(Originally written on Feb 28, 2018. Updated on Aug 27, 2019.)
Someone posted this comment on my Facebook page:
“Just unsubscribed from a group which I had been a member for only 3 months. She was sharing free content, and did a couple of Facebook live videos. A few days ago 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.”
First, I have to say that I can relate from both sides, the consumer, but also as the seller. I’ve been there — thinking that just because I’ve shared a lot of free content with my audience, that I'm entitled to having them buy from me. And when they didn’t, I felt resentful.
In other words:
Resentment builds when we pretend to be generous, with an ulterior motive of expecting our audience to buy, and then discover that they have their own timing.
Perhaps what I share with you here, learned through my difficult experiences, may save you some future pain…
I now advocate for creating free content as a service to others, and as an exploration of your own calling and voice.
...and not from this attitude: “If I create free content, I should expect X return in a Y timeframe.”
In the long-term, you will get enormous benefits by being generous and service-oriented. But it’s not realistic to expect what (or when) the exact return will be.
This is one of the problems with funnel-type of launches. Example: Create a free Facebook group for a 30-day challenge, and then try to convert them into buyers.
The participants innocently join what they perceived to be an exciting free thing… yet the host has ulterior motives and tries to sell and convert the members within a specific timeframe. In this case, almost everybody will experience some kind distrust or resentment.
It’s been said by spiritual teachers that “Expectations ruin relationships.”
I think that especially in content marketing, expectations coming from an attitude of entitlement will ruin the relationship with your audience.
If you look at your content marketing as building a friendship with your audience — a perspective shift that I often discuss— then if you feel entitled to having your audience buy (“since I’ve given them so much already!”) your actions will tend toward manipulation, and erode the very relationship you hoped to build.
Always remember: We are not entitled to anything, not to our audience’s attention, let alone their purchases.
The Great Purpose of Creating Free Content
If you create "free" content with the motive of getting a clients within a certain timeframe, you will eventually want to manipulate your audience. This creates negativity on all sides: your audience senses your ulterior motives, and your conscience will bother you for being out of integrity.
The deeper purpose of creating 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 purpose. In my experience of coaching hundreds of content creators, it is not possible to one day "finally" have finished clarifying one’s message or exploring one’s voice.
It is an ongoing journey of deepening clarity, resonance, and precision.
Similarly you can never “finally” build an audience — your audience will continue to evolve. Some who are less aligned with you will leave, and more kindred spirits will discover you. You'll keep being found by people who are even more resonant with you and your message.
Then how do we create content and make sales?
Back to that resentful coach mentioned at the beginning (with whom I can empathize!), my advice is:
In this way, you build a successful, authentic business.
Remember, your audience isn’t there for you to manipulate 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.
Keep returning to a focus on creating content from an attitude of service, curiosity, and gratitude.
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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