Scientific and technical companies give away a lot of information. They write articles, give talks at conferences, and publish books.
Why would these companies, whose primary asset is their know-how and intellectual property, give so much away? It doesn’t make sense to give away what they should be selling to clients. If they transfer knowledge for free, why would clients agree to pay scientific and technical companies for their expertise?
To answer this question, first let’s remind ourselves of the type of customer that scientific and technical companies want to attract.
Technology buyers want more than a transaction, they want a relationship with you
Unlike the customers of large consumer companies, technology customers do not just buy a product. They don’t make their decision primarily on price and product features. They aren’t looking to optimize a single transaction.
The customers of scientific and technical companies are more likely to be looking for a relationship with you. Yes, price and features are important. But even more important when they for a complex product that they don’t fully understand is a relationship. These products and services present real risks to their company. They will depend on the relationship with you to mitigate the risks of complexity and unknowns.
If these customers are looking for a relationship, what does that say about their buying process? It’s a buying process that takes time. It involves multiple people. It requires education about the science or the technology that your company offers.
Now you could dispatch salespeople to provide this education. But that would be expensive. And customers don’t want to talk to salespeople this early in the process anyway. They want to find information online and study it on their own.
How do you initiate and cultivate a relationship with buyers?
First, stop thinking about sales. These buyers aren’t even close to thinking about pulling the trigger on an initial purchase.
Instead of focusing on sales, initiate a relationship with your buyers. Do this by creating a marketing model that is based on continuous, automated communication. By initiating and cultivating a relationship with your buyers, you can focus your efforts on maximizing their lifetime value.
What should you include in the content that you send to buyers in your automated program?
Answer this question by remembering the purpose of the content. You want to move buyers from being unaware of the problem to awareness and desire to find a solution. You also want to move them from unawareness of you to awareness and trust. As buyers move forward in their relationship with you, they become ready to take the next step and enter into a sales conversation.
Much of your writing will be educational and do-it-yourself (DIY) information. That doesn’t mean that you tell them how to do everything. Instead, tell them how to get started.
Imagine that a car mechanic writes a newsletter. She isn’t going to write DIY instructions on how to rebuild engines and transmissions. No, that’s what customers bring their car to her to do. Instead her column will be filled with articles on topics like safe driving, changing a flat tire, new battery technologies, and what to look for when you buy a used car. She shares her expertise on topics that are useful for potential buyers of her services, but she doesn’t overwhelm them.
Your content should also tell a story of some kind. You can write stories of customers and how they’ve been able to address the problems that you know how to solve. Or stories of developing technologies and regulations in your field of work. Or even stories of your company and the challenges you face as you work to serve your customers’ needs.
What will you accomplish when you give away information?
Chris Garrett at Copyblogger explains many of the positive outcomes when you give away information to grow your business. Here are a few of the benefits you achieve with free information. It’s worth reading his article to learn the rest.
Free content can encourage sharing your ideas
In addition to attracting people who might become loyal members of your audience, you also want those people to bring friends.
If your content is locked away, then they can say nice things about you, but their ability to share your content is limited. Therefore, your exposure is limited.
Free content can connect you with peers
It’s not just prospects that you want to connect to.
With your ideas, experience, and knowledge out on the web for anyone to consume, you are going to attract industry, networking, and partner contacts.
Free content can inform the audience of your value
What is the problem that you solve? What can you help them achieve?
It’s going to be tough to get people to pay money before they know what you can do for them!
People often put their problems into search engines looking for answers. You want to make sure your solutions can be found when they go searching.
Free content can position you against competitors
Your free content will not just educate, it will also show your uniqueness.
It will inform people why they should connect with you versus other people, and why your approach or solutions have the advantage.
Relationship Marketing is a worthwhile investment
Whether your company includes just a few people or a few hundred, relationship marketing is a solid investment in the process to produce sales opportunities. Your automated program will initiate a relationship with your buyers. With a relatively small investment, you can educate and motivate buyers to become potential customers. The information you give your buyers will distinguish you from your competitors and create a compelling narrative about your work. And most important, you’ll create a steady supply of sales opportunities to pursue and convert into customers.