the Boss?

There are plenty of ways, but money usually works. Compare the cost of content marketing: nearly free, to the cost of print marketing: not so free. Compare the lead scoring that comes from either. In short, provide numbers. Ask for a test or a trial and then provide numbers. It’s the only way people will let you shift things around, especially if trust isn’t on your side. Is that hard to do? Sure. But if you’re thinking that it’s how your company will move forward, you’ll probably be okay with that.

Do I Have To Write Well to Create Good Content?

Yes, you most certainly do. The people who joined my course, Blog Topics: The Master Class, didn’t sign up for a 16 week course on writing and content creation just because they think I’m a nice guy. They paid for education in how to create meaningful content for the audience they serve. You can’t just want to write better. You have to do something about it. And practice helps, of course.

So that’s the advice I have for you today. This gets you halfway to convincing the honey badger to care. What gets you the rest of the way there? Oh, I’ll talk about that in my free newsletter on Sunday. You know, if you subscribe to that.

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  • Scurrior

    First – good morning. I’m barely awake, tea brewing. I need to process some of this but wonder, if a large portion of your intended users are older and not so tech savy. Do you help them with that issue before you help with product content. Can you do both simultaneously? Let’s have lunch. oops there’s my tea.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Because of tablets, older folks are flocking to the web. With regards to helping them find the content, it’s a matter of giving them very simple steps. It’s a great question. I’ll maybe cover it in a follow up post.

      And good morning to you. Me too! : )

      • Scurrior

        Some place quiet. Midway between AZ and Maine. Thanks Chris PS: Before she passed, my granny saw a tablet but was afraid she’d get cancer from it. She said “You know, like you get brain tumors from cell phones”. She was a caution.

        • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

          Good to be cautious. We don’t really know what these dark arts are earning us in the future.

          • Scurrior

            The wrath of Khan

  • http://raulcolon.net/ Raul Colon

    Chris,

    “If you sell legal services, maybe your content marketing is about the more interesting related-but-not-your-clients cases you’ve read about in the news.”

    I can see how that line applicable to many other’s who want to stay away from sharing any client info. I bump into that situation in many occasions where people are scared to share their knowledge which they feel a client paid for.

    On another note I was writing for a long time with you and Robbie Vorhaus I have learned that if you put the effort of creating a relationship and then creating content it is ok to mis the Ask into what you do. Thanks again Chris.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      We agree on all parts, amigo. And yes, I rarely talk about my clients (not that I have any any more), because that’s not the story people want. They want to hear their own story from your lips.

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  • http://www.taniadakka.com Tania Dakka

    woke up this morning, feeling like the content marketing worries in my head were put to rest somehow. Between your posts, your emails, and headslamming – I feel like I’ve finally reached a point where “Ok, this is it – it’s settled.” The ideas are flowing and now it’s about becoming the Executioner.

    Thank you:) For. Everything.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      You’re welcome. Now do.

  • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

    I’ve been noodling over this all morning and I have to say I disagree with your statement about “wasting” content without an ask.

    Some of the best content is that which educates or entertains. Telling people they need to have an ask of some sort on every piece of content or else it is wasted is an inappropriate statement to make since so many people trust what you say and will move forward under that assumption.

    I understand what you are saying, but does this mean most of your blog posts are wasted since you don’t ask in lots of them. Are all the tweets you push out wasted since you don’t ask? What about your photos and videos that you do just to share and connect?

    As someone who has been working with brands of all sizes to embrace why creating content is important to them I can already sense I’ll hear this quoted back to me sometime in the future.

    Content is what someone creates and shares to tell their story. Each piece that they feel is important enough to create in the first place is appropriate and not wasted.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      I’m glad you disagreed. You wrote the book on content. It’s a worthwhile conversation to have.

      Every post that doesn’t contain an ask *might* add value to the body of work and *might* bring more people to the campfire. What it doesn’t do is directly advance your business.

      Should both opportunities be considered? Yes.

      Should ever post SELL HARD? No. Sometimes the ask can be to comment. That’s what I promote quite often. Thus, the part about hard and soft selling.

      I stand by my premise. I just interpret it a bit differently.

      Thrilled to have your take on this. : ) Hope you write a rebuttal, even.

      • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

        Yes, both should be considered. Having call to action in your content is critical for success, but having it in every piece will turn people off.

        I worry because while I may have wrote the book on content, people take a lot of what you say as gospel and telling people that simply sharing is wasted worries me.

        • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

          Fair to be worried. More people than not are coming to me saying they’re not getting any results. But they also don’t do anything to push for a lead. Bigger companies are trending in the opposite direction, I agree.

          • http://twitter.com/rogerdooley Roger Dooley

            Leaning toward CC’s view on this. I think a real danger is that if you start including a call to action in every piece of content, pretty soon you’ll start writing the content with conversion in mind. I tend to tune out blogs and other content sources that are relentlessly sales-oriented. After reading a few separate posts that all end the same way, I begin to question whether the author is really trying to provide great information or just sell me stuff.

          • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

            And if you’re not writing with conversion in mind?

          • http://twitter.com/rogerdooley Roger Dooley

            Ha, two answers:
            1) You won’t convert very well.
            2) You’ll create content that doesn’t seem tainted by a sales pitch and keeps your readers engaged.
            That’s the balancing act – keep creating great content that your readers like and share, but still meeting your business objective with the site.
            Not all business objectives require conversion to a lead or order. Establishing thought leader status, building brand recognition, etc., may be valid goals in some cases. (“Will it blend?” comes to mind.) Even within a site, different content could be created with different results in mind.

        • Kathleen Barnebey

          Sorry, you’ve raised my hackles here – ” . . .while I may have wrote the book on content” – please. The demise of the correct use of English language is hard to take but from a writer who may have written a book on content, it’s doubly hard to take.

    • http://twitter.com/IanGertler Ian Gertler

      Yes, yes, yes!!

      While I certainly understand the importance of having a call-to-action or ask in the equation (as appropriate), the social era (as Nilofer Merchant highlights) has a much more focused drive on making connections, storytelling and allowing people to understand the value proposition for discussions — which turns into evangelism, when done correctly.

      I think we also miss the importance of making emotional ties when possible, since it’s not always (often rarely) about the bells-and-whistles or technology. The Google TV ads are a perfect example of this.

      My (twenty) two cents … for what it’s worth. More important — forums like this that invite healthy debates. This is where the real insight happens, when people gain perspectives that prompt new ways of thinking. Thank you both.

      • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

        What is storytelling without an eventual ask? Will someone’s boss pay for it?

        • http://www.mediawhiz.com/ Keith Trivitt

          Good point, Chris. At the end of the day, the time and resources that go into the content marketers generate has to be paid for in some way. Generating goodwill and building trust with customers and partners is a very worthwhile endeavor. And it will enhance a business over time. But it is
          a very long-term effort that requires a constant influx of time and resources to maintain. But for short-term business gains, whether actual sales, leads, downloads, page views, etc., marketers need to eventually make an ask. Otherwise, few customers are going to be inclined to take some type of action.

          Take NPR, for example. In almost every program it
          airs it has some “ask.” Often, that is couched in a very clever way, whether the ask is read as part of a member haiku saluting the station (such as is done on my local NPR affiliate, WNYC) or as part of a larger donation drive. Sometimes, it’s as overt as a hard sell (a request for donations). Other times
          it’s as soft as reminding listeners that their contributions are what keep NPR running.

          Bottom line: There isn’t anything wrong with putting an “ask” in your content, so long as you do so strategically and understand your audience so do not offend or annoy them.

    • John Heaney

      Interesting conversations going on over here. Now my 2 cents.

      One of the primary goals of content marketing is to engender trust. But trust is built over time. Concluding every post with a pitch may actually diminish trust, since the “ask” is too early in the relationship.

      However, the “ask” may be to suggest that the reader link to another piece of complementary content that supports the poster’s credibility and provides more useful and actionable info for the consumer of the content. If you lead the consumer through a series of posts, it makes the sales ask more palatable.

      • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

        Depends what the pitch is? What if it’s just to invite someone to a new post or a new community or whatever? A not-for-money pitch?

  • http://www.tommartin.typepad.com Tom Martin

    Interesting take Chris — but I’ll have to jump on CC’s side here… I don’t think every piece of content has to have an ask because every reader doesn’t have to become a customer. In fact, some of your best customers may never do business with you.

    Instead, they consume your content and spread it… maybe they can’t afford you, maybe their company won’t listen to them, for whatever reason, they’ll never do business with you but they’ll become your best cheerleader, most committed ambassador and most prolific pimp.

    And you’ll end up making money off the customers you get from the pimps’ referrals, which, you might not get if every piece of content you publish has a CTA… a shill as CC would call it.

