4 Ways to Create Content That Sells

social media how toLet me just cut to the chase here: When it comes to business blogging, there is content, and then there is content that sells.

Ask any business owner or marketer which they’d prefer and the obvious answer would be the latter.

The fact is, all the business blogging in the world doesn’t help a bit if it’s not increasing sales. Make no mistake—a business is a business and it needs to make money.

In this article I’ll discuss 4 ways companies can create blog content to bring in more sales. Adapt the principles here to your industry or niche to get more business with your company’s blog.

Here goes…

#1: Teach With Story and Sell With Subtleness

Of all the things I’m going to discuss in this article, teaching with story and selling with subtleness is really the most important. It’s incredibly underutilized by businesses around the world.

Here’s how this works. When businesses share their success stories, they usually don’t adopt a “teach first” mentality. They explain what they did for the client, but they don’t give the lesson behind the experience.

But first, customers want an answer to “What’s in it for me?” If our content only talks about how great a job we did on a project but doesn’t teach, we’re not likely to get the best results.

Here’s an example of how to first teach with story and then sell with subtleness. I recently wrote an article, “What Does the Face of the Blogger of Tomorrow Truly Look Like?

The teaching message was: Companies need to embrace the idea that the majority of their employees, especially those in sales, can be content producers and blog writers.

And I shared the story of a company doing just this. US Waterproofing, a Chicago basement waterproofing company, turned their sales guys into content producers, which led to a significant increase in traffic, leads and sales from their company website.

us waterproofing

By showing your client success stories with a "teach first, sell second" mentality, you're likely to garner many more leads and sales.

That was the “teaching” segment of the article.

The “subtle selling” portion came into play when I mentioned, in a very subtle manner, that I had gone to this company and spoken to their staff. I gave them the initial vision, and after they bought in, they got the desired results.

In other words, there were two messages in that article, in their proper order:

  • Enable your employees to be content producers. (This answers the reader’s “What’s in it for me?” question.)
  • How businesses that want to enable their employees to be content producers could hire help.

See how this works? Although I spent very little time in that article talking about myself or the fact that US Waterproofing was a client of mine, I’ve received many inquiries since then from other companies looking to achieve the same success with their employees.

But remember, it all starts when you teach a principle first, and sell later.

#2: Teach With Video (and a personal touch)

Let’s look at a completely different example in another field I’m in—swimming pools. As some of you know, I own a swimming pool company that installs in-ground swimming pools throughout Virginia and Maryland.

One of the biggest issues my swimming pool sales department deals with from consumers is their concern that pools are too much work, too hard to clean and aren’t worth the hassle. With respect to the cleaning issue, for years customers kept telling me they heard it was very hard to vacuum an in-ground pool, and that it could only be done with two people.

Knowing this train of thought was completely wrong, I decided to do a video dispelling the myth, showing customers and viewers just how easy it was to vacuum a pool. This alone would not have been a very unique nor personal video, but I did it with a catch—my 6-year-old son was the star of the video.

If you watch the video above, you’ll clearly see just how easy it is to vacuum an in-ground swimming pool. But beyond that, one other thing will happen—you’ll get to know my son, which means you’ll get to know me a little better as well.

When people know you and start to trust you, your chance of doing business with them is much, much greater.

Video is an amazing tool for this. It allows businesses to integrate the social power of YouTube with the personal power of real people, and the teaching power behind the content.

And because we send this video out to all of the leads who come into our system, they immediately get a different perspective—not only on swimming pool ownership, but also on the owner of the company they might be buying from.

In many ways, this is what creating personal content that sells is all about.

#3: Teach With Urgency (and a call to action)

Are you starting to pick up on a theme yet? Yep, everything always involves teaching first, then comes the selling.

In some cases, the services or products in your field may be time-sensitive, at which point you can take advantage of urgency and allow time, or the lack thereof, to be on your side.

Take for example the recent Facebook Timeline change for business. Because thousands and thousands of businesses were affected by this change, and because the timing of it made action urgent, it was the perfect opportunity for Facebook/social media consultants to create sales through content.

One perfect example of this was Social Media Examiner guest writer and Facebook guru extraordinaire Amy Porterfield, who wrote the following blog post:

amy porterfield

This is a perfect example of teaching with urgency and then using a call to action from Amy Porterfield's blog.

As you can see from the screenshot, Amy informed her audience of Facebook’s impending changes, she discussed when and what those changes would be, and then finished off the article with a perfect call to action for a webinar.

When it comes to producing content that sells, this was a great example of how to do it the right way with the right progressions.

#4: Teach Through Comparison

In previous articles here on Social Media Examiner, I’ve discussed the “power of comparison” as a sales tool with content marketing.

As consumers, we love to compare. We love to line products and services up against each other and choose the one we feel is the best.

For example, let’s imagine you want to buy a sports car and your top two choices are the Ford Mustang and the Chevy Camaro. Once you narrow your choice down to these two vehicles, what are you likely going to do next? If you guessed “go to the Internet and compare the two models,” you’re right. In fact, you’d likely go to a search engine like Google and type something like:

  • Ford Mustang vs. Chevy Camaro
  • Ford Mustang compared to Chevy Camaro
  • Ford Mustang or Chevy Camaro: Which is better?
  • 2012 Ford Mustang vs. 2012 Chevy Camaro

A good content marketer selling one of these vehicles would certainly create an article addressing these very questions.

For another real-life example of how comparative content works so well, I’ll refer you to Block Imaging‘s incredibly successful blog.

To give you a quick background on Block, they sell refurbished medical imaging equipment all over the world, with a focus on MRI machines. Because they offer so many different types and models, and because their clients are constantly comparing products, Block Imaging consistently writes these comparative articles like the one below to help clients choose the product that best suits their needs.

Not only do their readers love this, but the search engines are rewarding Block for addressing subjects that so few in their industry have ever discussed online.

block

By comparing some of the most common products in their industry, companies like Block Imaging are not only garnering trust from their customers, but great search engine results as well.

Now it’s Your Turn

So there you have it, friends—4 ways your company can produce content that sells. But the truth is, there are many other ways by which you can sell more with your content.

What do you think? Please share the effective strategies you’ve used with your business. What else would you add to the list? Jump in, folks. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave your questions and comments in the box below.

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About the Author, Marcus Sheridan

Known for his boundless energy and enthusiasm, Marcus is a thought leader & popular social media speaker. Download his FREE 230-page Inbound and Content Marketing Made Easy eBook. He's on Twitter @TheSalesLion Other posts by »




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  • http://www.ryanhanley.com/ Ryan Hanley

    Marcus,

    Great stuff… Obviously…

    I’ve seen you talk about the Comparison posts a bunch of times so i figured I needed to write one and see what it’s all about.

    That post is consistently, 2 months after I wrote it, one of my most read posts and one that converts to my newsletter at a very high rate.

    So you might be on to something… maybe.

    Thanks,

    Ryan H.

  • http://www.toushenne.de/ Robert Weller

    Yep, I was about to say the same. I read a lot about this comparison technique and I’ll definetely use it more often. It just seems to provide some kind of proof if you compare things…

    The other points sound interesting, too. I’ll give it a try ;-)

  • Marcus Sheridan

     Comparisons work incredibly well Ryan. The reason, if you cut to the core, is that businesses are afraid to compare stuff online because it forces them to take a stand and have an opinion. That’s the key, and that’s why there are TONS of content opportunities in this arena in just about any niche.

    Thanks bud,

    Marcus

  • Marcus Sheridan

     Glad you liked it Robert. Please start comparing man– it works. And your web visitors will respond–more traffic, leads, and sales— and that’s what ultimately matters.

    Good luck!

    Marcus

  • Sabina Claus

    great idea’s for a newbee blogger like myself…taking those basic marketing from class and applying to real life examples

    thanks!

  • Toby Buerger

    Speaking of comparisons…Marcus what are your thoughts about using Vimeo over YouTube for business videos?  Do they have different users?  Obviously YouTube is more popular.

    Thank you,
    Toby
    PS… Great little video with your son!

  • Mikeg

    Great information here Michael, as always! It is so important to establish yourself as a thought-leader in today’s business climate, where everybody is embracing technology as a source of knowledge, leads, and other applications to build sustainable relationships.

  • http://www.shoptab.net/ Shanley Wright

    I will have to try a comparison blog post soon. You are right it is scary to take a stance in your niche but if you don’t do it then you’ll just be ignored or never criticzed. Referring to a recent Seth Godin blog post.Great post Marcus thanks for sharing!

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  • http://blog.socialmediahq.com/ Nick Robinson

    Great stuff as always Marcus! It’s so funny that you mention the medical equipment, as I had a client say, “but people don’t read blogs to find medical supplies/equipment”. I said, “well client abc, what do you typically do when starting your search if you’re not that educated on a new product line you’re thinking about procuring?”.

