The online world has forever changed the way we think about - and do - business. Trade secrets, blueprints locked away in a safe, and secret vaults of competitor data have given way to transparency in business, authenticity in social and vulnerability in networking. It stands to reason that the best business growth model that truly works in the sharing economy is one built on trust.
People do business with people they like and trust. This much-quoted nugget is a staple of doing business in the online economy. So in this atmosphere, the best way to build trust has become to give away not just free content, but to give away your best content, for free.
"Don't just give free content; give your best content, for free."
How Does Giving Away Free Content Help You?
1. Free content gives your audience a taste of what to expect when they work with you. Most people prefer to sample something new, and giving away free content is the best way to "try before you buy". Some examples of free content for online entrepreneurs are discovery calls, free Skype sessions, free downloadable ebooks and other info-products, free videos, free training material, and so on.
2. Free content positions you as an expert and authority on the topic. As people see you creating free YouTube videos packed with helpful information, or ebooks overflowing with awesome advice or podcasts filled with valuable interviews, they start to see you as the expert on the subject. The more value you give, the higher your authority status.
3. Free content = free marketing. Every time you create content and make it free to consume, you create another opportunity to market your business. Free content creates opportunities to direct web traffic, convert leads, start conversations, answer questions, get interview opportunities, and so much more.
4. Free content gets you loyal followers. The best thing about free content is that your followers hang on to your every word. As you help them create value in their lives, they show you their gratitude by sharing your content with their network, by providing you with free word-of-mouth marketing, and by being your die-hard evangelists. Free helps you create a (small) army of fans!
5. Free content helps you make more sales. There, I said it. Ultimately, free helps your audience decide to buy from you because they think "if she can give so much value for free, imagine how great her paid stuff must be!" Free content helps people open their wallets willingly and confidently.
The Trouble with Free...
Most insecure people will tell you that when you create content and give it away for free, you will suffer in the long-term because people will always expect free from you. They will tell you that giving your best work for free will undervalue you. They'll also scare you into believing that people will copy your free work and sell it as their own. All this might even happen.
But you're smarter than these skeptics. You know that there are two types of people: those who only want your free stuff, and those who are waiting for your paid stuff.
Everyone expects and consumes free content, that's hardly surprising today. I do it and you do it too. The people who consume our free stuff and never have any intention of buying from us, were never going to be our consumers anyway. But these people do serve a larger purpose. They help inflate our numbers. They make our social accounts looks healthy and populated. They attract others who will buy from us.
Then there are the people who are literally waiting to buy from you. They are waiting for your first product because you have spent time and energy and heart giving away so much value, that they want to give back to you. A lot of times people will buy from you simply to show their gratitude for the free content and time you gave them. Others will buy from you because you've taken the time to first give, not take. Still others will buy from you because they need what you have and you've gained their trust.
What Should You Give Away for Free and What Should You Charge For?
A lot of entrepreneurs get confused about what content to give away for free and what to charge for. Here's a simple rule:
- Give away the why, what and who. Give away the inspirational content. Give away the content that shows people what's possible. Give away the results. Give away the stories. Give away your opinion. Give away your best thoughts on the topic.
- Charge for the how. Charge for showing people how to get from A to B. Charge for the processes that you've made. Charge for showing the systems you've set up that they can replicate. Charge for templates. Charge for "I'll hold your hand all the way". Charge for customisation. Charge for training. Charge for empowering your audience.
How to Leverage Free to Pave the Way for Paid Content
Always, but always, make sure your free content leads people back to your primary web assets. Primary web assets are places where people go when they are ready to buy. Typically, this is your website, but it could also be your Facebook Page, an Amazon page, a third-party reseller, an affiliate, a store, or any other place where you are selling your main product or service.
You can show people the way by including call-to-actions (CTAs) in your free content. CTAs could look like this: buy here, download this, check us out, trial offer, money back guarantee, refer a friend, etc.
Ultimately how you drive people from your free content to your paid products will depend on your marketing funnel. Free content can play a huge role in driving top-of-funnel traffic, awareness, and brand-building. Make sure you're using the free content strategy, because in the online economy, people trust businesses that aren't afraid to give stuff for free.
And talking about free content, if you want more ideas on how to create and promote your business using content, download my free guide: 25 Free and Feel-Good Ways to Authentically Promote your Content. See you on the inside!