How much free is too much?
What should you put into your free stuff and what goes into your paid stuff?
I’ve been mulling over this for a long time.
The simple answer – The why becomes your free and the how becomes your paid.
But it isn’t always that clear cut. And I’ve come to realize – as I’m close to hitting the 2 year mark in business– that giving away lots of free value doesn’t always work in your favor.
In this guest post, my friend Elena gives you some questions to think about when it comes to free content.
She also gets you thinking about the critical ingredient your free content needs to have to persuade the reader to work with you.
“Your content is so valuable. Every time I read your blog post or your newsletter, I find something I can apply to my business, and it works. That’s why I’m not sure how a paid coaching session can beat all the free stuff I’ve been getting from you.”
The day I got that email, I knew I was doing something wrong. Granted, the person may not necessarily understand the value of paid vs. free, but the comment made me think of striking the right balance between providing valuable content for free and moving people to action.
“Always provide a lot of value?”
“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” — Albert Einstein
Every “rule book” in the online business tells us how we’re “supposed” to provide a lot of value: write blog posts, run free webinars, produce videos, record podcasts and share useful social media tips.
Most new online entrepreneurs however struggle with striking the balance between their free and paid offers. If a free course/e-book has to have as much value as a paid one, how would our potential client ever agree to buy from us?
In this post I will touch upon 3 main loopholes in “providing free value” advice and share solutions to move your audience to action, instead of satisfying their thirst for tricks.
#1 Too much free value isn’t valuable
When I started my first blog I was posting content three times a week. The posts were relatively short, but I could tell that even my most faithful readers couldn’t keep up with all the information I was sharing.
A few years later I started my current website and slowed down to “providing value” weekly, but my posts were longer and more valuable (as per all the conventional wisdom of the internet), and thus sincere value proposition turned into a turn-off for some potential clients.
I know not everyone has the problem of providing too much (read on if this isn’t you), but if you tend to a) write too many posts, b) overwhelm your audience with extensive guides, c) bubble with creativity that can’t keep you settled, you need to slow your horses.
Too much (free) value creates the sense of overwhelm that blurs your call to action as it’s buried deep within 25 valuable tips and tricks. Here’s what you can do:
- Cut down on the frequency of publishing and spend more time marketing your content.
- Create practical assignments at the end of each post, encourage your audience to take action and check in with them to see if they’ve completed successfully (quizzes).
- Cut your content in half. Break your post into several parts and publish it as a series.
- Only have 1 call to action.
- Only have 1 core message. The core message is your brand manifesto, your “why” that has to be present as an underlying pull that will prompt people to work with you. Here’s how to identify yours.
#2 Creating Value for Everyone isn’t Helpful in the Long Run
When you’re trying to help everyone, you aren’t helping anyone.
My first blog was a series of posts that helped non-native speakers of English learn English. “Learning English” is a vast topic, and many online teacherpreneurs that I work with today are still struggling to narrow it down. They’d say things like,
“Narrowing down is so boring, I don’t want to shackle my creativity.”
“But I can also offer help in other areas, why should I hold back on the value?”
“Niching is hard. Why don’t I just do a little bit of everything?”
“What if my clients need help with XYZ, and it’s not my niche?”
This is where being helpful and informative will actually ruin engagement and and kill the interest from your potential client.
“When people come to your blog for practical advice only, they can easily swap you for another blogger. You become a commodity. In the eyes of your readers, you’re an information-sharer, not a three-dimensional human being.” ~ Henneke Duirstermaat, How to Captivate Readers with Personal Stories.
Here’s what you can do:
- Identify your focus, your area of expertise and brainstorm all the questions your audience may ask on that subject. Answering them establishes you as an authority.
- Identify your “dream client,” a person who will most benefit from your tips and strategies. Where is she? What are her struggles and how can you help her?
- Chisel out your core message and your call to action that will help your reader move in the right direction, instead getting “quick tips” that quickly fill them and make them leave or give them a sense of overwhelm that debilitates action.
- Share your own story. How can you relate to what you write? Why do you even care?
#3 Too little value isn’t helpful
This is probably a most well-known “rule,” but too little value doesn’t mean you’re producing content rarely or inconsistently (a story for another day). You can create wishy-washy content where you restate what’s already known instead of adding your twist to it.
Again, going back to my industry (but I see it elsewhere as well), sometimes people get distracted by the “big-and-shiny” tips and tactics that all they do is re-write them in their language.
I call it the “new wikipedia” syndrome where bloggers reproduce what’s already been said, without adding their personality and unique take on the problem. Such process isn’t adding much value, but it’s adding noise.Reproducing what's already been said adds to noise, not value by @elenamutononoClick To Tweet
Here’s how you can avoid that:
- Flex your creative muscle on a regular basis to find new ways of looking at the same problem and thus finding unorthodox solutions. Here’re some ideas.
- Inject some personality into your post. Do you like quirky jokes? Unusual format? Positive reinforcement? Include it into your post! Let’s quit producing dry tips-and-tricks!
- Surprise your audience. Produce content they don’t expect. “I find that surprising myself is a powerful creative motor.” ~ Philippe Petit.
As it turns out, value comes from getting to know your readers and moving them to action. Tips only aren’t sustainable, and when the core connection with your readers is missing, you’ll continue feeding them free tricks that won’t inspire a commitment to change.Value comes from getting to know your readers and moving them to action by @elenamutononoClick To Tweet
Here’re some important questions:
- How do you want to impact your audience?
- How do you inspire your audience to take action?
- How do you create tension with your content that persuades the reader to work with you?