Salesy. It’s a term that’s cropping up with increasing frequency. That’s a little too salesy. The word barely existed before the advent of content marketing, which shows traditional advertising the door.
In the tradition of cutesy and truthy, salesy now seems to be the thing to avoid. Cute is fine. Cutesy is wrong. Truth is great. But truthiness has an oily sheen. How did we get to this place? When did sales lend itself to the creation of a pejorative term?
Traditional sales tactics involve self-promotion, bragging, boasting, and generally convincing your target that you do it better and faster than the competition. That’s all well and good for rappers. But when it comes to capturing a very cynical and information saturated audience, selling yourself isn’t going to get you very far. Indeed, it will likely put you far behind the competition.
There is a solution: content marketing. Content, it turns out, is a delicate tool with fairly narrow parameters. Your ultimate goal in a content strategy is to increase sales. But that’s not your first or second priority. It might not even be the seventh item on the list.
You’re not asking, “What can I sell you?” You’re asking, “How can I help you?” That’s a huge difference in approach, even if it seems like a fine distinction. The attention shifts from what you are doing to what you can improve. That’s why a company blog that keeps the focus on itself is so misdirected. When you look in a mirror, the only attention you capture is your own.
The priorities, then, are to build trust, to help your audience, to become a thought leader, to entertain, to enlighten, and to create a conversation. It takes confidence to step away from pure sales. The instant you lead your reader into the murky waters of aggressive commerce is the instant you’ve lost trust. The only person you’re fooling is yourself.
A lot of companies are getting almost all the way to the finish line with decent content, and then they can’t help themselves. “If you need the kind of service you’re reading about here, look no further. Click here for a free quote.” That’s salesy. That’s turning the focus back on the company. The sophisticated reader can see right through a cheap bid for attention that’s not a valid offer. Your potential customer is smarter than that, and will make the connection between your content and your core competencies.
Being a trusted resource is just about the best position you can achieve in the marketplace. And you’re not going anywhere if you’re no better than the fellow selling Viagra. Even your email spam filters can spot a sales pitch.