If you are not providing value to the people on your list – your leads – they will turn to someone who DOES provide value to them. They’ll forget you. They’ll tune you out. They’ll stop opening your emails entirely. They might still LOOK like they’re a valid lead in your lead list, but they won’t be listening to anything you have to say.

To keep them warm, thinking of you, and reading your emails, you have to provide value.

So what is “value”?

Value is found in content – content that helps people with information they need, stories to which they can relate. Most often found in blog posts, this type of content is what helps your audience see themselves.

Your content could be confirming a pain they are experiencing and letting them know they are not alone, or perhaps you’re providing insight that addresses a specific situation in a specific way, When you’re providing value, your readers will say “Aha!” – and if you’re REALLY doing it right, your readers will think to themselves “this person really gets this.”

Your blog is the place where you can have conversations with your audience – where you can be your less-formal, authentic self. Where you can share stories and wisdom and… VALUE. Since you write blog posts on a regular basis (you do, right?), it becomes an ON-GOING conversation in which you are continuously providing value.

And guess what? When you provide value, you also earn trust. Your audience gets to know you, and they get to like you (or not to dislike you, as I always say).

To be clear, value is not usually found in announcing the latest thing, showing off your newest product, reporting on staff changes, or – please don’t do this – a blog post to announce that you have a new website.

And value is not a sales pitch or a new offer.

Value is not what you need to say. It’s what your audience needs and wants to hear.

Value is content that moves people along their journey to address a problem, fear, frustration, or opportunity. It is content that sells WITHOUT selling – because you’re establishing your authority in your subject.

And, assuming you are regularly creating and providing your content to the people on your list, it’s a way to keep you top-of-mind with the folks on your list who are not ready to buy, set a meeting, or get a free consultation.

The Content Conundrum – how do you know what’s valuable?

To provide value, you must first understand what will be valuable to your audience – in THEIR words, not yours.

This becomes a bit of a journey, so bear with me for a moment or two.

First, you have to understand your perfect potential customer. Who are the people who are most likely to buy from you? And.. what are their problems, fears, frustrations, or opportunities? (Again, in THEIR words.)

If you don’t know what’s bugging them, you can’t provide insight in how to solve it or move forward, right? So you’ve got to know that. You can ask them – set up 15-minute conversations with 10-20 of your perfect potential customers and ask them about their biggest challenges, fears, frustrations, and opportunities. Use that information to create content that will help them. (You can get those questions here.)

If you’re uncomfortable with interviewing your perfect potential customers, I encourage you to find a way to get comfortable. 🙂  Trust me, it gets easier after you have the first couple of conversations. Or you could ask yourself these questions –

  1. Whom do you serve?
  2. What problem do you solve for those people? Or what opportunity do you open up for them?
  3. What is the prevailing wisdom – what do people normally think – about that problem or opportunity – and what is wrong with that?
  4. How are you different from what people normally think?

Here’s quick (and very simple) example:

Imagine that you work with women who are always exhausted. You know (but they may not) that they are likely suffering from chronic fatigue. The problem you solve is understanding and mitigating the root causes of chronic fatigue. The prevailing wisdom is “if I am so tired, I must need more sleep,” but YOU know that the issue is more apt to be caused by other factors like stress or diet – so getting more sleep is not going to fix the problem. You are different because you want to look at the WHOLE person – not just sleep patterns – to root out the causes and fix the issue once and for all.

See how that works?

Guesses -> Metrics

If you’re just starting out with creating content, you’ll have to start with some very educated guessing based on the answers you got from your perfect potential customers in those interviews, or from the answers you provided to yourself with the four questions above.

If, however, you’ve been putting content out there for a while, the first place to start is by looking at your metrics on that content. Which blog posts got the most readers? What downloadable files have had the most interest? Overall, what have the people on your list been telling you with their clicks, views, and form-fills?

We worked with one client who had made a big assumption that the people on their list were all interested in “business continuity,” so they wrote a lot of blog posts about business continuity. Okay – makes sense, since that’s a hot term in the IT world. But… their clients were not in the IT world, and, when we looked at their audience and what they’d been reading, clicking, and viewing – as well as the types of things they’d been downloading – anything to do with “business continuity” was WAYYY down on the list of things their audience was interested in. Based on those findings, the next step was to develop a brand new content plan that dealt with the things that were on TOP of the list – like keeping a business going after a natural disaster (which IS business continuity, by the way), insulating themselves against hackers, etc.

While you might have to start out by making some very educated guesses, over time your metrics will tell you what content is working for the people on your list. Listen to them. Watch what they click, view, and opt-in to receive. It’s the very best way to create content that provides value to the people who will ultimately buy from you.

What do you think?