The Problem With Free Content Marketing

What’s the point of content marketing? What’s the goal? Why do we do it?

Some would say it’s to grow an audience. Some say it’s for search engine optimization. Some do it for lead generation. Some only care if it ultimately increases sales.

My problem with focusing entirely on freemiums and growing an audience with free content is that it can almost become “guilt-trip content marketing”…

“Hey, if we give them a whole bunch of free content, they’ll feel like they owe us and they’ll have to buy from us!”

Whether that’s consciously or subconsciously manipulative (no more manipulative than trying to sell people something), I’ll table for now…

Even if the freemium approach is “get-to-know-like-trust-us” and we’ll build-an-audience, it only works sort of well.

  1. So you’ve grown a list of 10,000 or 100,000 emails…
  2. And 20-30% of those people open your email- are you emailing daily or every other day or twice a week or weekly?
  3. About 8% of them click to the site and read more free content-
  4. How many of them are actually buying something? Are you tracking that?

Freemium, high quality content marketing is only PART of the answer because… we human beings are all a bunch of freeloaders!

We’ve Created a Bunch of Information Freeloaders

As content consumers, we’ve been trained now to expect a lot of free helpful content.

Marketers have been taught over the last decade to create free content that is as good as content people should have to pay for, but the companies that are creating this free content aren’t getting paid for it…

  • How many newsletters have you joined and then never paid that company a penny?
  • How many podcasters have you listened do and never given them a dime?
  • How many bloggers have you read and you’ve never bought their course?
  • How many blog posts have you read and you don’t even remember them or who wrote them?
  • How many whitepapers and ebooks have you downloaded and you didn’t fully read and you don’t remember where they are on your computer?

This freemium deal with the devil strategy only makes sense if you can monetize that audience- but are you monetizing that audience? How? Are you tracking it well enough to know it’s profiting you?

Sure SOME of this audience of freeloaders converts without you trying that hard. But how many more people would have converted, how much higher would your ROI be if you’d thought about converting them? If you were better at direct marketing?

So content and lead gen are just one piece of the puzzle and if you do them the wrong way you make it hard on the salespeople. Or if you’re an entrepreneur you make it hard on yourself to get sales.

You haven’t done all the work, just part of it…

Why Do People Buy?

Because we as people only buy when we are really excited or in really big pain we can’t stand one second longer or when marketers make us feel special or we think it’s a really good deal on a really valuable thing that’s going away forever (there has to be value and trust there for that to work, of course)…

  • Why should the potential buyer take action with you right now?
  • Why not procrastinate?
  • Why not ignore you?
  • Why not choose your competitor?

You have to sell. How?

  • Urgency
  • Scarcity
  • Pain relief
  • Gigantic opportunity now
  • Limited-time only

The difference between rich and poor people, billionaire and middle class, successful sales organizations and unsuccessful ones is understanding:

  • Pain
  • Value (which includes relevance)
  • Urgency and
  • Tribes

“Join our tribe now and we’ll relieve your pain and you’ll be special and have super powers like us but if you want in, you have to join now, for a limited time only!”

This is the difference in getting 2% of your webinar attendees to buy and 16% to buy.

It’s the difference between 1% of people interacting with your Facebook post and 21% interacting with it.

The difference is measurable and huge.

  • Why is your thing a new, big, limited-time opportunity?
  • Why NOW?
  • Why do you think Microsoft puts out new versions of Offce and Windows all the time?
  • Why are there always new iPhones?
  • Why are there new models of the same cars each year?
  • Why does the McRib keep going away and coming back?

If you’re too free and too available, you’re not that interesting. When they see your content there’s a lot of hmm and huh and meh. You can’t compete.

So- the biggest pitfall of the marketer is being too soft, not wanting to sell.

Don’t be soft.

Sell Something and Track It

Freemium is not bad. I do all kinds of lead magnets. They’re great. But you have to sell something too.

  • You need to track which of your leads become sales.
  • You need to track which of your customer targets are not just great lead sources, but which ones are great buyers.
  • Which of your lead magnets create customers, not just leads?

Use AdWords and Facebook pixels and conversion tracking. Make sure you have a way to trigger a conversion for the purchase not just the lead. Then you can track all of that back to the content.

If you can’t do that, your content marketing and freemium work will always be off target, and you’ll be at a competitive disadvantage.

Speakers, Authors & Consultants: Do It Marketing with David Newman [Video Interview]

David Newman is a nationally-recognized marketing expert and author of the Amazon #1 bestseller “Do It! Marketing: 77 Instant-Action Ideas to Boost Sales, Maximize Profits and Crush Your Competition.”

David runs a marketing and training firm dedicated to helping speakers, consultants, and high-fee experts maximize their influence, impact and income.

David’s instant-action marketing advice has been featured and quoted in The New York Times, Investors Business Daily, Sales & Marketing Management, Selling Power, Forbes, Fortune, Entrepreneur Magazine, and hundreds of media outlets throughout North America. Free marketing resources are online at http://www.doitmarketing.com

How “Buzz Envy” Is Killing Your Content Marketing Profits

Content Marketing is The Big Thing right now. Everybody wants to write a book about it. Companies want to spend millions on it.

Just like previous marketing tsunamis – SEO, digital advertising and social media – content marketing has a “marketing must-do.”

As companies begin to adopt content marketing, they run into a few common obstacles:

  • The Red-Headed Stepchild: “Why are people ignoring our content?”
  • The Big Chill: “Why isn’t our content getting more engagement and shares?”
  • The Content Treadmill: “How do we create enough content to stay in front of people frequently?”
  • Curationophobia: “If we curate content, we lose traffic to other websites!”

But the biggest problem is one that most of them are not yet thinking about.

The Revenue Black Hole: “Why isn’t this content creating sales?”

I’ve been in the content creation game since 1999. And I’ve created content for all kinds of goals: awareness, traffic, leads and sales.

What I’ve found is that it is immensely tempting to try to create content that gets buzz and traffic and shares.

You see other LinkedIn posts with 20,000 views- you want that too. You see Buzzfeed getting 20,000 shares on a post- you get buzz envy.

Buzz-Envy: “How can we go viral like they did?”

Buzzy viral content does not necessarily create sales. The most viral content is funny or weird or tear-jerking; but it doesn’t make you more likely to buy something.

Yes, there are exceptions. There are a handful of examples that contradict this, like Blendtech or Old Spice (but you’ll find they are not only viral- they also make a strong point about the product).

If you take a look at the most shared types of blog posts (for example, a “Where Should You Actually Live?” quiz) and try to think about how you’d create one for your business (for example, a “When Should You Actually File Your Taxes” quiz), you’ll see that your content doesn’t fit the buzz formula, and it’s just a distraction…

The most SHARED posts in the least year, according to BuzzSumo:

  1. 20 Reasons Why Your Big Sister Is The Greatest Gift Your Parents Gave You (2.3 million shares)
  2. The 46 Most Brilliant Life Hacks Every Human Being Needs To Make Life Easier (2.0 million shares)
  3. Is Drinking Wine Better Than Going To The Gym? According To Scientists, Yes! (1.8 million shares)
  4. Do You ACTUALLY Know The Lyrics To The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? (1.8 million shares)
  5. Can You Pass The Psychopath Test? (1.7 million shares)

Are any of those relevant to what you ACTUALLY sell? Unlikely.

(Are they relevant to anything anybody sells? Maybe a wine company could use #3… assuming they wouldn’t get sued by somebody for taking that position. If that’s not a risk there, then I would go for it- because you don’t have to say no to shares if it’s also going to help you sell.)

Those are fine posts for Buzzfeed and Playbuzz, who make money on display ads. But not for most other businesses.

One of my most popular blog posts in the last year was “The 20 Most Viral Posts on the Internet And Yes They’re Shocking.” It was buzzfeedy. It brought in some email signups, but no business inquiries.

And although I can’t track it currently, I would bet those email subscribers are some of the least likely ones to buy from me.

Why? Because that blog post topic does nothing to QUALIFY someone as my buyer or to PERSUADE them to buy. I sell audits and advertising management and content creation. We do help people with Facebook posting and getting more shares, but that’s as close as that post comes to our services, and not even one of our most popular services (it turns out most companies don’t realize how much of a problem they have with their posts- or how much better their results could be- so it’s not a pain point currently).

Ironically, within a year of posting “The 20 Most Viral Posts on the Internet And Yes They’re Shocking,” I’m teaching that the most viral posts may be the least profitable.

I got sucked into two TRAPS:

  • Traffic-for-traffic’s sake, and
  • “Look at my big share numbers!”

I made a decision a couple months back to only write posts I thought might make people buy from me.

Compare “The 20 Most Viral Posts on the Internet And Yes They’re Shocking” to my more recent posts:

  • 5 Social Media Tips for Meeting & Event Planners: This provides value to one of my prospect audiences… people who can make the decision to hire me as a speaker, or at least get me into the consideration set. This post is an excuse to get in front of that audience. In exchange for their attention, I’m helping them get better results with their events.
  • 11 Reasons Your Site Redesigns Steal Your Traffic – And How To Prevent That: This establishes or solidifies me (depending on how well the reader knows my SEO background) as an SEO expert, and plays on fear of loss. Now when a business moves toward a redesign they may recall my warnings and hire me to consult during the process.
  • 5 Sales Funnel Mistakes That Are Killing Your Business: Similarly, this alerts the brain that if revenue or profits aren’t ideal, maybe they’re making one of these mistakes. People HAVE to know what those mistakes are and then feel confident they aren’t making any. If they are, they may hire me to help out.