    One word, Google. I then proceed to say, “What if this is a question your customers ask you over and over and there is a bunch of “you know what” in the search results? This might be an opportunity to produce a quality blog post, get found and convert these visitors into leads and customers via education.

    Have you heard that from your clients before Marcus? 

  • אופיר נחום

     hi from isarel
    very interesting and practical artical,,,,,,
    i also use: connecting the content to major political/sociall event   like  olimpics games or major scandal   {e.g read my lips -and my bodey language seminar}
    —–
    competition-read what your competitores read,,,,,,

    thanks

  • Joanne

    I have a question about the video you used. Can you tell me how to add the title pages that you have at the beginning & end of the video, I know how to add annotations etc, but are unsure how to add a static info page to the video?

  • S Katsoolis

    Hello from Beijing! 
    Thank you Marcus for your insight on content blogging.  I am new to blogging on have been doing it for 7 months for personal stuff.  Now I want to venture into the business side and all your ideas are great!  I especially enjoyed how you hired your son to clean the pool!  Very clever.   

  • Kevin Dahlberg

    Your comment about teaching first reminded me of the quote “People love to buy, but hate to be sold to.”. Customers really want to feel that they are deciding what they want to buy, not that a salesman is convincing them to buy something they don’t really need. I really like the idea of teaching first and selling with subtlety because of that.

  • LindaAW

    Good morning Marcus!

    Thank you so much for the practical examples – they have helped me have an ‘Aha!’ moment. I’ve been doing the teaching bit, but not so subtle on the sell – or maybe too subtle. I keep forgetting to go the next step forward. On the agenda as of now!

    Next I just need to find an angle that other ‘holiday’ people aren’t addressing – all ideas gratefully received!

  • http://www.remotecontroluk.com/ Caroline Deayton

    Really interesting info – thanks Marcus!  Am very new to blogging as my company haa only been going for 4 weeks but its the one thing everyone tells me I should be doing!  You have inspired me to write a comparison blog – here’s hoping it works!

  • http://twitter.com/NurtureSocial Nurture Social Media

    Cheers for an interesting case study lead breakdown of some of your
    approaches.  Practical, simple, not always easy to sell in – but
    evidently proven – very useful for SME’s (and beyond) with an expert story to
    tell.  Knowledge acquired! Thanks Marcus.

  • http://moreinmedia.com/ Dorien Morin

    Great article.  I use some of your techniques, but I might need to just tweak a few things to get to the point…and sell.  I use video to teach all the time as I make video tutorials on ‘How To Do..’ just about anything on social media platforms.  I love that fact that you have your 6 year old vacuuming the pool. I have 5 kids; I might need to star at least one of them.  

    My biggest and best received blog posts have been when I dive in a bit (beyond the obvious) into a platform:  Teaching (with video) about Twitter List, or Facebook Admin roles, or I do a ‘behind the scenes look’ at a new social media platform.  My videos ‘Behind the Scenes Tour of My Pinterest Account’ and ‘Can you Xeeme Now’ about the Xeeme platform were very well received.  

    They produce new clients or inquiries and I also use them in workshops I teach.

    Thank you for a great post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.t.torrey Stephen Thomas Torrey

    Great advice for my customers that struggle to come up with social media and blog posts that help drive sales and new customer acquisitions …

  • Marcus Sheridan

     So glad you liked it Sabina!! Let me know how it  goes for you! :-)

  • Marcus Sheridan

     Glad you liked the video Toby, it was fun to create ;-)

    As for Vimeo v YT, from a SEO standpoint and audience standpoint, YT is ideal.

    But I also think it’s a good idea to try and be on both if possible, as Vimeo does have a more “professional” audience in many ways.

  • Marcus Sheridan

     So glad you liked it!!

  • Marcus Sheridan

     Awesome Shanley, go for it!! It will work, you’ve just got to produce it!

    Best,

    Marcus

  • http://kristakotrla.com/ Krista Kotrla

    LOVE the examples, Marcus! Those are always a tremendous help. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve referenced your fiberglass pool articles to riff-off of as inspirations for our own medical imaging equipment blog. You set the standard and we just follow suit. :-) And it is SO true about teaching first. Being the one to empower buyers is a very rewarding experience. I mean, if your team is answering these types of questions over the phone and email all day long, why not take 30 minutes to turn that conversation into a blog post that will help bring in organic search traffic and 100s of sales leads 24/7… and then watch each article gain momentum with even more sales leads it generates for years to come? You help make it simple and because it is so effective, it is SO FUN too!

