About 6-7 years ago now I had an interesting conversation with a vendor.
At the time I was working for a large shoe cataloguer that was building it’s web presence.
And one of the things they were looking at doing was improving their organic search rankings or SEO.
I spoke with a company whose main goal was to doing some PR efforts, some content efforts and some linking building efforts.
Then I asked about onsite SEO improvements and things like auditing the website or just getting some general input on ways to make the website better for SEO.
The person told me that they could certainly help with that stuff and that providing that knowledge was “throwaway” information for them. They did it when clients asked and didn’t charge for it.
Many businesses have services or information they can offer that they consider “throwaway”, but that their customers consider valuable.
This seems to happen often in business. When you’re working all day every day in your industry and in your business you’re going to gain intimate knowledge. And some things that seem “easy” to you are still very valuable to your customer.
How do you leverage that?
Well, you could charge for the easy or throwaway stuff or you could use it to earn new customers and to provide value to your current customers.
Here are some ways to do just that.
I’ll get this one out of the way because I have an obvious bias.
A good way to look at a blog is that it’s a way for you to provide value to an audience of potential customers. It’s a way for your target customers to find you when they don’t know that you exist.
How do you do that?
Find the questions they’re asking and provide the answers.
It’s a simple theory or strategy, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to accomplish. Just like it took you awhile to gain the knowledge you have about your industry and business, it takes time to build your online reputation, but you can do it with regular blog posting over some time, which is usually a few years.
But the more questions you answer the more value you provide to potential customers.
Think of the new customers that come to you. They’re smart, but they’re often curious and seeking information related to the service you provide. You have that knowledge. Share it with them
It might seem basic or simple to you, but it can be very valuable to your audience. You’re not trying to attract yourself or your colleagues. You’re looking to attract your customers.
Like blogs, guides can be a great resource for your audience as well. Guides are typically longer than blog posts. Say a blog post is 1,000 words where a guide might be 10,000 words.
Usually you’ll provide guides as a PDF download, but some put them right on the website (as well as offering a PDF).
Let’s say you provide website design services. You could create guides on topics like:
- How To Improve Your Website Copy
- How To Make Your Website Faster
- 10 Ways To Improve Website Conversion
You’re focusing on the things that are “basic” to you, but very valuable to your customers.
Videos have been popular for awhile, but it seems like they’ve become even more popular the last few years. I know not everybody likes the idea of recording themselves on video and publishing it for all to see.
But if that’s more appealing to you than writing then you might want to consider regular video content instead of blogging or creating large guides.
Many people know Gary Vaynerchuk. He really started out his online efforts by doing a regular series where he would do wine reviews. It was a way for him to show his personality. He provided real value in giving his opinion on what wines to select and things like that.
For Gary, sharing his thoughts on wine is pretty basic.
Again, it gets back to the basic concept of taking what you might consider “throwaway” information and providing it to your audience who will find it valuable.
Podcasts seem to be getting more popular as well. You might think that podcasting doesn’t make sense when you could do video, but many people would rather listen to something than watch something. They can close their eyes. They can plug their earbuds in. It’s a good way to consume content.
Some of my favorite podcasts are interviews. You probably have a wide network of smart people in your industry. You could interview them for 30 minutes, record it, edit it and publish a regular podcast that would likely be very valuable to your audience.
This is one that kind of gets back to what the SEO company was talking to me about. They were really willing to provide a report of what was going on with our website from an SEO perspective. I don’t know how much they would have been willing to do, but some basic ideas for title tags, website content, descriptions and things like that seems likely.
That would have come out in some kind of report that would have been very valuable to us.
And I’ve seen other companies do this. They provide some kind of service, maybe even blogging services, but in the course of doing business they gain knowledge on things like SEO and website design. So providing a basic report on those things for clients or prospects is easy, but also valuable.
6. Email Newsletters
This is like blogging and all the others, but some prefer to subscribe to email. And it’s a good way to kind of make the audience feel more included in a way. It’s a big step for someone to subscribe to something and with work and dedication for a long time you can really get something unique going with an email newsletter.
7. Point Of Views
When I worked at that shoe company we had retargeting vendor that would send point of view reports once in awhile. Whenever something would happen in the industry they would provide the news, but also their thoughts or point of view on the topic. They would kind of look at us at the shoe company and tell us what the news meant to us.
That’s a pretty valuable thing to do and it probably didn’t take too much effort to provide it. Obviously it takes effort to write the POV and to send it, but the company was probably thinking about the situation anyway in the course of their regular business efforts.
8. First Steps
Let’s say you provide website design services. Something that’s good for you is if your clients have their website copy prepared. But this is an area that many businesses struggle with so you can provide a few first steps to help the company get started with writing their content.
Take that and look at ways you can help your customers start with something. Provide the first steps. You see it all the time.
Let’s say you’re a home builder. Provide your customers with the first steps to buying a lot or the first steps to choosing furniture.
9. Referrals & Recommendations
When your clients need something like a service or product they probably come to you if they really trust your opinion. Let’s say you design websites, but your client needs a mobile app developed and you don’t provide that service. They might come to you asking for your referral or recommendation.
That’s kind of throwaway information for you, but it’s very valuable to your customers. Keep a running list of your recommended vendors and partners and businesses. Take some time every six months or so to update it. For very little effort you can provide real value and it can earn you goodwill in the industry amongst all the best vendors.
Finally, it’s always a good idea to provide your guidance to up and comers in the industry. It’s just a good way to give back, but it’s also a good way to build goodwill and good karma. The more you give the more you get.
And it really just feels good to give back and help the next generation.
What may seem basic or throwaway to you might actually be very valuable to your target customers. Don’t discount the things that seem basic. Package them as content and provide it regularly and it’ll help make you stand out from the competition. I’m not saying it’s no effort or that it’s easy to do this. It’s not. But if you pick one or two of the things above and commit to a regular strategy it can be a great long-term way to gain more business.