How should professionals balance the need for free content vs. the need to have content that produces good leads? For that matter, what about the right balance of for-fee informational products?
It’s all well and good to be generous with one’s knowledge and expertise. But at some point, there has to be a return on investment, no?
It’s smart for a plumber to publish complete directions on how to change a toilet, because chances are most people won’t want to do this themselves.
Published content should help readers make a decision. What’s your opinion on how much of it should be completely free, or in exchange for email or even a fee?
I asked my contacts over on LinkedIn and here are what some smart professionals offered as their point of view:
Content Mktg “?”- How do you balance free content vs need for lead generating content? Do you always require email in exchange for content?
Joe Pulizzi wrote:
Hi Patsi…we use the majority of our content to attract prospects to our site. Then we use conversion blogging or landing pages for them to sign up to additional gated content (blog RSS/email, white paper, etc.) so we can nurture them. So, about 99% of our content is free and sharable.
Our 1% where we require email is for our big content packages (newsletter, white paper, ebook). We feel this model works the best rather than limiting the majority of your content because – gated content is not shared in social media and without giving them a taste of what you can offer, it’s hard to get them to even think about giving up email/personal information.
Here’s some more take on this from David Meerman Scott: Tear Your Content Walls Down, Why Gated Content Might Not Make Sense.
Hope that helps.
Boris Mahovac wrote:
For now my blog is 100% accessible anonymously, through direct access or RSS. If visitors sign up for RSS updates via email, I do get their email addresses, but as you may recall our discussion about mixing RSS subscribers and ezine subscribers, a while back, I don’t even try adding those people to my “drip” or ezine.
However, if visitors want my special reports, they need to subscribe to my e-newsletter.
Another perk I provide to my subscribers (but also followers on FB, T, and Li) is discounts for attending my live events.
Ralph Bagnall wrote:
All the content on my site is free. It is used to bring customers to the site. I put up new content articles then use Twitter, FB, Linkedin and the like to let people know it is there. The direct links drive eyes to the website, but if the content is good enough for folks to share with others, those links build SEO.
All my content also is well marked with ownership and website info for long term exposure.
To obtain email lists, I run give aways from my site. I use a random drawing from my newletter mailing list, so to be entered, they must be subscribed. The give aways typically cost me nothing. Tool reviews are a staple of my website, and the manufacturer or retailer often offers a second sample as a give away.
I consult on social media marketing to woodworking companies, and supply many of my customers with content as well.
Rich Brooks wrote:
Well, I’d argue that free content is lead generating content. We put out a free email newsletter once a month (archived at our Web site) as well as a Web marketing blog targeting small businesses and entrepreneurs (http://www.flyteblog.com) that’s updated 2 – 3 times a week. That’s the content that attracts search traffic, as well as loads of inbound social media links, introducing us to new prospects.
We do have some additional content that is only available to people who subscribe to our email newsletter, such as The 11 Biggest Mistakes Small Business Bloggers Make and the 10 Questions to Ask Before Setting Up a Web site.
The next level up is paid content: we have paid Webinars (free for clients) on other web marketing topics such as SEO, email marketing, blogging, social media & Google Analytics.
So, I believe a mixture of free for all, free for email registration/contact info, and paid content is the perfect mix for most small businesses.
Thomas Walker wrote:
It all depends on what kind of content you’re looking to market through. I’ll reflect what everyone has said here about using their blog as that is the most common way. But remember “content” isn’t limited to just words.
Tactics I’ve seen used that I thought were ingenious use the “freemium” model which essentially says this is what you get for free, imagine what you can get if you pay for it.
On top of blogging some other examples of this are;
how to videos
I phone applications
the more your information you’re willing to give away for free, the more trust you build in your potential lead’s mind, which means they’re going to be more likely to fill out your lead gen form.
For things like webinars, yes, require the email capture along with some other basic lead info. Hubspot does a really good job of capturing the info to register for the webinar.
For videos, infographics this information should be free to access, but it’s not unreasonable to ask for the lead info to access whitepaper information
Dana Lynn Smith wrote:
I provide a great deal of free book marketing content through my blog posts, guest posts on other blogs and websites, my monthly ezine, and the resource pages on my website. My resource pages include free podcasts, tutorials and articles.
I do require email address opt-ins for my free ebook and special report. All of this free information helps bring people to my site, keeps them coming back and builds my expert status, all leading up to sales of my books and book marketing consulting services.
Hilton Barbour wrote:
Some very consistent themes in the answers you’ve already received. In broad strokes I’m in total alignment with giving MOST content away for free as a means of building trust, equity and increasing the “socializing” of that content via social media.
The two caveats I’d add is that “free” can also minimize the value of your content. It is entirely legitimate to charge for content that required you/your organization real money to create. Classically if you need to outlay $10,000 to interview someone for your content piece, its legitimate (and commercially astute) to try to ammortisize that from your readership. Charging for something also very quickly separates tyre-kickers from genuine prospects. It also ensures that people understand that your service, your IP, your brain isn’t for free either.
Secondly, if your business allows, you can always segment who gets free content and who has to pay for it. You may elect to offer free content to high-potential prospects whilst charging low-potential prospects.
Definitely agree with giving content away for free – just make sure you aint giving away the farm too.
Alexander Valencia wrote:
I would agree with the posts in saying all of our content is free (with exception to research and internal costs) it generates leads and educates with effort to spark interest and questioning. We write our content with the intent to capture potential clients with intent and offer some education to lead them to our product but as Hilton said don’t give away the farm.
We also use Web 2.0 and other sources to broadcast our content.
Not sure if we would benefit by keeping the gates up on our content.
However, our clients gate the content we write for them and have subscribers that purchase memberships for access.
Connie Ragen Green wrote:
I write new content on a daily basis, so it is simply a matter of repurposing it for my needs. I typically start by posting to my blog or other sites so that the content will be indexed and attributed to my name. Then I am likely to submit it to EzineArticles.com, where I current have 1,368 articles published.
The next step is for me to turn that 300-400 word article into a short report, which can then be used as a lead generator or a bonus for one of my products or courses.
I do require an optin to receive these short reports, and the new prospect will then have a better understanding of how I can help them to achieve their goal of building an online business.
It really depends on the product/service, and the underlying need. Obviously branding and traffic building = free. Lead generation and list building can be done on FREE content quite well (from what we’ve found). Once you get a solid base of leads, you can then begin re-targeting and segmenting the demographic into buyers and info-seekers and pushing the premium content.
A solid re-targeting and re-purposing campaign is part of any good list building we do… The ultimate goal is to squeeze every last inch of conversion ROI % out of each active lead – without being too spammy.
Funnelization goals using Google Analytics helps too. You can usually see repeat visitors and grasp whether they came back and converted into a purchase.
Let me know if you need anything else. 🙂
Steve Pohlit wrote:
I am using Social Media to invite people to content I feel will help them. The content is published on my blogs that are developed by theme. The articles on the blogs are linked to my sites and contact information. The blogs and sites have lead capture sections. One site is a squeeze page so the focus is very much lead gen.
Please feel free to leave a comment and give me your perspective on this. I’m compiling ideas for a ClickDocs insight, and would love your input.