Does ‘too much free information’ in content marketing hurt your business?

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Limeadestand Works is largely a media business.

Many online entrepreneurs sell information. Some make money from teaching classes online, from books, or by selling subscriptions. One of the most common questions from newly started “info-entrepreneurs” is whether content marketing might actually hurt their business because, as they may think, giving away “free information” would disincentivize potential customers from becoming paying customers — and even worse, they might begin expecting more freebies.

Certainly, there are people who are there only for free stuff. These people cannot be expected to buy something because it is more likely than not that they cannot afford anything. Absolute poverty is reality and you might as well give away something and be a blessing to them.

But for the most others, knowledge leads to a desire to buy.

Let’s bring up an example here. Say, you decided to open a Thai restaurant in a small town in Wyoming. They don’t even know what real Chinese food looks like (and they might not even know the difference between Japanese and Chinese food!), let alone what Thai food tastes like.

I had my first Thai food in the early 1990s in Seattle. I did not know anything about Thai cuisine back then. The first Thai food I ate was Pad Thai, at the 1993 Northwest Folklife Festival, from an outdoor food vendor. At that point, the only Thai food I knew was Pad Thai (and helpfully, it came with the word “Thai”!).

A few months later, I went to an actual Thai restaurant — Angels on Broadway in Capitol Hill — and there were so many things on the menu. Red curry, green curry, several variations thereof, and many others besides Pad Thai. I ordered green curry because I thought it was like curry in India except “green” seemed a bit unusual. Of course, Thai curry is very different from Indian ones, or British ones, or Japanese ones.

If you are a Thai restaurant owner, you might want to use your blog to educate customers about many things:

- history and origins of Thai cuisine 
- common Thai words to describe common ingredients 
- regional variations between Northern and Southern Thai cuisines 
- spices and herbs in Thai food 
- easy Thai food recipes anyone can make

Now, you may be thinking that the last one would hurt your business: why should anyone spend money at your restaurant if they can make it cheaper on their own?

Actually, the reason why it won’t hurt your business is simple: most readers would not even know how it would turn out (they’ve never had an actual Thai food yet!) and actually buying certain ingredients would be very difficult especially in rural Wyoming. The real reasons why you publish recipes are to demystify Thai cuisine and to create intrigue by informing consumers. Sure, some people may manage to find all the ingredients at a Safeway or an Albertsons and actually do a good job at doing the cooking, but they would be in the minority because most readers are passive consumers.

But in this case, content marketing allows customers to know the options available to them — that there are so many different kinds of Thai dishes for different tastes (not everything tastes like peanuts and not everything is insanely spicy) — and inspire curiosity to try them.

Back in the early 1990s, typical Americans thought of coffee as something you can get at a gas station in a Styrofoam cup for 50 cents. At home, they had Folgers or Tasters’ Choice. Then came Starbucks. I was a junior in high school and I did not know an Americano from a Mocha or a Latte. Also, their stores had various different types of whole bean coffee for sale — House Blend, Yukon Blend, Sumatra, Caffe Verona, French Roast, Espresso Roast… Back then, Starbucks did make efforts at educating customers. There were picture brochures that visually described each of their espresso beverages (and even how to pronounce words like latte); there was something called “Coffee Passport” in which each whole bean blends were rated for flavor and acidity, their origins were described, and a space on each page to collect a sticker (and one could get a free half-pound when the passport was full with all the stickers). Needless to say, such educational efforts benefited their competitors too — many independent coffee houses and espresso carts began proliferating in Seattle (in addition to having two or more Starbucks on every block of downtown Seattle!) — but such efforts also had a good effect of “upmarketing,” that is, encouraging customers to try more expensive items on the menu (mocha instead of more familiar drip coffee, for example).

In general, educated consumers build more demands for your business — and by creating useful and educational contents you also position yourself as authoritative yet an approachable expert in your industry. So do not be concerned whether your content marketing might hurt your business.

Did you know?: We know content marketing can be work-intensive. We also understand that not everyone is a good writer. Here at Limeadestand Works we offer custom content services for your business. We provide high-quality, educational, and informative articles designed to drive traffic to your website and to establish your business as an authority. Contact us if your business needs custom articles to fill your blog.

Last revision: Oct. 1, 2017.