How to Give Away Great Content Without Giving Away the Store

By MaryEllen Tribby

"How do we keep from 'giving away the store?' That is, how do we keep from giving away what we'd normally charge clients to do for them?"

This is a very common question and a very good question. It's something anyone who uses content marketing should ask themselves. The good news is, it's actually easy to keep a hold on that store and reap the benefits of publishing content.

Here are a few examples that will illustrate how you can do this.

Sell a Service by Explaining How to Find You

If you sell a service, you don't need to provide content on how to do what you do because people who want to do it themselves aren't really in your target market. You can create content that teaches your readers how to find a reputable service provider. You can also create content that teaches people how to enhance the work you do for them.

For example, if you are a virtual assistant (VA), you can create content that shows business owners to effectively use the extra time they'll have after they hire you. You can teach them how to delegate, how to plan their marketing and so forth.

Or if you're a laminate floor installer, show your readers the benefits of using laminate and tell them how to care for their laminate floor.

Sell a Product by Selling the Why

If you sell a consumer product, the same logic applies. You want the content to teach them why they need your product and enhance their experience of using your product.

So if you sell anti-wrinkle cream, you can create case studies, talk about the effects of aging and the best foods to eat (or not eat) for better aging. There are plenty of things to share that will help your target customer.

You can also share product demos and videos of your product in action. Before and after pictures can also be very effective - especially if you combine them with testimonials from your satisfied customers.

Sell Information Products with the What and Not the How

If you sell information products, people think this is where it gets really tricky to control what you give away and what you sell, but it doesn't have to. There are a couple of ways you can approach this.

In the often quoted words of Jimmy D. Brown, "Teach them what to do, but not how to do it."

In other words, give people the solution to their problem, but not the step-by-step instructions for doing it. You're showing them they need your product to fully accomplish what they want to do.

For example, if you sell an ebook on dog training, you might tell your readers about the key points of obedience training. You can share the basics of training...but your information product can go deeper into helping people with hard-to-train dogs. Give them a reason to go for the further training.

You can also offer extras with your information product. Do you offer personalized service, an active discussion community or valuable customer only discounts? Use those to create further interest in your info product.

Your content marketing should be helpful but incomplete. If you leave out the helpful part, your content will flop and not resonate with your perfect customer. You want your reader to be thinking, "Yes, that's exactly what I need to fix my problem. I wonder what else the author has to help me."

Use Soft Endings

One of the best ways to do this is with a "soft ending" to your essays. Most articles and essays end with a "hard ending." These notes are all about the author - "MaryEllen Tribby is a speaker, author, writer and consultant. She helps businesses build their businesses with inbox magazines which she learned while working at Agora, Weiss Research and Early to Rise."

A soft ending, on the other hand, is focused on two things: what the reader is looking for and the next step they can take with you.

For example, an ending like, "If you're ready to learn more about exactly how to create your own inbox magazine, grab MaryEllen Tribby's hot new report, The Success Code: How to Make More Money Working for Yourself than You Ever Made Working for the Man right here."

The ending would include a link to a squeeze page where the reader enters their email to receive the free report. They are signing up to learn more from you and are much more likely to become a customer.

The bottom line is your product needs to add value beyond anything you share freely. If you create your product and content marketing plan haphazardly, you might run into some conflicts.

But if you plan your product with your content marketing plan in mind, it's much easier to create a cohesive plan that educates your reader AND gives them a reason to buy your product.

That's a win-win for all, right?