“Just unsubscribed from a group which I had been a member for only 3 months. She was sharing free content, along with a few live videos. Eventually, she posted that people are taking advantage, not hiring her as a coach after consuming her content. Literally she said ‘If you don’t want to move forward, just leave.’ So I left, because I sensed anger and lack.” — a comment posted on my FB page.
First of all, I have to say that I can relate to both sides: the client, and the coach.
I’ve been there — thinking that just because I’ve shared a lot of free content with my audience, that I’m entitled to have them buy from me. When they didn’t, I was resentful...
Resentment builds when we pretend to be generous yet harbor an ulterior motive of expecting people to buy… and then discover that they have their own timing!
Instead, we thrive when we create free content as a ministry and as an exploration of our own calling.
In the long-term, you will get enormous benefits by being generous and service-oriented. But no one can tell you, not the smartest marketing expert in the world, when you can expect that return to be… or in what form.
If you build a genuine and loyal audience — and you understand their wants and occasionally announce your aligned products/services — you will tend to make sales or get clients… even with gentle launches, as I do.
However, please don’t think of your content strategy mainly as a client-getting tool.
That’s the problem I have with funnel-type of launches, e.g. create a free Facebook group for a 30-day challenge, and then try to convert them into buyers.
The participants innocently join what they perceive to be a wonderful free thing… yet the host has the ulterior motive of converting the members into buyers within a specific timeframe. In this case, almost everybody will experience some kind distrust or resentment.
It’s been said that “Expectations ruin relationships.”
Applied in this context, I’ll say that an attitude of entitlement will ruin the relationship with your audience.
If you grow an audience, yet feel entitled to having them buy from you (“since I’ve given them so much already!”) then your actions will tend toward manipulation, and erode the very relationship you hoped to build.
We are not entitled to anything, not to our audience’s attention, let alone their purchases.
The Purpose of Creating Free Content
The deeper purpose of free content — a purpose you can feel great about — is to to clarify your own message and to gather and serve an audience of kindred spirits.
There is no “end” or final stage to that great purpose.
After having coached hundreds of content creators, I see that we can never one day “finally” have finished clarifying our message or exploring our voice.
It is an ongoing journey of deepening clarity, resonance, and precision.
You can never “finally” build an audience — your audience will continue to evolve. Some who are less aligned will leave. Other kindred spirits will find you. You’ll keep being discovered by people who are resonant with you and your message.
Then how do we create content and make sales?
My advice to that resentful coach mentioned at the beginning (again, with whom I can empathize!) is the following:
Keep repeating these 7 steps. You’ll grow a true audience and come to deeply understand them. This allows you to build a successful, authentic business.
Remember, your audience isn’t there for you to get sales out of.
You are blessed to have an audience, no matter how small at the moment.
Over time, as you follow the steps above, you’ll grow your audience and deepen your relationship with them. Eventually, you’ll have plenty of grateful clients and customers as well!
Just don’t be fixated on an exact time it “should” happen.
In a previous version of this post, a commenter wrote:
“Creating authentic free content is a wonderful lesson on humility, abundance and service.” — Annie LM
(Originally written in 2018. Updated in 2020.)
George Kao is a Marketing Coach for small business owners, especially solopreneurs such as Coaches and Mentors. He focuses on ethical & effective ways to grow one's platform and build true livelihood.
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