    @TomMartin

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      What if the ask isn’t to make the a customer?

      • http://www.tommartin.typepad.com Tom Martin

        Assume you’re talking about asking someone to subscribe to a newsletter or the blog? Think that works but if the site is designed with that in mind, you wouldn’t even have to ask because the ask would be built into every page via the design no?

        • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

          Or for comments. Or for whatever. An ask. Any ask. To me, that’s what separates content marketing from writing. People are welcome to write to write. But just don’t wonder why you’re not moving the business needle.

          • http://www.tommartin.typepad.com Tom Martin

            Fair point — I’d probably call it “intent” — think you can write (or present at a conference for that matter) with no direct ask, but very planned “intent” — which is that folks will make the ask of you.

            A Seduction vs Asking approach maybe…

          • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

            But maybe something a hair more than “wishful intent,” if that distinction makes sense.

          • http://twitter.com/WilliamCMurray William Murray

            Chris – it sounds like what you’re calling an ‘ask’ is what others might refer to as a ‘call to action’ or getting the reader to do something (comment, agree, disagree, like, share, click, buy, recommend, etc…). The ‘ask’ infers a monetary transaction in the Glengarry Glen Ross ABC style: always be closing. As an example, you’ve often put out content without an ask, esp in your earlier content, to build a following.

          • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

            I suppose so. It can be broadly stretched.

  • http://pjrvs.com/ Paul Jarvis

    Since I just published/released a book last week, this is very interesting. Especially the “hard sell” — in the past I’ve offered a sample chapter or two if folks signed up for the newsletter, and this time I just made it a free download. Not sure if it was a good or bad idea yet, but if it felt right.

    If folks grab the download (which they are hopefully more likely to do since they don’t even need to sign up for anything) and like it, they’ll hit the big BUY button at the end to grab the rest of the book.

    At the very least, it’s an interesting experiment.

    • http://www.tessahardiman.com/ Tessa

      Paul,

      I’m interested in seeing how that works for you because I am an author as well. I have a novel that I’m thinking about self-pubbing around October, and I have considered both of those options (e-mail swap or free download regardless). Right now, I offer the prequel to it as an e-mail swap.

      Good luck to ya!

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      How have the downloads gone? You simply need to count whether you got more wins with the chapter or the download, accounting for your audience size changes.

  • http://www.tessahardiman.com/ Tessa

    Chris,
    If I’m writing a blog in order to gain more readers for my books/platform, do my posts count as content marketing? Because I hope to eventually lead them to buy my books…

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Depends what you write about. If you write about dinner, no. If you write about stuff that the kind of person who reads your books would like, then yes. : )

  • http://twitter.com/megtripp Meg Fowler Tripp

    As I said over at C.C’s post, from my perspective, wasted content is content that fails to accomplish its purpose, whatever that might be (and whether the purpose is mine or my client’s.)

    But that’s my take as a professional. Someone just getting into the act of creating content might be honing their writing skills a bit, or practicing the discipline of taking time to write, both of which are good things.

    I like the idea of driving action as a goal, but a call-to-action style “hook”
    into my business or a sales ask may not be the best way to engage with my
    potential customer. Providing them with information or confirming my
    expertise in an area can be just as valuable, though it may be
    more of a “long game”.

    I think providing someone with a link to a related article or another
    source of information, inviting feedback and conversation with a
    question, or encouraging them to get in touch if they want to chat extends the relationship without trying to convert their interest too soon. I focus on offering a “next step”.

    Granted, that might be exactly what you’re talking about here… but if someone is new to all this stuff, they might easily default to thinking a sales pitch or a product link is the only way to add an effective hook to / ask for their business.

    What works best depends on what you offer, on the rest of your marketing efforts, on your target market, on your venue, etc. Hell, plenty of folks are failing to make an effective ask in their salescopy or to provide a simple sales process, so they need to start there first. Not much use in making content with a pitch if they’re pointing arrows down a dead-end road.

    *You* can make the ask (which you do) because you have a ton of content in a ton of places, and you’ve established your expertise/credibility through both your value and volume. You’re also modeling a certain kind of straightforwardness that many people struggle with… but even if there’s an opportunity for them to grow in that way, there’s still no ironclad argument for making the ask in all of your content.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      I think those are all great ways to help. By pushing a next action. And yes, that’s what I mean. : )

      • http://twitter.com/megtripp Meg Fowler Tripp

        But I’m talking action where they can connect with you, but don’t have to give you anything but their eyeballs. I know well the school of CAPTURE THE ADDRESS! SECURE THE LEAD FOR LATER! OFFER A FREE PRODUCT THAT HAS AN OFFER FOR A PAID ONE BAKED IN! but that’s led to a lot of long salesletters pretending to be content marketing.

