As the founder of a content marketing agency with 10 years in the game, I’ve worked with a lot of brands. But too often I’ve found that their understanding of “content marketing” is shortsighted. They want an infographic for their blog or a video for their landing page because when they think of content marketing, they focus on the single piece of content that will drive more sales.
When these clients kick off an engagement with this immediate sales focus, I encourage them to take a breath and look at their long-term goal.
The reality is there’s no silver bullet in content marketing. Content marketing is all about playing the slow game. It’s about creating content that starts a conversation, which will transition into sales down the road. It’s not selling out of the gate.
If you’re marketing through content, you can’t achieve popularity with your content and tell your sales stories at the same time. Why? Because you run the risk of diluting your message.
You have to choose one or the other: You either market your stories or you sell your products.
So, What Is Marketing Content?
One word: charm. Marketing content is about charming people. In fact, good marketing content will charm people to the point where convincing them to buy is easy.
Marketing content is about attracting people to whatever you’re selling and the kind of company you’re building. The content people love to share (and that journalists love to write about) is not the content that says how great you are. Rather, it’s the content that speaks to your customer’s pain points and speaks to your “why” or your values.
People want to work with people that they know, like and trust. But it’s hard to establish trust or affinity with someone when you’re also trying to sell them something. That’s why your marketing content needs to make the best impression – not be an immediate turnoff.
OK, Then What Is Sales Content?
One word: convince. Sales content is about convincing people that you’re the best brand to work with, your products and services are right for them, and your people are a good fit for what they’re building.
This is your chance to highlight your impressive stats, such as your customer list, awards, sales figures, the number of offices you have, etc. That’s the sales content that will sway people enough to want to work with you.
How Do You Balance The Two?
As a brand, if your marketing content is strong and does a good job of charming would-be customers, your sales content doesn’t need to be forceful or self-aggrandizing. It should always be confident, though.
In short, marketing content is about selling people on you, your brand, your vision, your perspective, your story. It should show who you are and showcase your uniqueness without your having to come out and say it. Sales content is about selling people your products or services. It should include an articulation of why people should ultimately give you, not your competitors, their business. It should help people make their purchasing decisions more easily.
Use marketing content when people are still in the marketing stages of the journey. This is when your audience is looking for answers to their questions or needs advice about problems they’re looking to solve but aren’t sure who to turn to. Marketing content helps you nurture your relationship with them at this point.
Use sales content when your audience is in the sales stages of the journey and is close to making a purchase. Sales content here is meant to upsell and convert audience members into customers.
What happens if you use sales content within your marketing content? In some cases, it’ll turn customers away, which will hurt your sales. The most important thing to remember is that the relationship between marketing and sales content hinges on getting the sequencing right. Market when they’re in the marketing stages of their journey, and sell when they’re ready to be sold to.
Build A Solid Buyer’s Journey
The goal is always to create a delightful buying experience, not one where people are being force-sold products and services. Content is a great tool to help you do this.
You can use your marketing to showcase who you are, what you stand for, and to attract potential customers who have an interest in working with you. Then, sales can become a natural, organic progression of that interest.
Capture them with marketing content, convert with sales. (Know, though, that this won’t work if you aren’t taking the time to truly connect with your audience in the early marketing stages. You have to convince them to support you.)
Can sales content ever be used in marketing content? Maybe. But I wouldn’t recommend using this approach too often unless you’re willing to chalk your efforts up to experimenting with some new approaches.
Before people are customers, market to them. Once they become customers, you have more freedom to send sales and marketing content in tandem their way. With that said, I do think there are opportunities to use sales content in your marketing efforts to existing customers.
I say that because if they’re already customers, you’ve already gone through the effort of charming and convincing them, so you’re not starting at square one. With existing customers, you can cut to the chase a bit, but I would caution against constantly hitting them up to buy more.
Instead, focus on creating marketing content that reminds them why they were drawn to you in the first place.
This post originally appeared on Forbes.
For more tips on marketing, learn about the strategy we used to increase our leads 78% in 6 months, find out what 7 traits will make you a better marketer, and learn how to create content that provides true value to your audience.