One of the great things about going out for Mexican food is getting that free chips and salsa. Of course, it isn’t really free. The cost gets folded into the price you pay for your carnitas tacos or the killer chicken enchiladas. But it feels like a great free gift, which is part of what makes it so enjoyable.
Good content marketing uses free content in the same way. Really great free content whets the appetite and it shows off your talent at creating something tasty. Whatever your regular “main course” product is, a nice appetizer of chips and salsa can strengthen your relationships and boost your business.
Chips and Salsa Get You Ready for the Meal
Have you ever been ravenously hungry, but you didn’t quite realize it until you put the first bite into your mouth?
When you start out with some chips and salsa, you get your tastebuds in the mood for a great dinner. You get started down a path and realize you want to keep going. A few bites of something really yummy leave you primed to enjoy the full meal that’s to come.
In the same way, free content like email newsletters, blogs and autoresponder content are tasty appetizers that make your prospects hungry for something more substantial. They create an enjoyable early experience of consuming your stuff, and set up the right conditions for a great, enduring relationship.
Great Salsa Shows a Great Cook
Salsa isn’t actually very hard to make. You chop up some decent ingredients, put them together in the right ratios, and there you have it, delicious salsa.
But customers don’t know that. The assumption is that if the free salsa is out of this world, the paid main course will be even better. Free salsa is a relatively inexpensive, low-work way to make a great impression on the customer and sell her on the exceptional quality of the main course.
A great email autoresponder works the same way. When you deliver knockout content for free, your reader can’t help but ask herself, “If this is the free stuff, how amazing is the paid product going to be?”
To make free content work, be smart about it. Use the salsa model: create a PDF, an autoresponder, or another vehicle that doesn’t cost too much money or work to send out. Save free consultations, physical samples and other more expensive or labor-intensive freebies for later-stage prospects.
Salsa-and-chips content should, like their namesake, be zesty and not too filling. You want to tease the appetite, not satiate it. Which leads us to . . .
Don’t Wait Too Long to Serve the Meal
If you fill up on chips and salsa while you wait 40 minutes for the meal, what happens? Your needs have already been met. You aren’t hungry any more. You don’t devour your delicious dinner, your experience isn’t completely satisfying, and you’re not as likely to come back.
If you have something to sell, try to make an offer quickly after you put the chips and salsa on the table. You can literally offer a paid product right on the page that thanks your reader for confirming her email subscription. Or you may want to put an offer in your first message, along with that valuable chips-and-salsa content that’s got your reader’s appetite going.
If you deliver nothing but free chips and salsa for months on end, you run the risk of training your customers to expect that everything you offer will be free. Those customers can still build your business—a cheapskate who raves about you all over town is well worth cultivating—but obviously it’s better business to get as many customers as possible paying their way.
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