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Marketing with free information

July 01, 2009
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How is it that some businesses struggle during tough economic times while others seem to have more business than they can handle? One of the biggest reasons is sales and marketing. Some know how; some don’t.

The biggest lesson to be learned (and it applies to almost any business) is that people like to buy, but they always hate to be “sold.” Customers are skeptical creatures by nature and today’s consumers are even more weary and cautious as they cut back on discretionary spending.

I should point out that not all people fit this description. If you offer your services strictly to the ultra-affluent crowd, you’re not dealing with this reaction as much.

However, instead of selling, what if you instead tried to educate your prospects and customers?

Education-based marketing

Education-based marketing is used by many companies to provide value up front. Often times you’ll see larger companies refer to these promotional materials as “white papers.”

For example, a carpet cleaner who uses this approach consistently outperforms all of his competition year in and year out because he does one thing different. Instead of selling, he provides information to his prospects and customers. While most of the cleaner’s competition runs yellow page ads telling all about the cleaning services they offer, this company runs an ad offering a free written report called “Six Costly Misconceptions about Carpet Cleaning.” In it he provides information that will help you determine what to look for when choosing your next carpet cleaner.

This same strategy could be used by detailers. Think of helpful information you could offer your own prospects and customers. It could be a free report entitled “Seven Secrets Every Car Owner Should Know Before Having Their Vehicle Detailed” or “The Six Costly Misconceptions about Car Detailing” or any number of other tips and tricks to help automobile owners keep their vehicles looking new. The key is to offer valuable information and at the same time position yourself as the one expert who can help the customer if she has other questions.

While educating the client, you are also marketing your own products and services. These reports don’t have to be lengthy. Most range from 5-10 pages that can easily be produced. You don’t even have to write them these days. You could shoot a simple 20-30 minute video and have it produced into a free DVD.

If you write the report, convert it to a PDF document and then upload it onto your website so customers can download it once they’ve subscribed to your e-newsletter. If you’re recording a free video, you can use a service like to produce your free DVDs. They cost about $1.75 to produce.

Next, use a simple postcard mailing to generate interest. You can have postcards created inexpensively, and the return on investment is usually quite high. The front of your postcard should read:

To obtain your free report on the “Seven Secrets Every Car Owner Should Know before Having Their Vehicle Detailed,” please visit our company at

Marketing with free information is about helping people make decisions in a non selling way. Not only that, but people generally like to do business with experts and nothing positions you better as an expert than providing interesting educational content for your customers up front.

Jonathan Taylor is the owner of Strategic Marketing Solutions. You can reach Taylor at

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