Here’s the #1 one question to ask yourself whenever you’re creating content: What am I selling?
Does this question surprise you? I often see marketers suggesting that you should give away your best content or that you need an 80/20 split — 80% of your content should be educational and 20% should be promotional. And I have certainly bought into the wisdom behind advice like this.
But recently I’ve been reflecting on whether the strict dichotomy between promotional and educational (or personal or entertaining or story-driven or organic) content is serving anyone.
I’ve been experimenting with asking myself, “what am I selling?,” first and seeing how I can get creative with the ways I talk about my services here, in my newsletter, and on social media. So if you find yourself shying away from promoting yourself, consider this your invitation to dig into why and reframe content marketing.
Why is it Difficult to Promote Ourselves?
When I first dipped my toes in the content marketing pool back in 2015, I was surprised to find that marketers spend much of their time NOT writing ads. To me, marketing was synonymous with advertising.
I’ve learned a lot since then, but my surprise stemmed from a skepticism (cynicism?) that still informs my thinking today: All content created by marketers is designed to sell something to someone.
So truly, the concept of “organic” marketing has always felt vaguely like a sleight of hand. After all, who reads something on a company’s social media page and believes it’s not ultimately meant to persuade you to buy something?
And to be clear, it’s not the act of promoting services through organic content that brings out the cynic in me. Rather, it’s the vague feeling that someone might be trying to make me think they’re helping me, when they’re really trying to sell me something (i.e., help themselves).
It’s this sentiment that explains why we find it difficult to promote ourselves. It’s this sentiment that underlies our objection to promotional content that is “too salesy.” But also, it’s this sentiment that causes us to fall short of our revenue goals because we’re too shy about promoting ourselves.
What is a savvy business owner to do? Own the fact that you are selling something and create content that addresses the proverbial elephant in the room. The good news is that you can talk about what you’re selling — yes, in every piece of content you create — without being too salesy.
How to Talk about What You’re Selling Without Being “Too Salesy”
I didn’t always believe in the philosophy that my content should be created around my services. In fact, I used to intentionally steer clear of promotional content — that is until I realized I could talk about what I’m selling without being salesy.
I realized I could make offers without writing a sales page.
I realized I could make offers while also generously giving away valuable information.
I realized those who are out there sending referrals my way or wanting to know how they can work with me, actually want me to talk about what I’m selling.
Now I create content marketing that’s unabashedly promotional without being salesy.
Here are three of the techniques I use:
1. Create content for prospects at different stages in the buying cycle.
I ask myself what service I want to promote. For example, I’m now trying to grow my client base for my LinkedIn content strategy and creation services and the LinkedIn Roadmap is my entry-level service. Then I consider the buyer’s journey before they buy the roadmap.
- Lacking in awareness
- Aware, but in need of nurturing
- Hyper-aware, but has sophisticated questions
Prospects at each of these three stages need different types of content. Importantly, they all need to know what I’m selling so they can self-select into getting more of my content or moving on to the solution that’s a better fit for their needs. This leads perfectly into my second technique…
2. Keep in mind that it’s kind to tell people what you’re selling.
This technique is more of a mindset shift, but it flies in the face of the marketing sleight of hand I mentioned earlier. When you tell people what you’re selling, you’re doing the opposite of pretending to help them, while really just helping yourself. You’re actually showing them kindness.
If you’re like me, you likely believe that your audience is smart, sophisticated, and savvy. You couldn’t trick them even if you wanted to. So why not get super honest? Tell them in no uncertain terms what you can do to help them and let them discern for themselves whether they need the support you’re offering.
3. Sell to yourself first.
One reason your promotional content might come across as too salesy is that you haven’t yet convinced yourself what you’re selling is worthwhile. You revert to more salesy language because you haven’t yet determined what the biggest selling point for your audience might be.
If you’re having trouble creating content around a new product or service, especially, this could be the culprit. Speaking for myself, I have a tougher time promoting services that I have only provided to beta clients, for example.
Too bad, we have to create promotional content for offers we haven’t yet sold. To do so, we need to sell to ourselves first. It’s going to take some real, honest self examination to admit that this could be a barrier to your success. But after you come out on the other side, I bet you’ll say it was worth the effort.
So, whether you’re selling yourself in the form of building your personal brand or showcasing your expertise, selling a product that you haven’t yet launched, or selling a service you know has helped hundreds of people, always ask yourself first, “what am I selling?”
Then think about how you can promote that offer in a way that engages your audience without feeling like you’re giving them the hard sell.
Would you like a team to help you strategize about how to talk about what you’re selling on LinkedIn? Would you like a team to help you create content too? I’ve got just the solution. Start here >>>>> The LinkedIn Roadmap.
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