In marketing circles it is accepted that well-made content builds the brand and grows the business, and that providing said content for free is a necessary step in establishing an audience, a portion of which can be converted into customers over the long haul.
But for writers, who don’t think of themselves as brands, personal or otherwise, the act of giving away the shop can be confounding. For instance, John Vorhaus, author of the novels The California Roll and The Albuquerque Turkey, plus the how-to series Killer Poker is not wild about free.
All the free content we provide hurts us two ways. First, it erodes the time we could be spending writing words we actually get paid for. Second, it puts us in competition with ourselves and undercuts the general notion that writers should be paid, and paid well, for our words. As long as we’re in competition with ourselves, individually and collectively, we’re kind of in a jam.
I don’t know the way out of this trap. I can’t stop marketing myself or I’ll have no market. But if I continue marketing myself in this manner, the product I bring to market will continue to be worth less and less.
Vorhaus, like many brand teams, is wondering about his return on investment. Creating content has a cost, even if the cost to distribute it to a large audience is negligible. The good news is the cost is relatively affordable when you develop a system that’s long on consistency. Slow and steady wins the race!
Essentially, you need to make room for content to develop and grow. How that happens in one situation versus another is like the difference between growing grapes in the volcanic soils of Oregon or cotton in the red clay hills of Georgia. For instance, I help clients do it themselves, especially where Facebook is concerned. Other clients don’t have the time, expertise or inclination to do it themselves. In those cases, Bonehook takes on the content production tasks and writes articles for web sites, email newsletters and the like.
A lot of it comes down to juggling. Running your business means you’ve already got three flaming batons in the air. Taking on the steady requirements of filling your digital properties with the kind of material that keeps them fresh and interesting is adding a fourth flaming baton to the mix. It’s not easy, but you can do it. You can write novels while simultaneously promoting them. And you can make products or sell services while simultaneously sharing stories that build the brand and grow the business. You may need a hand, but you can do it.
Vorhaus mentions in his column that he loves writing the free stuff as much as the paid. Therein, is another key insight into how this all works. When you love what you do it’s easy to tell stories that involve people in the brand and help them care about the company.
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