Aug 12, 2022 | Content Marketing

Is giving free content away bad for business?

Written by Stephany Damyanova

Having offered content marketing services for a while now, I’ve seen my fair share of raised eyebrows when I suggest writing a tutorial or a guide. Small business owners worry others will steal their craft, question their expertise, or use their tips to DIY their own solutions. But does sharing free content actually lead to any of these negative outcomes? And most importantly, what positive ones can it also lead to?


Not everyone who sees your content will be in your target audience

One of the pillars of a content marketing strategy is its target audience. If you are creating content with everyone in mind, it won’t resonate with anyone. That’s why it’s important to focus on a group of people with something in common – be it their interests or profession. Now, just because you’re creating for a particular audience, it doesn’t mean others won’t see your content. But those ‘others’ aren’t really that relevant to your content marketing strategy.

Most importantly, they weren’t going to become your clients to begin with so giving them free information is of no consequence to you.

For example, if you are an event planner, you might share an article with tips about organising a successful team-building event. Your target audience in this case will be business owners who have a team of more than a couple of people. But as you have very little control over how information spreads, your content will ultimately be seen by smaller businesses too. These businesses don’t have the budget to hire a planner, but maybe they will use your tips to organise something for their small team. And maybe as their team and budget grow, they’ll hire you to organise their next one. Most importantly – you’re not really losing business when the business isn’t looking for your services.

As for your main target audience, they don’t have the skills or time to organise a team-building event and they know it. Their intention is to find someone who can do this for them, not take on more work. If they come across your free content piece, they’ll see what you can do and how you can help them. This way, you’ll appear trustworthy, especially compared to other event planners who don’t share details about how they work.

You need to help customers see the problem

When you get started with content marketing, you will have set goals you’d like to hit. They can be different for everyone but will always have one thing in common – raising awareness. In the 60s, copywriter Eugene Schwartz penned a book called Breakthrough Advertising. In it, he identifies 5 stages of awareness that we use to this day to understand the customer journey:

  1. Unaware
  2. Problem Aware
  3. Solution Aware
  4. Product Aware
  5. Most Aware

Each of these refers to a stage in the journey of a potential customer. Starting with unaware, where the customer doesn’t know they have a problem, the stages progress alongside a customer’s awareness of the issue. By publishing free content, you can help prospects identify something that’s troubling them, as well as present your service as a solution.

Depending on your industry, offering, and audience, you can target prospects in these stages with different content. For the unaware, a blog post can help them understand they have a problem to solve. For the solution aware, however, you will need evidence like a case study to sway them your way. No matter the stage, a piece of content can influence the decision-making process of your prospects and lead them further down your funnel.

Sharing high-quality information helps you stand out

We live in a very busy world and it’s easy to get lost trying to research a question. Every time I google something, I end up with 20+ open tabs and quickly get frustrated as none of them give me the information I need. Unfortunately, many businesses treat answering questions like a sales pitch. By doing this, they provide so little value that you start to wonder if you entered the wrong search terms. Even if you do find answers, they’re often written for search engines instead of readers and are difficult to understand.

In the SEO-driven search ecosystem we’re all navigating, it’s refreshing to find something useful, targeted, and meaningful. But to create something that’s actually of use to readers, you’ll have to share a unique insight only you have. This is where most business owners worry about competitors stealing their skills or ideas. I’m not going to lie, your competition is likely to see what you’re up to and even copy your strategy if you’re successful. But why should that stop you?

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”

It’s a cheesy quote, but it’s true, even more so in full. And it’s the latter part of it that matters the most – if someone is copying you, you’re probably doing a lot better than them. So why let their actions stop you from working on your business?

So, should you worry about giving away too much for free?

While all the benefits of giving away free information are clear, you do have to set some boundaries. I wouldn’t advise anyone, let alone small business owners, to give away everything for free. You need to strike a healthy balance between providing value and protecting your livelihood. If you invest time in creating a course, share a short preview or highlight and offer the rest as a paid product. Alternatively, if you’ve created a longer piece of content like an eBook, ask for people’s emails before they can access it. This way, you’re still offering it for free, but you can start building a list of interested leads at the same time.

If all of this has got you thinking about investing in content marketing, check out our recent article about how to get ready for a content marketing strategy. You can also read about what a content marketing consultant can help you with in our blog and get in touch with us if you have any questions

About the Author

Stephy is a copywriter and digital marketing consultant, as well as the co-founder of The Marketing Bureau. She writes about all things web and content-related and shares tips from the trade to help small business owners and entrepreneurs grow their online presence.

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Just drop us a line or book a free discovery call to chat about what you have in mind and how we can help you achieve it.

Ready to get started with Content Marketing?

Just drop us a line or book a free discovery call to chat about what you have in mind and how we can help you achieve it.

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