In the marketing world, the infamous free content debate seems to be everlasting.
"If we give away free content and information about the challenges our paid products and services resolve, then who will pay for what we're selling?"
It's easy to understand why you might think about free content this way — after all, the goal of any business is to make a profit, so giving away free goodies would be crazy, right?
In fact, offering free content to your target audience and prospective customers can actually do the opposite. Providing education on the topics related to and about the products and services you offer can help you boost leads and sales.
Benefits of Educating Prospects with Free Content
When it comes to inbound marketing, the old adage, "Why buy the cow if the milk is free?" doesn't seem to ring true. Here are five benefits related to offering free educational content to show you why that's the case.
1. Free content builds trust.
Using free content, whether in the form of blog articles, ebooks, webinars, or videos, can do wonders to boost brand trust and credibility.
Quality content shows prospective customers that your business is a thought-leader and authority in the industry, which translates into initial trust in your paid products and services.
After all, if the content you're creating is educational and helps your prospects learn something new or solve some problems they have, why wouldn't they think your paid offerings are equally as helpful — if not more?
2. Free content creates prospect and customer evangelism.
If prospects and customers find value in your content, you could end up with content evangelism — or people sharing and promoting your content on your behalf. This is extremely beneficial, since it expands the reach of your content and generates brand awareness beyond your direct network.
Delighted customers are also your best advocates. Not only do they have first-hand experience with your brand, but consumers trust each other more than they trust businesses. Giving your happy readers and customers content to share can boost brand advocacy and introduce your brand to new prospects.
3. Free content drives traffic.
There's no surprise here. Creating content is a fantastic way to get found online and increase various types of traffic to your website. SEO is one key way to ensure your content gets discovered. By making sure content is optimized with relevant keywords, you'll increase your chances of getting found in search engines and boost organic traffic.
Additionally, by promoting content on social media, you'll increase your referral traffic, and by using content offers in paid marketing efforts like pay-per-click or in email promotions, you'll increase traffic from paid search and email marketing, respectively.
4. Free content provides qualified leads.
Another huge benefit of free educational content is that it's, well, educational. The more prospects who read your content, the smarter they'll be about what your business actually sells and can offer them. The better they know this, the more qualified they'll be as leads, and the easier it will be for your sales team to close them as customers.
Inbound marketing greatly improves lead quality because prospects are essentially volunteering themselves as leads. Isn't self-selection a beautiful thing?
5. Free content makes for happier customers.
When your content is effective at communicating and educating customers about what problems your products/services can help them solve, they'll have better expectations as customers. What this usually means is happier customers.
Rather than blindly purchasing from you and not fully understanding that your product does , which can lead to misconceptions and false perception, educational content better prepares your customers and makes for a more informed customer base. This can lead to future or repeat purchases and lower customer churn.
To answer the question we posed above, you can give away free content and information that your paid products and services help solve, and people will still pay money for what you're selling. In fact, we argue that free content can drive more — and more qualified — leads.
Invest your resources into free educational content and see happier customers, healthier leads, and a boost in brand trust.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in August 2011 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.