A classic way of marketing your products is to give away free samples. The nice lady who gives you free samples of cheese at Safeway isn't just being nice. She's promoting cheese.
When your product is information, this kind of marketing is called "content marketing." You are giving away free content to promote your paid content.
The sample chapters on most Amazon book pages are an example of content marketing. So are free book promotions, book trailers, blogs, podcasts, and author web sites. This e-zine is an example of content marketing.
Content marketing is a great way to get the word out about your products.
You can do it well or you can do it badly.
I believe that the way to do it well is to give away content that is all of the following:
Why give away valuable content?
Because it's really poor advertising to give away mediocre content. If the lady at Safeway gives you a piece of moldy cheese, are you going to buy any of that brand of cheese ever in your life?
You don't want to receive mediocre freebies. Treat your customers the way you want to be treated.
If you give something away, make it the absolute best quality you can. Give away your gold.
If you give away your copper in the hopes that people will buy your gold, you're fooling yourself, but you aren't fooling anybody else.
Why give away unique content?
Because if you're giving away freebies that they can get pretty much anywhere, then there's no reason anyone would come to you to get the goodies.
But if you're the only game in town, then that's a different story.
A few years ago, my friend Perry Marshall ran a major marketing conference in Maui. Perry's a marketing guru, and his teaching is top-quality. As an incentive to register for his conference, he gave away brand new Mac laptops to everyone who came. Not just any laptops. The latest model. You could barely find them anywhere in stores yet. But you could get one free by going to Perry's conference. Perry made a special deal with Apple to get them early.
Think he made a splash? Better believe he did. Valuable AND unique.
Of course, that was Xtreme, but Perry knows that his content is good, so he's not afraid to go way out on a limb to promote his stuff.
Why give away understandable content?
Because nobody wants complicated. Your free goodies may be brilliant, one-of-a-kind stuff, but if nobody can figure out what you're saying, then you might as well be mumbling Sanskrit.
Keep it simple. Don't make people feel stupid.
Why give away entertaining content?
Because nobody likes boring. Even if it's valuable, unique, and understandable.
Even boring people don't like boring people. Yes, that's tragic, but there's a magic fix. Don't be boring.
But isn't free bad?
I often hear from authors that we're training readers to expect everything to be free. That nobody is going to want to pay for books in the future. That we're cutting our own throats by giving away our fiction or other stuff.
Giving away free samples is a quick way to tell the world who you are. Just be careful that you send the right message.
- When you give away mediocre stuff, you are telling people that you are mediocre.
- When you give away things that people could get anywhere, you are telling people you've got nothing new to say.
- When you give away ten cent ideas dressed in ten dollar words, you are telling people you don't know what you're talking about.
- When you give away boring stuff, you are teaching people to hate you.
When you give away valuable, unique, understandable, entertaining goodies -- when you give away your gold -- you are telling people that your paid products are EVEN BETTER.
Sure, there will always be people who only want the free stuff.
But you will never run out of people who are eager to pay for the best you've got.
Don't be afraid of content marketing.
Be afraid of content marketing that is not valuable, unique, understandable, and entertaining.
If you run a free promotion on Amazon, make it one of your best books.
If you create a book trailer for your book, make it a fantastic one -- or don't do it at all. Because you really don't want to be the Trailer of the Day on BookTrailerFail.com.
If you blog, make every entry the best idea you've got on that particular day.
If you podcast, ditto.
Likewise for every page of your web site.
If you're terrified that you'll end up doing fewer things so you can do them better, then quit worrying. That's a brilliant strategy.
Valuable. Unique. Understandable. Entertaining.
Four words to live by.
This article is reprinted by permission of the author.
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with over 5,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visitwww.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.