With those last three blog posts, there’s a PLAUSIBLE REASON they might lead to sales.

I’m not writing about wine or psychopaths just to get page views and sell ads. I’m selling valuable consulting services, keynotes and trainings, so my content needs to reflect that.

Before you create anymore content, ask yourself questions like:

  • How does this TOPIC relate to what we actually SELL?
  • Why do we think this will make someone more likely to BUY?
  • Does it position us better? Does it establish us as the authority? Does it increase trust in our brand?

And post stuff that makes people more likely to buy from you!

There’s nothing wrong with getting shares and going viral. Just make sure you go viral with something that makes people more likely to buy from you.

The 5 Sales Funnel Mistakes 99% of Businesses Are Making

If you sell online, or market for leads online, you definitely have a sales funnel. You may not know what your sales funnel is, but you have one.

The question is: how effective is your funnel?

When we map out a business’s funnels and assign numbers to them, they’re usually stunned by how many people drop out at each step.

In this example, we have only 5 steps and we start with 100,000 fans:

This funnel sucks

Only 5 sales? We lost 9,995 people in the process? Crap!

In digital marketing, the number of people lost at each funnel step is gigantic. It’s amazing to me that anyone sells anything online. And, in reality, many people fail.

Many much tears.

Unfortunately, many business people assume that online sales and lead gen is easy. In fact, it’s near-impossible.

Successful sales online (including inbound lead gen and offline sales) requires:

  1. Great planning,
  2. Lots of iteration (that’s the fancy word for trial and error), or
  3. Sheer luck.

The ones who succeed by sheer luck don’t learn anything. Usually they fail with their second business attempt and can’t figure out what happened.

Successful digital marketing requires:

  • An offering people want,
  • Marketing well planned and executed,
  • Testing,
  • Time, and
  • Money.

That’s the truth about selling online, and it’s not sexy. Unless you think executing wisely and achieving business profits is sexy. That would be like calling Gandalf sexy. Well I suppose there is someone out there who has… anyway-

To me digital marketing is not about sexiness or fun (though you can definitely have fun with the testing). It’s about finding and using a system that gets you results.

If you want to confront the cold hard facts and succeed, then you need to overcome the 5 most common mistakes that businesses make with their digital sales funnels.

Funnel Mistake #1: Too Many Steps

Every action people have to take requires a decision. At most decision points, more than 50% of your audience (usually more like 80-99%) opts out. That means they do things like:

  • Don’t click on your ad or link.
  • Don’t opt into your email list or your lead magnet (ebook, whitepaper, webinar).
  • Don’t put something in a shopping cart.
  • Don’t check out.
  • Don’t finish paying.

So, let’s imagine you have only those 5 steps above, and 10,000 people see your ad. Here’s what happens if ONLY 50% (we’ll be generous and give you a best-case dream scenario) don’t go through with it:

  • 5,000 don’t click on your ad or link.
  • 2,500 don’t opt into your email list or your lead magnet (ebook, whitepaper, webinar).
  • 1,250 Don’t put something in a shopping cart.
  • 625 Don’t check out.
  • 312 Don’t finish paying.
  • 156 buy

Let’s say you spent $5,000 on those clicks ($1 CPC). If you don’t profit at least $32 per sale ($5,000/156 sales), you lose money.

But let’s be more realistic with those numbers. Let’s say 100,000 see your ad…

  • At a 1% CTR, 99,000 don’t click on your ad or link. 1,000 do.
  • At 20% lead conversion rate, 800 don’t opt into your email list or your lead magnet (ebook, whitepaper, webinar). 200 do. (We’ll save this number for later)
  • At a 1% sales rate, 792 people don’t buy. 8 people do buy.

So if you spent $1,000 on those clicks ($1 CPC), if you don’t profit at least $125 per sale ($1,000/4 sales), you lose money.

Pretty dire, right?

But we still have those 200 emails. Here’s what happens with them:

  • 20% of them open your email. That’s 40 people.
  • 10% click to the site. That’s 4 people.
  • 1% buy. Shoot, you only have 1/25th of a buyer! That’s smaller than Mini-Me.

One more demonstration:

  • Let’s say you manage to get 100,000 Facebook fans.
  • 10% of them see your Facebook post- that’s 10,000 people.
  • Many Facebook posts get 99.9% interaction, not website clicks. A post that does well with website clicks may get a 4% clickthrough rate. That’s 400 people.
  • 1% of these buy- that’s 4 people. 0.004% of fans convert per post.

So your 100,000 fan page got your 4 sales. Pretty lame, huh? This is why we stopped doing Facebook fan growth: too many extra steps and too many people lost in the process.

Relax. It’s not the end of the world. If 4 people buy per Facebook post per day x 365 days = 1,460 people buy per year.