  • Marcus Sheridan

     Hey Nick, great question. I think a huge portion of businesses dismiss online research with their services and products—which is crazy—and I’ve had lots of clients feel the same—that is until we look at Google search phrases and let the numbers speak for themselves. I think when biz owners really “get” the way we shop and research in 2012, they’re quickly all in.

  • Lucas2

    I recently had the exact same conversation with a medical supplies client! Glad to see my response was along the same lines as yours.

  • Marcus Sheridan

     So glad you liked the article. Yes, taking advantage of current events is a great way to get your message across.

  • Marcus Sheridan

     Great question Joanne. For that video, I used Windows Movie Maker, which is very easy to learn and comes standard with most Windows packages. I’m not a “techie” by any stretch and I learned how to do all that stuff within a few hours of tinkering around.

    Good luck!!

  • Marcus Sheridan

     Wow, all the way from Beijing! So glad you found the article helpful and hope you’ll be able to apply some of the content tips!

  • Marcus Sheridan

     Right on Kevin, and thanks for bringing up that famous selling axiom, as it’s as true today as it has ever been.

    Good luck with the subtle selling, it works!!

    Marcus

  • Marcus Sheridan

     Thrilled it helped Linda. Yes, I find that most business either sell too much, or not at all. The idea is a solid balance of value through information/teaching, and sales messaging along with it—that’s not overpowering.

    Good luck implementing this Linda, it’s going to work great for you!

    Marcus

  • Marcus Sheridan

     Awesome Caroline!! Thrilled that you’ve started to blog and I certainly hope you’ll stick with it and use these techniques.

    Best!

    Marcus

  • Marcus Sheridan

     So glad you found it helpful!

    Continued success,

    Marcus

  • Marcus Sheridan

     Awesome Stephen, well then I hope this will help them get more results!

    Marcus

  • http://www.seotrafficsearch.com/ Suneeta

    This is really informative and a helpful post.Developing contents that sells is a major concern for most of the bloggers.I am sure your post many new and budding bloggers will benefit from your post.I really liked your point and agree with it as well “teach with video”. Video is indeed an amazing means to attract the viewers to your blog.Thanks for sharing such wonderful as well as tips.

  • http://blog.socialmediahq.com/ Nick Robinson

    Lucas, there is definitely a lot of not so good content about medical supplies online. At least that’s what I’ve seen so far.

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  • Ola Oshodi-Glover

    Thanks a lot for sharing these tips. It will really help with converting visitors to customers.

    The interesting thing is that all your suggestions in this post are really simple to implement and obvious, but it seems it’s not (yet) the norm..Also, from personal experience (as a customer), I usually make purchases on sites with teaching videos or comparisons.

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  • http://propertyagents.co/real-estate-lead-generation-course Muhammad Ayaz

    Hi Marcus!

    Certainly teaching with image or videos makes great impact but producing call to action is really crucial where readers decides to buy or not.

  • http://www.yourdigitalspace.com/ Swamykant

    Great ideas. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Streamlinetrade

    great article! how would I use content comparisons for a product that is in the same family, but a completely different type of fruit. Ex., Its like comparing apples to oranges although they are both fruits and you can compare them, its not the same as comparing an apple to an apple? am I clear in this analogy, please help ;/

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  • http://www.3hatscommunications.com/blog/ Davina K. Brewer

    For most businesses, sales is the name of the game – no point in trying to hide from that. One theme I’m picking up here: humanity. Coming from the ‘communications is key’ camp, I see the storytelling, the call to make the companies and brands more human, present products and services in ways people can relate to. That’s why videos that aren’t canned corporate babble but more ‘personal’ work – they connect w/ the audience. 

    Hmm.. I’ve been wanting to try the comparison, the vs. posts.. but finding it hard when it’s services. Kinda like comparing apples with .. someone else’s apples, IDK just a little trickier. And of course the questions, gotta think of the questions I get asked all the time, how people may search in relation to what I can do. Food for thought and w/ that, what I’ve always found to be the best sales technique: deliver. Make nice stuff, sell nice stuff, do a good job, offer better service – deliver to the customers. FWIW.

  • Steve Phillip

    JT’s video is pure genius, great message and made me chuckle too!

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