Without a doubt, brands have increased their investment in content marketing exponentially as its value has become more evident.
In fact, companies invest $5.2 billion a year in content creation, while over two thirds of B2B companies rate content as one of the three most important assets in their marketing arsenal.
Content pays great dividends to brands that know how to leverage it properly. And many marketers recognize that giving content away for free can be one of the most effective ways to build their brand equity. So how can you emulate their strategy?
How Can Free Content Provide Value to Your Brand?
There are a number of reasons that giving away free content can pay off:
Establish Your Brand as an Expert
Research has shown that 45% of a company’s reputation is directly related to what it says. Providing exceptional content for free is a great way to establish your organization as an industry leader which can lead to new online customers. Consider this:
- 81% of people conduct research before buying a product or service
- 77% of potential shoppers use Google to do their research
- 84.3% of people will check out a business' website before making a purchase
- and the average click-through rate (CTR) of display ads is 0.1%
The path I'm trying to draw for you is that if you provide blog posts and articles on your site and elsewhere that are professionally written and full of quality information, potential customers will include that in their research, bookmark and/or share the page, and remember you as an expert forever after.
When you offer content for free, you—obviously—aren’t charging the people who want to consume that content. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get something of value out of the exchange. When providing free content, there’s often a tacit agreement implied that the consumer is open to receiving future messages. When someone reads your expert blog post that is chock-full of valuable information, that brings them that much closer to being a qualified—and voluntary—lead.
If it suits your business model and your industry, you can always require that people create a free account or provide their contact information if they want to access your content. This gives you the opportunity to follow up with them in the future—hopefully giving you the chance to convert them into paying customers at a later date.
Communicate Your Value
Of course, giving content away for free doesn’t mean that you can’t be a little self-promotional. You can use your blog posts to discuss the advantages of the solutions you provide, which can be a great way to win customers who are in the early stages of the buying process.
Bear in mind that it's important to use promotional messages subtly and sparingly.These days most people are overwhelmed with sales pushes, ad pop-ups, and email requests, so be sure to weave your value proposition into the content in a way that supports your overall message, rather than trying to sell your brand.
Boost Your Social Presence
Giving away free content is, unquestionably, the best way to generate traffic on social media. As long as your offerings are well-written and useful or entertaining, your fans will happily share your content on their own social networks—which can be a great way to earn even more followers.
To be successful in this way, however, you’ll also need to make your content easy to consume and share. It needs to be presented in a format that people can read on both desktop and mobile devices, and you’ll want to incorporate social sharing tools to make it easy for your readers to share to their own networks.
Boost Brand Loyalty Through Interactivity
Becoming more interactive with your customers can go a long way towards strengthening your brand’s image overall, and you can use content to give key information in order to help customers use your products and services more effectively.
Creating video tutorials, product demonstrations or step-by-step blog posts with illustrative images on your products are great ways to better engage with your existing customers and increase their brand loyalty.
This YouTube video from Microsoft on the benefits of Windows 10 and this product demo for the Original BUFF Headwear are two great examples of how companies can use content to get potential customers on their bandwagon with free content.
Get Detailed Feedback from Your Customers
There’s another major benefit of using content to interact with customers—it gives them an opportunity to provide detailed feedback. When content is seamlessly integrated into your social media channels, readers are enabled and empowered to give their input. You can use their feedback to improve your business model, product offerings, and more.
One way that you can get their input is to create content that discusses the challenges that customers face. Give viewers an opportunity to weigh in and share their thoughts, and you’ll be able to quickly and easily identify potential opportunities for future company growth.
Filter Out Deadweight Clients
Many business owners fear that giving away tips and info to customers who want to solve their problems on their own will threaten their business model. After all, why would customers pay for your services if you are giving them solutions for free?
Jay Baer, president of Convince and Convert, has a different take. In his opinion, free content is a great way to filter out clients who wouldn’t pay for your services anyway. If they can figure out how to solve their problems by applying their own elbow grease, then you don’t need to waste time letting them try to lowball you with pitiful offers or begging for free work on spec.
Keep in mind that many people would much rather pay for your services after seeing how much work is involved. As a result, those who reach out to you after reading your content are more likely to be happy paying customers.
View Your Content as a Branding Asset
Brands have collectively spent billions on content in recent years, though few of them have tried to capitalize on their content by selling it as a commodity. Instead, they recognize that its true value is in its branding potential.
According to Vertical Response, free content (such as articles, white papers, webinars or e-books) is downloaded 50 times more often than content that sits behind a paywall, and that organizations that give their content away for free generate more exposure and earn new clients.
The value of content for growing your company’s brand image ultimately depends on its value to your audience. Therefore, as you might expect, you need to make sure that every blog post, article, e-book, white paper, and checklist that you provide is meaningful and solves a problem that your prospective customers face.
As with any strategy, creating valuable content is going to require a significant investment of your time and resources. If you aren’t seeing a return on your efforts, that doesn’t mean that you should abandon your content marketing strategy.
It means that you may need to set some better conversion goals and find a different way to measure your progress towards them. And if you still aren’t seeing an ROI, you may need to reevaluate your content marketing strategy entirely—which we can help you with at Single Grain!
Has your company seen a branding impact from adopting a content marketing strategy? Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below: