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How To Get New Customers Without Trying Too Hard

It's better not to look for quick marketing fixes, but settle in for the long content game. Here's a story about someone who showed me why.

Some years ago, in the blazing heat of a South China summer, I decided to walk up to a temple. It was a good two to three-hour hike. ‘Moderate to Difficult’ is how I think the guidebook described it.

All the way up, I was shadowed by a hawker. She wore only flip-flops, a grubby Harry Potter T-shirt and shorts. “I’m Chen,” she said. “It means Morning.”

Chen told me she got up at five o’clock every morning in high season and would walk up to the temple several times a day to sell her wares to tourists. She asked me where I came from, she told me stories about the historic monument I was heading for. She gave me directions when I strayed from the path, and at one point she even scampered off to find a dock leaf to treat the sting from a nettle I’d trodden on.

In the few hours it took to reach the temple, I came to like Chen: she was helpful and funny, and I admired her resilience and humility.

Soft Sell

I’d noticed the polystyrene box strapped to her back when I started the climb. I knew it was packed with ice-cold bottles of coke and mineral water. In-yer-face soft-drinks hawkers were a familiar sight around the tourist attractions of the area, and their constant pestering a major irritation.

But this hawker was different because never once did Chen try to sell me anything from her ice-box.

At the summit, dripping with sweat, and with a raging thirst (I’d finished my own water bottle by now), I was surrounded by the predicted throng of hard-sell cold-can hawkers, all prodding and pitching and hassling me for my business.

My new friend stood a little way from the crowd and smiled at me. She knew the newcomers’ efforts were wasted. For Chen had already closed the deal - without even trying to sell me anything.

Lessons from Chen

So, why did I buy my cold drink from Chen, and not one of her pitch-perfect competitors?

Because Chen had taken the time to build a relationship with me.

And her psychology is what lies at the heart of content marketing.

Chen appreciated that ultimately all marketing is not really B2B or B2C but P2P. We’re all human, and when we make purchase decisions, we do so as people. Chen was an expert in person-to-person marketing, and as content marketers, we can learn a lot from her.

  • She identified her ideal customer

  • She found out what he was interested in

  • She treated him with a bit of kindness

  • She gave him stuff for free.

When he was ready to buy, he went to her. Why? Because (1) he knew she had what he wanted, and (2) he’d grown to know, like and trust her.

Next Steps

Yes, with content marketing you’re playing the long game, and you’ll no doubt play it alongside other traditional sales and marketing strategies. It takes time to build trust, and not every relationship you build will lead to a sale. I’m sure Chen has made many trips up that mountain without shifting any product.

But if you get it right, not only will you win new customers, you’ll also create a whole new team of ambassadors for your brand. What was the first thing I did when I got back down into the town? Tell my fellow travellers to look out for the drinks seller with the Harry Potter T-shirt.

Create content that will attract visitors to your website. The more free content they can get from you that’s of real value to them, the more likely they’re going to keep coming back. When the time comes that they need the product or service you sell, you could be the one they turn to.

And meanwhile, they’ll be sharing your content far and wide, building you a network of brand new potential customers for free.

Content marketing is a slow, drip, drip strategy, but with patience and persistence, the floodgates will open.

If you have any questions or would like some help with copywriting or content creation, please do get in touch.

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