People have adapted to advertising in a similar way animals adapt to an area that is frequently hunted. They’re expecting advertising at the top of Google, on the side of web pages and interrupting their TV programs, so much so, that the ads eventually become invisible. This is where soft sell content marketing comes in: the introverted cousin of the direct and abrasive ‘hard sell’.
When you’re thinking about advertising a product or a service, most likely will you think of either advertising with an offer or with generic ‘buy now’ language to prod your customers into converting. The problem with this is that these are not well thought out strategies and, most likely, your competitors are also using messages like these. This means you’re merely going to blend into a crowd of businesses just like yours – where the cheapest price will generally win.
The soft sell is a much smarter beast. Before it ‘goes in for the kill’ so to speak, it gets to know how the customer speaks, how they move, their habits, their desires and their worries. The soft sell should be a subtle persuasive form of advertising that doesn’t shout – but whispers – to its intended audience, like a close friend speaking to another. For this kind of intimate relationship with your customers to exist, there needs to be both understanding and respect; understanding of what makes them tick and respect that their leisure time is for entertainment and self-education.
Here’s four tactics to help you establish soft sell as your content marketing strategy:
You can provide value to your customers with either educational or entertaining content. For your next service or product unveiling, why not create an e-book, information pack or an informing video, going into detail about WHY it’s relevant to your customers and what personal problems it will solve for them. Or better yet, approach it from an even more abstract angle. This will stand out from the crowd when you compare it to special offers or tired sales techniques like ‘Want to change your life? BUY NOW!’. Yuck!
Special offers are always going to have some sort of pull for customers but if you pollute your marketing with offers, they will lose their impact altogether. When people opt to buy a discounted item, it’s usually because they feel like they’ve achieved something special; they’re one of the lucky few to be given the chance to get this special offer. If you constantly have discounts, that enchanting possibility will simply lose its lustre. Think Rugs a Million and their closing down sale – the first one probably caught their customers’ attention, but after five or more ‘closing down’ sales, less and less customers will pay attention, and they would have also lost their trust.
People don’t want to be interrupted, especially when they’re relaxing while browsing the internet, their social media platforms or watching TV. This is mostly because it is an interruption to the activity that was originally planned. Think about it. If you’re watching a YouTube video and an ad comes up, you’re going to be hovering over the ‘skip now’ button, waiting for the seconds to count down, regardless of what the ad has to say. This is because it is an interruption, which in turn makes it an annoyance. In order to get around this, many companies are now targeting publishers or ‘influencers’ on various platforms that already have a niche audience, for example individual Instagrammers or YouTubers with over 100,000 followers.
This is a great way to connect with potential customers on their level without overtly interrupting their everyday habits. This is also one of the most subtle and persuasive ways to target your brand, especially if it’s a physical product.
If everyday advertisements or sponsored content was like the one above then they wouldn’t be perceived so negatively. People don’t mind being interrupted if the idea is good or if the content tells a compelling story. One of the greatest advertising formulas is a story with a satisfying surprise at the end. Try to embrace your inner storyteller when you create not just video content, but blogs and imagery as well.
Despite all of this, hard sell is not dead. There are always going to be a huge number of people looking for ‘quick-buys’ or the cheapest option, but are these really the customers you want to connect with? Most likely, unless your product is cheap but also exceptional, your brand is not going to build loyalty with this strategy. You’re going to have clients that just drop off and unsubscribe once they’ve had enough of you. By thinking deeply about your sales strategies and committing to a soft sell strategy, you’re much more likely to gain repeat customers – you might even learn something new about your audience as well!