Content Marketing: Share But Don’t Overshare

Content marketing is, in large part, a balancing act between your desire to create on-going relationships with potential customers and their desire to get the information they’re currently looking for as quickly as possible.

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When we talk about sharing appropriately, we’re not talking about telling your first date about that strange mole on the back of your leg. We’re talking about finding the right amount — and type — of information to share with your friends, fans and followers.

If you give away all of your secrets in your first interaction, it’s going to be hard to keep your audience engaged. And yet, if you hold back too much, you won’t win enough trust to get the second interaction.

Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, such as smaller-ticket items where a buying decision might be made in the course of a single online search. Think office supplies rather than, say, office space.

Beyond those exceptions, content marketing is, in large part, a balancing act between your desire to create on-going relationships with potential customers and their desire to get the information they’re currently looking for as quickly as possible.

You can frequently see this play out in blog posts, for example, where the article itself includes lots of valuable information at at the macro level, but provides the even-more-valuable details only if you download the PDF report by sharing your email address.

The goal is to make clear what your differentiator is — your “secret sauce” — without giving away the recipe. There are two ways to do this.

Demonstrate Results

“Taste this!” is almost always a better way to wow someone with your “secret sauce” (literal or figurative) than detailing the recipe. And even though many prospects will ask about process, you won’t usually want to outline the details in content that can be consumed without any real interaction with your firm.

This is where solid collaboration with your sales team can pay big benefits. Diving into the nitty gritty of the process is a task better suited to your sales team because they should only be dealing with prospects who are much further along in your funnel.

In other words, your content marketing demonstrates results and encourages a deep enough relationship for the prospect to engage with the sales team on process details.

This approach has one additional benefit: it helps avoid the dreaded “free consulting” model of pitching. You know that request: “Tell us what you’d do and how you’d do it.” (With the unsaid-but-understood “So we can find someone else who we can have implement your ideas cheaper.”) That’s no fun — and not profitable.

Content Built for the Buyer’s Journey

Somewhere in between the short-form content and your sales team’s involvement lie things like case stories and white papers, which dive into more detail than a short-form article typically will, but that also offer less detail than your sales team can give.

The value of these interim steps becomes obvious when you think of content marketing — and your content — not in terms of your sales process, but in terms of your prospects’ perspectives. There is different information they’ll be looking for as they begin their investigation, educate themselves about the various options, and establish criteria for ultimately making their decision.

Your content must reflect this so you must create content for each stage in the buyer’s journey and must organize your website into areas with obvious appeal to those various stages. (The fact that you should know the stages by interviewing clients and prospects is another topic entirely.)

Social media content needs to be broader, of course, since it can’t be targeted in quite the same way. Email, though, should absolutely be tailored to stages in the buyer’s journey and, if possible, to individual prospects’ previous interactions and content consumption.

That’s not to say that the occasional “a-ha” moment can’t be very powerful — if you’re fortunate enough to be the in a position to reveal information to a prospect that they hadn’t been considering, and that new information will materially affect their business — you should absolutely do so. Just be careful not to count on that one revelation to win you the business. It may make you the front-runner, but there’s likely still a long way to go, so you’ll want to be ready with additional content as the decision-making process continues.

Which brings us back around to balancing between sharing and oversharing. In addition to the risk of “too much, too soon,” you run the risk of being out of ammunition when you need it most. Always leave your audience satisfied but asking for more.

Author: Andrew Schulkind

Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured?

A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms encourage audience engagement through solid information architecture, a great user experience, and compelling content. A dash of common sense doesn’t hurt, either.

His work touches social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing, among other components, and he has presented at Social Media Week NY and WordCampNYC, among other events. His writing appears in various online and print publications. 

Andrew graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Bucknell University. He engages in a range of community volunteer work and is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist. He also loves collecting meaningless trivia. (Did you know the Lone Ranger made his mask from the cloth of his brother's vest after his brother was killed by "the bad guys?")

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