In 2012, when I was wrapping my Post-Graduate in Digital Marketing, I had a lengthy chat with the owners of the consulting firm I was working for at the time. During the entire conversation, the biggest fear of the non-digital entrepreneur was staring me in the face.
The topic of the conversation?
Creating a digital marketing plan to help grow the company’s business.
The opportunity seemed rather unique to me, because it was a market where companies didn’t explore content marketing or social networks. It was like turning on the TV and noticing none of the channels are running ads and that you can be the first.
In other words, this company had the chance to be the first one to show up with a blog, videos, infographics, all to educate its target audience about a complex service (in this case, grant proposals worth hundreds of thousands of euros, or millions) and become a though leader in the industry.
So, basically, my pitch was:
And, like any good student of the art of entrepreneurship knows, a thought leader always has a prospect knocking on his door. And, with more people interested in these services, more leads would be generated, as well as more clients.
I tried to convey that this was a unique opportunity, with a relatively low cost, especially when you consider the possible return of becoming the thought leader in a certain market.
However, from the other side of the table came… Nothing.
Just two people who heard me but were focused on another way of thinking, where customers come only from personal connections and referrals, which had always worked for them. They also felt this way of operating “protected their business”. More on that in the coming paragraphs.
The result? More than a year after this conversation, I remember one of the these two managing partners telling me he still had my digital marketing plan on his desk to read. I didn’t check my face in the mirror, but I’m pretty sure I looked something like this:
Obviously, that was code for “digital marketing isn’t important to us“.
When business is good, there’s an almost inevitable tendency to stay inside the box. Inside the box, one has profit, pillows, blankets, hot tea… there’s a reason they call it “The Comfort Zone”.
We can also call this the “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” approach. Whatever we name it, it was hiding what came next in this power lunch.
That Big Fear I Mentioned In The Title…
… the one that meant that the digital marketing plan me and 3 colleagues worked on in our Post-Graduate was left on the shelf gathering dust and manifested itself in this huge gap between my mentality and theirs: the digital mentality and the pre-digital mentality.
Daniela, Tiago, Cristina, my dear colleagues… in the words of The Blair Witch Project:
In the digital age, we share knowledge because:
- We understand it’s a way to immediately show an audience what we can do, what we know and how we can solve problems and pains our customers have. This is what is commonly called Content Marketing.
- It puts us on the map, because we share knowledge as a way to answer questions our potential customers have. (in the digital age, when one has question, we search the Internet for answer, which coincidentally is where we’re publishing our answers)
- It allows us to go beyond our normal network of contacts; we can talk to 10,000 people, instead of 100. It’s like expanding your dating pool from your neighborhood to the universe that is OKCupid.
However, in the pre-digital mindset, we don’t share knowledge because, and I quote (this is a Portuguese expression):
“That’s like giving the gold to the thief.”
Meaning, you’re taking what customers are paying for and giving it away for free, leaving them with no reason to spend money on your service. Instead of selling the gold, you’re throwing it out the window for anyone who passes by.
I believe this fear had legitimacy in the pre-digital age, where the consumer often didn’t have enough tools to make informed decisions. Today, he has Google and 459 other sources of information about everything.
I also believe answering relevant questions from our target audience doesn’t mean we’ll suddenly lose our market. We’re not all going to be shouting:
Actually, in the age where “Google it before you ask it”, answering relevant questions is a lead-generating tool. Take a look at the great story of River Pools to discover how understanding this very simple concept turned their business around.
Let’s say, let’s imagine… I have a chocolate cake store and I make a video with a detailed recipe for one type of chocolate cake. I’m pretty sure my sales won’t disappear.
Why? Because when people buy a product or service, they don’t just buy something they like and find trustworthy (2 things which, by the way, can be achieved by a company with videos and blogs where its experience and know-how take centerstage).
They buy time.
Most people who watch this recipe video won’t have time, energy or inclination to do the cake themselves. Even if they do have time, they’ll have a list of things they’ll find more interesting to do instead of spending a few hours around “Chocolate Cake: Home Edition”.
(Some people say time is the one thing people are willing to really really pay for…)
This very same piece of reasoning also applies to bigger, more complex, and more time-consuming projects, like the ones consulting firms work on.
People like chocolate cakes – and consulting projects – made by people with bona fide results – results that, with a thought-out digital presence, can be shared with a specific audience at a relatively low cost, when compared with traditional media.
And, let’s face it: most people don’t scour the Internet looking for published, thought-leading content in the hopes of tackling complex, multi-person projects by themselves. The ones who do run away after consuming your content? They weren’t clients to begin with. They weren’t even your target audience to begin with.
So, in conclusion, Your Honor:
Showing your worth through meaningful content doesn’t mean your giving your gold to a thief.
It’s showing a prospect why you’re worth HIS gold.
Have you had this kind of conversations with bosses or colleagues?