My grandfather, a Methodist minister, was a remarkable man. The son of the revolution and missionary in the Philippines, he survived the Great Depression and raised one hell of a daughter—my mother. But those were not the things that defined him. It was his faith and commitment to others that made him great.
My mother tells the story of a time when a “tramp” came to the house looking for some help. My grandfather answered the door and looked down at the troubled man’s feet and saw that he was shoeless. Without pause, Grampa ran upstairs, removed his brand new shoes and slipped on his old loafers. When he returned to the door, he handed the man his new shoes and sent him on his way.
All too often, we take pride in material accomplishments. We compete relentlessly with others and bask in the fruits of victory. And then we hear a story of selflessness and wonder if we have that kind of goodness within us. We start to resign ourselves to goals of riches and rationalize our efforts to strive for more. I believe we can have it all, and the vehicle of business and industry offers us a remarkable opportunity to serve others and enrich our lives.
Engaging with people in a sincere, authentic and selfless way does not always pay the bills in the short term. The pressure from the corner office to sell and deliver ROI hangs over our heads. But a deep dive into your most fruitful relationships reveals a connection built on trust and selflessness. In fact, there is no doubt in my mind that your most gratifying pieces of business emanated from giving a piece of yourself away before any money ever changed hands.
We live in a “freemium” world where you must provide value before receiving value. And while this is hard for many CEOs and CFOs to understand, successful marketers live and breath it. They get that giving is greater than receiving. They understand that equity is measured in more than dollars. I recall when we started Conduit and we were making little money, a friend wondered aloud, “Maybe you should get a J-O-B.” But, despite the mounting pressure, I simply told him, “Equity is measured in more than dollars.”
Thirteen years later, we have a robust content marketing business, flagship magazines and clients who matter a great deal to us. The business was built by giving away value first in order to develop trust. In fact, we are most proud that we help our clients provide value up front by creating the kind of content that establishes trust within their respective communities. Reaching out to your clients in a “non-salesy” manner and sharing stories that matter to them is part of the “freemium” philosophy. It may not be akin to a man giving up his shoes for another, but it is selfless and can be so very enriching.
Remember, it is not about the products your company sells that matters. The best content marketing is the kind that simply talks about the market. In other words, we all would rather read about stuff we care about. We do not want to read about products. We do not want to read advertorials. And as prospects move down the funnel, trust is built and interest is piqued. But for the customer to become aware of you and, ultimately develop a meaningful relationship with you, it is going to have to start at a higher level. It is going to have to start with a selfless mindset.