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How giving first makes for better marketing.

If you want to gain traction in today’s digital marketplace, provide value BEFORE you ask for anything in return.


When it comes to content marketing, the practice of using content to promote your brand, the rules are very different from those of traditional marketing.

This is partly because today’s consumers have gotten wise. They know when they are being sold to, and are rightly skeptical.

“Sure, you say your product will solve my problem, but how do I know you’re telling the truth?”

Instead of simply touting your product, you must deliver two key things: Authority and Authenticity.

What better way to back up your claims than by demonstration? That’s essentially what content marketing is — a demonstration to show that you know what you’re talking about, that your product works, and that you understand and can meet the needs of your customers.

It’s also exactly what you’re reading now. Yep. This article is me marketing to you. (Didn’t expect me to come right out and say it, did you?)

Selling Without Selling — The Magic of Content Marketing

Now you’re probably saying to yourself, “my product makes industrial widgets that weigh four tons, I can’t provide a sample of that!” And unless there’s some new teleportation technology available I’m not aware of, you’d be right.

But you’d also be wrong.

Let content do the heavy lifting.

Let’s take that industrial widget maker for example. What types of content could let customers “sample” the product without physically touching it?

  • A video demonstration of the machine in action. Think about those “how it’s made” TV shows, and do something similar.
  • Personal, non-scripted testimonials from actual users. I stress “non-scripted” because it’s always obvious when a person is reading a prepared statement vs speaking from the heart in their own words. It’s better to leave out some important detail if you deliver authenticity that convinces potential customers.
  • Examples of finished products made with the machine, in use and delivering the goods. This could be a video or article, but it should be engaging as well as informative. This also provides opportunity for tribe building by cross-promoting a third-party product that uses your widget in its assembly.
  • A white paper that delivers technical specs, illustrations, and real-world applications.
  • An e-book that describes the problem your product solves, and how it solves it.
  • A newsletter that gives new and potential users tips on using your product, as well as information to help them in other areas related to your product.

Hair today, sales tomorrow.

Let’s take it in another direction. Say your product is a new type of shampoo that adds shine and body, but is also produced in an environmentally friendly way. Now, free samples are definitely an option, but one challenge you face as an unfamiliar product is changing consumers’ habits. So, in addition to samples, you could post:

  • Original or curated articles about the environment which appeal to your target market’s interests and post them to social media. If it’s coming from you, they will associate your brand with that cause in a positive way, whether you wrote it or not.
  • Regular hair styling tips, with a brief reminder of your product’s benefits
  • Video clips that appeal to your targets’ sense of activism about environmental causes. I’m not talking about dry news reports, but cool, stylish vignettes featuring meaningful messages and emotionally gripping photos set to music, with your branding only mentioned at the end. This is the kind of shareable stuff that goes viral. (Animation is great for this if you can afford it.)

The Gift That Keeps on Giving Back

The point is, instead of producing the same old self-promotional spiel that most people tune out, be a beacon for your tribe. Give them a reason to pay attention to you before asking them to buy anything. In many cases, you won’t even have to ask.

Your customers will want to buy your product because they relate to you, because you have won their trust and speak to their identity and needs. As long as your product or service lives up to its promise, they will become loyal customers and better yet, ambassadors for your brand who tell others how great you are.

So, think about this before you launch an ad campaign on social media: What are you giving your tribe to make them trust you? Are you giving them value, or simply self-promotion?