But how did you get those 100,000? You may have to pay $10-50k to get 100,000 quality fans with Facebook ads. Because the low quality fans will never buy.

So, you’d have to be profiting $7 to $34 per sale to break even on that fan cost after a year. And that means you’d have to be able to wait a year to make that $10-50k back.

This is assuming:

  • You don’t run any ads to promote posts (which many people do), and
  • You reach 10% of your fans (which many pages don’t).

The Facebook post visibility problem is just too expensive. A “Facebook Fan-Reliant Strategy” reduces your sales funnel’s effectiveness by 90%.

That’s why we switched to three funnels with fewer steps:

  1. Facebook ad -> Squeeze page to get email -> email -> click -> sale
  2. The shortest one: Facebook ad -> Sales page -> Sale [only 3 steps!]
  3. Retargeting audiences from #1 and #2 -> email or sale

Now, we’ve seen profits up to 2,200% from Facebook ad campaigns. To get that high, you have to create 100 ads a month. That’s how you find the ads that work incredibly well.

The upshot: Reduce the number of steps in your funnel.

Funnel Mistake #2: Not Getting Enough People Into Your Funnel

Advertising helps, and it’s critical for new sites. But only so many ads will be profitable. It will bring you a limited volume of sales.

You’re going to need more affordable traffic.

That means you need SEO or unpaid social media. And that means you have to create awesome content like this blog post. You have to create something that helps your prospect and you don’t get paid for it. But it brings in tons of people, some of whom opt into your emails and some of which buy.

But the most common mistake with content marketing is to create content that gets lots of buzz. You get tons of shares and comments and you slap each other on the back. But this often doesn’t move your prospects toward the sale. Check out this article to learn how to create content that gets shares and retweets and website clicks and sells.

The upshot: Create content that brings in traffic and sales.

Funnel Mistake #3: Keeping It Too Private

Because of how many people we lose at each funnel step, we need to do whatever we can to get shares at every step. For example:

  • Create ads that are tweets and Facebook posts that deserve shares/retweets and website clicks.
  • Create landing pages that deserve shares and retweets.
    • For example, a free lead magnet (ebook, whitepaper, video series, webinar) that’s so cool that people have to share it.
    • You can put Facebook commenting at the bottom of their free content so that excited people can comment. Those comments get shared via their Facebook account as well. Here’s how you add it. And Leadpages has some squeeze page templates that have it built in. I use Leadpages and Clickfunnels (aff link) both for creating opt-in and sales pages. They’re both great.
  • Create thank you pages that empower people to share or tweet about it- especially after email opt-ins- but also for sales.

The upshot: Learn what kind of content the research shows people share and don’t share here (free whitepaper I wrote for Marketo).

Funnel Mistake #4: Only One Idea Per Funnel Segment

In the olden days of marketing, people created one campaign and ran it for months and months. If it tanked- they were screwed. 

Then a few brilliant folks like Claude C. Hopkins started using coupons to track what worked and didn’t. Direct mail was born. This evolved over the decades- and with digital marketing it has become standard to at least split-test your ideas. If you aren’t familiar with split-testing, you’re way behind. Google it.

  • Get a platform like LeadPages or Clickfunnels that empowers you to easily test 2 or 3 opt-in pages.
  • Create 2 or 3 sales pages, too.
  • Combine that with your ad testing and you will cut your cost per lead or sale by 50-80%.

You can’t afford not to do this, because many people who don’t just go out of business. It’s hard to make the math of profits work without this kind of testing.

And it’s how some marketers enter old niches and quickly dominate them. Some companies get put out of business. The most vulnerable businesses are the ones that have been around long enough to get cocky and think they don’t need to keep up with the times.

Don’t be lazy here or you’ll regret it.

The upshot: Split-test wherever possible.

Funnel Mistake #5: Being So Inbound That You Don’t Close The Sale

I get it. It’s cool to just market. To just do inbound. You aren’t pushy and you don’t get rejected.

Except you do. Someone else gets the customer.

Stop being afraid of selling. Get more of them to convert to the next step.

Figure out what objections or fears are keeping people from buying. Tell them about the other things that will happen if they don’t work with you that they should be more afraid of.

The upshot: Figure out what it takes to move them to the next step. Close the sale. Coffee is for closers.

Conclusion

In conclusion, my English teachers in school told me to write conclusions.

Fix all the mistakes above. You may go out of business if you don’t. You’ll reap massive profits if you do.

The One Thing Every Salesperson Needs. Also, Alec Baldwin Makes An Appearance.

There’s one thing every salesperson is obsessed with. In just 55 seconds, you’ll know. BTW I want to apologize on behalf of David Mamet- there are a couple bad words in this.

We help companies get leads… check out our services and contact us if you want help getting more leads via digital advertising!