        Create fantastic useful content in lots of places, and develop a great sales process and user experience onsite (including newsletter sign-up opportunities, etc.) If people get those two things down, they’re ahead of 95% of the folks publishing and selling online.

        • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

          We agree for sure. I don’t think we need to capture and convert on every post. We must ask for something on every post. It can be whatever. That’s my stance. There are plenty of people writing something contrary to that, but that’s perfectly fine. The interpretation is where it’s at. : )

  • http://twitter.com/MattLBrennan Copywriter Matt

    Interesting conversation. I’m not sure that every piece of content would need an “ask” either. I think it’s a good thing to do a percentage of the time, but like C.C. said, sometimes you just need to publish some tips, or something completely informational. Sometimes information for information’s sake seems like the best route. From time to time you can show people how to connect or join you. Good post, though. I think there’s an inherent value in quality content marketing!

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      If you reread my post, I’m not saying every piece of content needs an ask. Every piece of content marketing does. If you’re not pushing the sale forward in some gentle way, you’re not marketing. You’re writing. : )

  • http://twitter.com/roband06 Loving Lyfe

    I liked this blog. Had some good nuggets of information in there. I enjoyed reading about the concept of getting readers while making money. Usually, blogs focus on one or the other.

  • Dave Crenshaw

    I especially like this “If you’re not putting some kind of potential hook to future business
    into your efforts, you’re not content marketing. You’re writing.” Brilliant!

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      Oddly, that very spot spawned a dissenting view from a very smart C.C. Chapman. : )

  • http://onlineincometeacher.com/ Matt Smith

    Great post Chris!

    I totally agree that there are too many posts that focus on the “I’m great and I can help you do X”, rather than empowering the reader themselves. People want to do things for themselves, not be made to feel like they can’t do something.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com/ Chris Brogan

      You and me both. : )

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  • Amelia Sherrill

    Your blog has many tips that have broadened my view of content marketing. I am getting excellent writing practice via blog posts and comments. Having written a few blogs and comments I have to agree that including a call to action is necessary. However I have been including links to related articles and requests for feedback like Meg suggested. Since I am fairly novice to blogging I have found these simple calls to action successful.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/saad8686 Saad Ahmed

    hmm nice and workable bunch of ideas.

  • http://www.ferreemoney.com/blog/ Neil Ferree

    Your “offer an ask” in some kind makes total sense for a conventional blog article. I need to invent a clone that I can mograte to a content share from Scoop to Plus where the “excerpt” from the SME includes the “offer an ask” element

  • DaveKeys

    Chris, you seem like someone who has read Dan Kennedy’s book, “The Ultimate Sales Letter.” There are plenty of kinds of writing but in effective business copywriting, there will always be a call to action.

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  • Pearl Carry

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  • Phyllis Edson

    Thanks. I liked this article and got some great tips out of it.

  • Brian Brady

    for free and for fun this is boring but pay me syndrome great article

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  • Elisha Faith

    If you think Rodney`s story is flabbergasting,, three weeks-ago my sister in-law also made $4270 workin a twelve hour week an their house and there buddy’s sister`s neighbour has done this for 5 months and got a cheque for over $4270 in there spare time from there labtop. the information available at this link… jump15.comCHECK IT
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  • http://desperatelyseekingwp.com/ Cathy Tibbles

    Very funny Chris. Its almost as if you wanted a conversation over the ask idea in this post. I’ve been reading you for a couple years now and you do not practice the ‘ask’ on every piece of content. In fact your asks of late have been prefaced with ‘selly selly’ comments. What i am certain of is that your content is written with a goal of furthering your business in some way. And as your audience I find it fascinating that I can learn from your advice and by example when I am the target um… I mean … partner/client/reader/tribe member. :)

    And I love the first part. I’m going to put that on my desk while I write – my client is thinking ‘how can I up my game’.
    Thank you Chris!

  • http://www.kronikmedia.co.uk/ K.Singh, London

    Use of good call to action or lead capture forms in the end of the content you produce as part of your marketing efforts can also be a very good way to get new buyers for your products or services.

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    If you think Steven`s story is nice, , five weeks ago my
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