If you’ve spent any time developing a business online, I’m sure you’ve heard from one marketing guru or another that creating free content is a must. Websites need blogs. Email lists need newsletters. Oh, and don’t forget about having a free download available to entice people to sign up for your email list in the first place. Before you know it, you’ve forgotten what it’s like to get paid for an original idea or make anything other than free content.
When is enough, enough?
I’ve been asking myself that question recently. A major reason for me starting this business is to help other small businesses and solopreneurs sift through the morass of information and find a few nuggets that actually make sense to apply to what they’re doing. For all intents and purposes, I’m in the same boat. The difference is that I’m the one sifting through all the online detritus and making heads or tails out of it.
The Road Less Traveled
I don’t want to be another knucklehead regurgitating the party line. The easy thing to do is to tell you what almost everyone else is telling you. I’m going to go out on a limb here and not do that. Let’s move away from the generalities and acknowledge the fact that it’s not one size fits all with our businesses.
Sometimes more is just more
Generating content, good value added content, takes time. Last I heard, time is money. Continually, I have to remind myself of that fact. I spend an hour writing a blog post, an hour on newsletter content, bits of time here and there posting on social networks, responding to comments, I’m losing time I could be using on other parts of my business.
Depending what you read, you’d think that if you’re not putting out fresh content online somewhere every few hours, your business is never going to get off the ground. It’s enough to make anyone apoplectic. I’m the first to say that high value and well delivered content is key to building a brand and helping convert leads into sales. The problem becomes when delivering so much free content tips the scales from adding to your business to sucking it dry.
Where are you in your business?
This is where getting really specific about goals and bottom lines comes in. I met a woman the other day who was at her wit’s end trying to figure out what route to go with integrating social media into her business. She had gotten quotes from a couple of large PR/Social Media management agencies that included services she neither could afford or thought she really needed. I asked her a bit about her business, where she finds clients and what social networks she likes to use. Her answer, “I really like to blog and use LinkedIn.” My response, “Terrific!”
She was already connecting with potential clients on LinkedIn and creating well thought out content on her own website. For the kind of business she has and the amount of time she can devote to social media, spending excessive brainpower and energy someplace like Facebook doesn’t make sense. Having some sort of presence is okay but creating lots of original content specifically for that network is not going to pay off.
Give until it hurts, then give some more
This seems to be the mantra these days. Just about everyone expects something for free. Long gone are the days of simply broadcasting a message. People can easily go online and comparison shop. The upshot is that competition is fiercer than ever. There’s always going to be someone else working for less and providing more.
Stop! Let’s put the breaks on for just a minute and think about what we’re all doing. The free webinars, the free monster sized downloadable PDFs, infographics, and the list goes on and on. So much rich content is being produced and distributed for free that it’s mind boggling.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not as if I think none of these things should be part of a small business’s marketing game plan. Something like a webinar can be a great tool in giving people actionable advice while promoting a product or service. Contributing valuable content creates trust and helps convince a prospective customer or client to try what a business has to offer. I just hate seeing small businesses fall into the trap of continually giving away the milk for free.
Just say no
I’m a huge proponent of networking, making connections, and helping people with the knowledge that I have. Giving is good. Jumping off the cliff with the rest of the lemmings isn’t. This brings us back to coming up with a plan to get your business noticed online and off that doesn’t involve feeling like a chump. Writing five blog posts a week and coming out with a new free download once a month may be overkill. Are you really generating more revenue and whatever else you want for your business from all that effort? If you are, fantastic. You’ve found you’re sweet spot. If not, don’t do it just because some internet marketing “expert” said you should.
What are your thoughts on all the free content out there? Do you feel as though you’re stuck in a revolving door of content creation with little payoff? Let me know in the comments.