Content Marketing and the Soft Sell

on March 4, 2009 in Marketing
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Chris Bibey wrote an interesting post over at ChrisBlogging.com on selling your writing services, and how marketing / selling makes some freelance writers uncomfortable. His post got me thinking about hard-sell versus soft-sell and why, when it comes to "selling yourself" to clients, people seem to automatically picture hard-sell tactics.

First things first - what's the difference?

When you hard-sell, you essentially scream "buy from me!" This would be something like cold calling, cold email pitches, advertising, etc.

The soft sell is much more subtle - this is where networking fits into the marketing mix, among other tactics. Today I'd like to talk about one soft sell tactic, which happens to be my favorite - content.

Why Content Works as a Soft Sell Tactic

I know it's cliche, but content really is king. Quality content educates, informs, or entertains. It attracts repeat visitors. It leads to natural referrals. It helps to build an image or reputation. And from the freelance writing perspective, content sells!

What do I Mean by "Content?"

Content can take many forms. Here are a few types of content you can create that can help you soft-sell your writing services:

  • E-books
  • Reports
  • Blog Posts (your own or guest posts)
  • Articles / Features
  • Forum Posts
  • White Papers
  • Answers (on LinkedIn, Yahoo! Answers, etc.)

How Does Content Help You Sell Web Writing Services?

When you help people solve a problem, or answer their questions, you build a reputation as an authority in the subject matter. That's attractive to prospective clients, who very often prefer hiring specialists if they can afford to. I'll give you an example.

I do a lot of soft-selling through content for my press release writing service, and I have for years. It brings in a lot of business. I offer content in a variety of outlets - I post on forums about press releases (where my target market hangs out). I write blog posts about it. I even wrote an e-book about it. That information is "out there" for prospective clients to find when they're looking for information. The idea is simple - you educate a potential client. By doing that, you have visibility with them that your competitors don't have. If, or when, they're ready to hire someone, you have a leg up - you're already in their mind.

I can't even begin to tell you how many new clients I've gotten where they come to me saying something like "I saw your post on X blog or forum, and I can tell you really know what you're talking about. I'd like to hire you."

What's particularly interesting is the fact that clients who find me this way are often the least likely to complain about my rates being higher than other writers'. When you establish a certain amount of authority with that client, they're able to hire you more on value than price - what you bring to the table in terms of your expertise.

Does Content Have to be Free to Bring in Sales?

There are obvious benefits to offering free content like blog or forum posts - that content naturally reaches more eyes. That said, paid content can be equally effective, giving you a combination of a marketing tactic and an additional income stream (one of many reasons I suggest freelance writers create e-books and reports).

Start looking for places where you can share quality information with your potential client base / target market. Share. You don't have to blatantly pitch yourself to bring in sales. The soft sell can do that, and more, without making you uncomfortable the way hard sell tactics sometimes can.

Thanks for sharing!
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