Content hard sellContent marketing can be a tricky old game. After all, trying to juggle the various factors that together create a successful content marketing campaign is no mean feat. However, all the factors you need to consider, such as building authority in your chosen field, promoting your content effectively and building a rapport with your audience, are all just part of the long game. The ultimate goal, of course, for many organisations, is to generate more business and make more sales. But if this comes across too strongly in your content marketing game, you’re running the risk of alienating potential customers.

According to the 2016 State of Small Business Report, less than half (45%) of small businesses use their content marketing and social media efforts to directly promote their goods and services. But there’s no doubt that the times they have a-changed for today’s marketers. The key to content marketing is to bear in mind that even though you have services or goods to sell, this takes a backseat to the content you are putting across. Let your sparkling, relevant and useful content do the driving – driving customers to consume, follow and trust your brand – and set yourself apart from a world where consumers are swamped with anything from 3,000 to 30,000 ads per day.

As much as it might seem alien to do so, hold back on the sales pitch as the minute your consumers suspect your content is lapsing into a sales spiel, you will raise their suspicions and are likely to lose their trust. Instead, stick to the soft approach, allowing the customer to arrive at the decision to make a purchase all on his or her own.

Here are a few tips on how to hide the hard sell in your content marketing:

1) Think carefully about your call to action

You’ve crafted an excellent, engaging and informative piece of content to share with potential customers. But as you reach the end, you feel an overwhelming urge to add a call to action which just squeezes in the fact you would like them to make a purchase. This risks leaving your reader cold and wondering if this whole piece was just an obvious ploy to get their attention and persuade them to part with their hard-earned cash.

Instead, focus on building trust with your audience whilst making your brand name clear with a logo or subtle website link. Why not point your reader in the direction of further useful content with your call to action or direct them to your email newsletter or social media accounts? By offering more useful and interesting content, you are letting the customers take note of who you are, and then come to you.

2) Provide content your reader wants and not the content you want them to read

As Forbes says, content marketing is a ‘teach, not sell’ approach. Therefore it follows that, instead of crafting your content around the products or services you wish to sell, you should focus on developing content that teaches, informs and engages your consumers – essentially, finding out what they want to read about and delivering it. How? It all comes back to knowing your customer inside out, understanding their values and paying attention to their needs. Stats reported by Smartbug Media show that 62% of consumers say they feel better about a company that delivers custom content and are also more likely to buy from that company. Engaging your readers in honest conversation, paying attention to FAQs and comments, and keeping an eye on the type of content that gains the most attention are a few key ways to customise your content effectively.

3) Share and share alike

One more tip for hiding that hard sell and ensuring your readers know you are dedicated to providing quality content for their delectation, is to share your wisdom, and share others’ wisdom too. You can do this effectively on your social media channels, finding and sharing useful and relevant information, posts and other content that provides a high level of value to your followers. Think of the 90/10 rule – 90% of your posts ought to be informative and engaging for your followers whilst only 10% ought to be promotional.

Hiding the sell might go against everything you have learned in this business, but quell that urge and use your content marketing to prove you are an organisation that is worth consumers’ attention and trust. An organisation they want to engage with and eventually (hopefully) spend their money on.

Ben Hollom

March 16, 2016