Expand your definition of marketing beyond ads, direct mail and sales calls to become a content provider.
Today, information is power. Gaining useful information is almost a full-time job in itself. If you can use your knowledge to help your clients and prospects gain useful knowledge, it builds a bond, establishes you as a credible resource, and creates a favorable image for you and your business. Helping to solve a problem, without getting an immediate payback, puts you in a special category–expert. When it comes time to buy a product or service, being considered a helpful expert who is generous with valid advice sets you apart from your competition.
Here are five ways to share your expertise as a content provider:
Online Article Directories: A growing place to share your expertise on the Internet is in online article directories. These sites provide free content to electronic magazines (eZines) and web sites, and they love to get articles from experts that provide useful advice. Copy should be informative and solution-oriented. Sites tend to delete articles that are pure sales pitches. Directories differ on their criteria for the types of articles and the formatting permitted, so be sure to check the rules before you upload an article. But here is the payoff–your article, with your byline and a resource box with your web address is attached every time someone uses your article in their magazine or web site. It can be great free advertising, and it boosts recognition of you and your company.
Free seminars: Brainstorm half a dozen topics within your area of expertise that relate to questions or problems your clients often experience. Think about how you could provide them with helpful information in an hour or less. This provides a great try-before-you-buy opportunity for prospects to get to know you better, and it is a nice value-added for existing clients, who may expand the business they do with you based on a new appreciation of your expertise. Offer the program at your office, at a local library, or in a community gathering space.
Audio conferences: Audio conferences are big conference calls where a speaker presents information in an interactive way, and participants in the call get to ask questions. It is more of a guided discussion than a traditional lecture, and it works best when participants are encouraged to be very involved with questions and mini exercises.
Teleseminars: Teleseminars are audio conferences with a web visual component. That might mean using a shareware classroom program like Moodle, uploading a PowerPoint presentation to a password-only area of your web site so that participants can follow along, or using a shared whiteboarding program like Lotus Notes or AOL Instant Messenger for Business. Teleseminars, which can be offered free or for a fee, enable you to share your expertise with an audience that is far wider than those who could easily attend an in-person program.
Email courses: Consider sharing tidbits of information in useful, nugget-sized form with a multi-part email course. Sending this to your database of clients and prospects who have already given you permission to contact them can keep you fresh in their minds, and provide them with helpful bits of information they can immediately put to use in their personal or business lives.Of course newsletters, e-books and white papers are other great ways to share your expertise as a content provider. Your web site is a great vehicle to share both free and for-purchase content, such as case studies, recorded or downloadable presentations, books and information tool-kits. Your ability to market yourself and your business by becoming a content provider is limited only by your own imagination!