We live in a world of free. If you’re trying to make money, especially online, you might think that would make things difficult.
Every day, someone releases a new eBook, video, or podcast that not only contains tremendous value, but gives away many of the “tricks of the trade” that we used to have to pay for.
You’d think that the paid content business would be shrinking in the face of all this free information, but it keeps getting stronger. How can that be?
For instance, there are a lot of free materials that teach people how to set up a WordPress blog or to use Twitter effectively. A quick search on YouTube will provide you with hundreds of videos that can teach you to do almost anything you want to know.
Yet, there are still people making plenty of cash selling products explaining how to do any and all of those things.
How do they do it?
People buy from those that they know and trust.
Sure, there are people in the yellow highlighter brigade who can sell ice to an Eskimo, but it isn’t easy to do. (And you may not even want to.)
Most of us can’t write the ultimate sales letter. We also can’t afford to hire a $20,000 copywriter. So how do we do it? We build relationships.
When you establish a “winning difference” or USP, you can start attracting the people who really dig what you do.
If your stuff is good, I guarantee you can find at least one evangelist to recruit others to come check you out. They’ll spread the word for you, which attracts more evangelists, and means that you will have ever more people stopping by.
Nurture relationships with your readers and evangelists and your small army will continue to grow.
The benefit of free
Content marketing is all about giving away some of your best stuff for free. Not just your “pretty good” content, but content that will improve and add value to the lives of your readers.
As they learn more, their game will improve and they’ll keep coming around for more. And they’ll want to reciprocate by either buying your paid products or spreading your message.
Most people won’t buy from you unless you’ve proven to them that you know what you’re talking about. Great content is one of the best ways you can do that. When you give content away for free, you earn trust and anchor your business in the mind of that reader. If they use your stuff, and it works, they’ll keep coming back for more.
They’ll pay for souvenirs
I first heard this idea from Seth Godin when he gave a speech about book marketing, but the concept applies to nearly every online business.
He said that people buy souvenirs, not products. In the music industry, Nine Inch Nails does this by selling collector’s editions of their albums. In the blogging industry, we can do it by selling a physical version of a product, limiting quantities of digital products, or by publishing a book.
If your blog creates a great experience, think about what kind of souvenirs you could offer that would let them hold onto that experience.
They’ll pay for access
Particularly if you’ve used your blog to build your reputation and authority, you can also sell different levels of access to you.
The people who truly love what you do want other ways to access your knowledge. Your raving fans will start by picking up every digital product you offer. From there, many will want more exclusive access, such as a consulting service, a mentoring or coaching program, or a monthly membership with exclusive access to you.
If you empower people to do what they most want to do, they’ll want to buy something in order to feel closer to you. (And, of course, it goes without saying that you’ll deliver value that’s in line with the prices you’re charging.)
You’d have to sell thousands of eBooks to make a living as a blogger, but it might take only a few hundred premium members to do the same job.
Free samples have been part of marketing and selling since long before the Internet. Give great value and follow a few proven models, and you’ll discover not only does “free” not hurt you, it can actually be a great boost for your online business.