Monday, March 3, 2014

Your Audience is Too Smart for Your Advertorial

It happens all the time these days. People in my LinkedIn circle blessed with that sought-after credential of Influencer will post something on my timeline that is more sales pitch than informative article. It's been that way for a while, but I at least remember a time when you could go a full five or six paragraphs without reading "That's why you need my new book..." These days, either through laziness, ignorance or use of a mass-produced-sleazy-sales-article template of some sort, such finesses are pretty much gone.

These scummy internet infomercials are often called "advertorials". They're not quite an editorial, and they're not quite an advertisement, but they are quite sinister. And these days, people are getting fed up.

"Nice price tag at the end, there!"
"Hey, why not buy my book for $299 on why this post isn't a real article?"
"Influencer must mean salesman because that's all I'm seeing on LinkedIn these days."

The above are all comments posted to a recent advertorial I'd clicked on, naively hoping to get a real post about a real issue I was dealing with which offered a real solution. While once, the salesman-turned-blogger could easily pitch anything he wanted to an eager crowd with just a few keystrokes, these days, people just aren't buying it.

That's not to say that blogs and editorials aren't excellent avenues to selling, because they are just that - avenues! Writing articles for an online audience isn't the bus that dumps you off at Moneytown, but instead a road which, should you tread it carefully, has the possibility to lead you well on your way there.

So how do you walk this path to success? Try these things:

  • Influence, don't sell: Most marketers worth anything these days would tell you that the key to a successful sale lies not in how great the product you're selling is, how much it's going for, or even how well-qualified the potential buyer is. No, instead, it's all in who's doing the selling and if they're worth believing in. Including a sales pitch, even one that isn't obvious, in your writing (especially if you haven't been writing for very long or otherwise do not have many articles to your name) is a great way to get off on the wrong foot with your audience. They'll see through it faster than immediately and you run the real risk of them never returning. Instead, write articles with genuine value, and expect nothing in the way of payment for your sage advice and keep the sales pitch to the (not intrusive) banner on your website's sidebar.
  • Keep the price tags out of it: Admit it - The minute you see a dollar sign anywhere in a field of text, a red flag shows up before you even begin reading the article. It's getting so bad that certain price points (Just $99!) are becoming impossible to set on even the most deserving of products due to the over-selling of Dr. Whoever the Internet Guru's Patented Four-Part Course on Something or Another by pretty much everyone who has a website on anything. Just leave the price out of it until we click on the little "Buy Now" button, thanks. And furthermore, refer to bullet point one of this article - why are you including a sales pitch within your article in the first place?!
  • Interact with your readers: If I had to throw it all away on the biggest mistake made by scribers of advertorials on the internet, it'd probably be this. None of them - not a one will do anything beyond make the initial post to their blog (and if you find one, please point them to me because I won't believe you until I see it). People will comment, ask questions, and otherwise make attempts to interact with the author of the post, with all of it falling on deaf ears. This is a huge mistake for bloggers to make, and an even bigger one for salespeople. You want your audience to believe you're a mindless money-driven robot? Go ahead and leave them hanging. You want them to believe you are a person who genuinely does care? One they would quite probably be inclined to buy something from? Talk to them.

There's nothing saying you can't sell something if you have a blog, but remember that there's a right way and a wrong way to do anything. And just because you can't tell the difference, doesn't mean your customers can't either.