Latest posts by Ken Carroll (see all)
- How To Get The Content Advantage - December 11, 2015
- Why I’m Buying Jay Baer’s New Book Even Before I Know The Title - December 10, 2015
- The Managerial Class Sucks At Content And This Is Your Opportunity - November 19, 2015
Everything that happens between you and your reader stems from a decision that you may not even be aware of: The way you frame the relationship. Above all, this frame will determine, in a matter of just seconds, whether or not you get your reader on your side.
Whether you realize it or not, every piece of content you create implies a relationship with the reader. And that relationship determines whether you come across as positive and worthy of a deeper connection... or as something else.
It happens quickly. The readers start to make those assessments the moment they lay eyes on it. In fact, they're on the lookout for the signals.
The right frame for the relationship sends the right signals from the get-go. Do it right and it will forge deep connections with your audience.
But the wrong frame will separate you and make everything that follows more difficult.
Because the frame you choose determines how your audience sees you, perceives you, assesses you.
Which means it determines whether or not they connect, follow, trust, or become fans – whether they develop a positive or negative view of you.
And it determines whether or not they actually do anything in response to the content.
Well, the good news is that you can adjust the frame in short order.
You can get your reader on your side within seconds.
So, let’s clear this thing up.
Are You Out To Sell Or
Out To Serve?
Most people in business are out to sell.
All the time.
That’s the way they frame their relationship with their audience – consciously or not.
But from a relationship perspective, that’s a problem waiting to happen.
Because out-to-sell content ain’t human-friendly.
It won’t bond with the reader or move people to action.
It won’t spread very far or build your influence.
It won’t help you forge the genuine relationships with your readers that you're going to need.
And out-to-sell won't get readers on your side.
In fact, out-to-sell content is like an invitation to your readers to look elsewhere for what they need most - trust.
Out-To-Sell Is Everywhere
I know. I know. The attitude is everywhere, of course.
Take an accountant or an engineer out of the office, have him speak to almost anyone on the outside... and he’ll try to sell.
We’re almost all of us, out to sell.
It’s what we were trained to do. It’s the ideology.
It’s the business “instinct” that actually isn’t an instinct.
Because it’s what we learn at business school. There’s MBAs in the stuff.
And so, the need to push for the sale is an unquestioned rule for so many of us.
In fact, any employee who wasn’t out there selling would probably be mocked, then fired like a fool.
“Nothing happens until you make a sale.”
All of that.
It’s In The Content, Too
The out-to-sell mentality finds its way into our content.
Most of what you find on social media is just out-to-sell dressed up as something else.
And out-to-sell was the animating principle behind almost all of the marketing content of the past.
Get. The. Sale.
So, it shouldn’t be surprising if it has crept into your content.
You may be doing it without even realizing that your content is getting the wrong end of the stick - and selling rather than informing.
Selling, Not Informing
Let’s put you in your customer’s shoes.
Let’s say you’re looking to solve a problem.
You’re interested in a product or service. And you want information before you buy.
So, you read up on it.
Well, a couple of paragraphs in and it’s clear what’s going on in the text: The people behind the product are out to sell you.
And it’s clear that they put the sale before actually informing you.
Which means that your needs are not aligned with the content or with the people behind the content.
You want to make the decision. They give you the sales pitch.
This isn’t the basis for a good relationship.
They may disguise it, of course, by blabbering on about customer-service. But it’s clear that selling is the priority.
And it’s also clear that that this isn’t the right kind of relationship.
Here’s What’s Actually Happening
The reality now is that out-to-sell implies a relationship to which you haven’t consented.
And sociologists call this framing.
Framing is where human beings naturally and instinctively determine relationships and spell out roles.
But it's also the the claim that people would make against the cops in the old movies - getting framed for a crime they didn't commit.
Well, in this case, that company is saying:
“We’re the purveyors. You’re the purchasers.”
In effect, they’re pre-empting the relationship - in a hurry, and on their own terms:
“We sell. You buy. And let that be the end of it.”
This may have a literal truth to it, of course. And it may have worked in a different time and place.
But it’s an artificial way to create a relationship on the web.
And it does something disastrous: It frustrates the reader from her goals.
It’s a relationship designed by the seller to further the seller’s interests, on the seller’s terms. It suits his agenda more than it does yours.
So, not only does it lack the basic information the reader requires. So, it ignores the chance to develop empathy.
Why That’s Looking Old Now
Framing the relationship off-the-bat as “me seller, you buyer” is no longer acceptable. It’s too ready to get the sale.
The public isn’t looking for those kinds of relationships – for pure transactions – anymore. Especially since those transactions could be exploitative.
We’re seeing the public react much differently to the old messages now. They’re thinking to themselves:
“This information really doesn’t help me make the best decisions about the product.”
These days the public wants to be informed. Not sold to.
And we’ve got to look at the problem from the customer’s perspective if we want to become a trusted source of information.
Because the way to get the reader on your side is by showing that you're on theirs.
Creating Empathy With Your Content
To create empathy in your content you have to design it in certain ways:
- From the audience’s perspective.
- To meet the audience’s needs.
- On the audience’s terms.
- No catches.
If you fail to take the readers perspective you’re almost certainly going to lose her.
And if you fail to frame the relationship in that way, then you’re starting dance on the wrong foot.
Because you’re saying that your need to sell comes before her need to solve her problem.
And that’s her cue to mosey.
The same thing goes for content with a one-track-mind. Mosey.
The Key Is In The Relationship
Before they buy anything these days, people want sources of insight and information. Yes.
But the need not to get manipulated is often as strong as the need to solve the actual problem. Human beings have a powerful revulsion against feeling used or manipulated.
So, to mitigate against that problem they seek out relationships with those trusted sources.
The task for the content creator - of the influencer these days - is to create trusting relationships and to build from there – to put the needs of the audience first and worry about the sale later.
It’s all about the relationship.
And in a fair relationship you have to earn the sale, not cajole the sale.
As with any good relationship this one has to be:
- Voluntary and permission-based.
- Not manipulative.
- Objective and honest about the information.
The idea is to help the reader, regardless of whether they will buy or not. To act in their best interests before getting the sale. And to do all this generously and in good faith.
Even if that means not getting the sale.
And showing this from the get-go.
How To Get Your Reader On Your Side, In Seconds
So, what does a better frame look like?
Well, it begins with this: Demonstration, not claims.
When people come into contact with your content they should see that you exist to serve others before you serve yourself.
Your blog needs to act as a powerful resource, rather than an extended – if disguised – sales pitch. It needs to be a place where visitors can find posts, podcasts, slide-decks, videos whatever it is you produce - content that actually helps without hyping or pushing the sale.
In any event the purpose is to frame the relationship as one of service:
I serve you.
I’m generous about it.
I’m not going to manipulate you or turn around and make inappropriate requests.
But of course, if at some point, you need to go beyond these resources, then please do contact me.
Long-Term Farming, Not Short-Term Hunting
A fruitful, long-term relationship begins, not with a sale but with a clear demonstration that you serve your audience.
In the end, of course, you’re going to ask for the sale. But you’re going to earn it rather than just request it.
This is a long term issue. It’s much more like farming and much less like hunting.
But it all begins with how you frame the relationships from the first moments that people come into contact with your content.
So, three questions should help:
- Is your content designed to serve and help?
- Is your blog a freely accessible resource that truly helps people solve their problem?
- Do you follow up with real help and feedback in the comments – no strings attached?
It only takes a few seconds to frame the relationship and get the reader on your side.
So, how are you framing the relationship? Are you out to sell or out to serve?