How To Sell Without Selling

Tourguide“So, what do you hope to accomplish with that blog of yours,” asked one of my clients.

I had just finished a recording session, and somehow we started talking about my website.

“No offense,” said the client, “but these days, everybody has a blog. I try to read a few every once in a while to keep up with the business, and usually I’m sorry I did. Just because people are good at reading copy doesn’t mean they should write it. ‘Stick to what you know, and leave the rest to a pro.’ That’s what my father taught me.”

“I understand where you’re coming from,” I said, “but we can’t fault people for trying. They’ve heard that blogging is good for SEO. Every other colleague is doing it, so they jump on the bandwagon. The first few months they’ll write a few original posts, but when the newness wears off, it becomes a burden to find something to blog about. The five people who had been following the blog, disappear, and within three months, it goes belly up.”

“For how long have you been blogging?” my client wanted to know.

“I think I published my very first story about four years ago. As long as I can remember I’ve been jotting things down on a piece of paper. Notes to self, mostly. I had no idea other people would be interested in what I had to say. In fact, I’m still amazed I get some fifty to a hundred new subscribers a day.”

“So, back to my first question,” said the client. “I’m thinking of starting a company blog. That’s why I’m interested in what your goals are. Do you want to increase the number of visitors to your website? Are you trying to sell yourself? What are you aiming for?”

“First off, I have never written anything simply to increase web traffic. Any self-respecting writer sets out to write a good book, but never a bestseller. It’s true that my blog drives people to my website, but that’s just a pleasant side effect. The reason I write has to do with professionalism.

Call me idealistic, but I hope my stories will inspire people to raise the professional bar in freelancing, and in voice-overs. Secondly, I love to write. It’s a simple as that. As soon as it becomes a chore, I’ll hang up my hat.”

“So, you’re not selling yourself?” asked the client, as if he didn’t believe me.

“I don’t like that term,” I said. “There’s too much selling in social media, and people aren’t buying it. Those who are trying to sell something usually do so with themselves in mind: ‘Look what I did! See what I have to offer!’ It’s a big, boring ego trip.

I see myself more as a tour guide. You know, the guy with the silly hat, holding up an umbrella. As a blogger, it is my job to show people something they would otherwise overlook; something unexpected. At times I also want to give them something to think about.”

“That’s very noble of you,” said the client, “but with so much information available online, do you think that’s necessary? Do we really need another blog?”

“I believe it is a matter of perspective and style, I replied. “Great bloggers talk about things people can relate to. They’re not in the business of breaking news. It’s their point of view that makes them interesting, and the way they package it. The best blogs read like a conversation. Not like a sales pitch.”

The client was scribbling some notes on the back of a script as I continued:

“I agree, a lot of information is already available online, but also a lot of misinformation. I often use my blog to separate the facts from the advertorial. I don’t claim to be objective, but I do my research. My readers know that I’m not on the payroll of some corporate sponsor, and they seem to respect me for that. I always tell them: My voice is for hire, but my opinion is not for sale. I guess that’s why most of them trust me.”

The client interrupted: “The service I am offering is very much geared toward start-ups. Many of them are trying to reinvent the wheel. What’s the main thing you run into, when you write a blog for beginners?”

“Let me correct you there,” I said. “My blog isn’t only for beginners, but I do have a lot of newbies among my regular readers. I hate to generalize, but many of them tend to have a Q and A problem.”

“What do you mean by that?” asked my client.

“Questions and Assumptions,” I answered. “They make too many assumptions, and they don’t ask enough questions. As a blogger, I like taking their assumptions apart, and I address questions I know people want to ask. Blogging is not about what I want to tell, but about what readers want to know. I use that same approach with my customers. What I want to sell is irrelevant. It’s about what they want to buy.”

“Now, tell me this,” said the client. “Voice-overs is a niche market, right? How come you have over 27 thousand subscribers, and some of your colleagues only have a few hundred?”

“Well, you have to remember that I’ve been at it for a while,” I said. “That certainly helps. For one, I’m proud that I never bribed people to subscribe to my blog. Some blogging gurus will tell you to give stuff away for free in exchange for an email address. I always wonder: are these subscribers interested in the blog or in the freebie? And what happens once you give them your gift? Will they move on to the next free thing?

I sincerely think that colleagues with only a few hundred subscribers make one big mistake: they only write for the in-crowd. They preach to the choir. Had I only written about and for voice-overs in these past four years, I would have run out of material a long time ago. We’re a small, ruminating community. We tend to talk and write about the same things over and over again. It gets predictable.

For a blog to grow, you need to step out of your protective bubble, and find new readers and fresh content in areas that are related to your expertise, but that are different. I used the same strategy for my book Making Money In Your PJs. It’s not just a book for voice actors. It’s about freelancing in general.

Many of the examples in my book are taken from the world of voice-overs, but the advice I give applies to many solopreneurs. We all want to negotiate good rates, and we want to know how to market and grow our business. Once you start writing about these topics, your potential readership will skyrocket.”

“Interesting,” said the client. Do you happen to have a copy of your book with you?”

“As a matter of fact, I do,” I said. “Would you like me to sign it for you?”

As I was signing the book, the client looked at me with a twinkle in his eyes.

“Boy, you’re subtle,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I replied, giving him my most innocent look.

“You said you were not selling anything to me, but look what you just did. I’m going to subscribe to your blog, and I’m buying your book!”

Then he paused and asked:

“Is that how blogging works?”

“You betcha!” I said.

“Nice doing business with you!”

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be sweet, and buy the book! Click here to read a few sample chapters and to learn more.

photo credit: tizzie via photopin cc

About the author

Paul Strikwerda

is a Dutch-English voice-over pro, coach, and writer. His blog is one of the most widely read and influential blogs in the industry. Paul is also the author of "Making Money In Your PJs, Freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs." goo.gl/ihVpMc

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Book, Journalism & Media, Social Media

15 Responses to How To Sell Without Selling

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  2. aerolite gauteng

    Thanks for finally talking about >How To Sell Without Selling |
    Nethervoice <Liked it!

    [Reply]

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  4. 'Uncle Roy'

    Along with being subtle you must be (or at least appear to be): GENUINE! YOU, Paul, are as genuine as they come (along with me, or course – you know: Mr. ‘Nice guy’ – LOL)! Great reading – thanks again, as always!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    That was genuinely nice of you, Roy. In this business they often advise newcomers “Fake it until you make it.” It’s the opposite of being authentic. Sincerity, integrity and honesty cannot be faked!

    [Reply]

  5. Justin S Barrett

    Great thoughts, Paul!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Thank you so much, Justin!

    [Reply]

  6. Elinor Bell

    Thanks once again, Paul. You definitely inspire, inform, and give a chuckle now and then. Keep up the good work!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I am the one who has to thank you, Elinor. This blog wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for my readers!

    [Reply]

  7. Debbie Grattan

    We were just talking about this today. And in fact, it’s another blog topic of mine – regarding how as a professional in any field, to market that skill, we have to write about things that matter to our “readers” (aka: potential clients). You, Paul, are a gifted writer, and to write a blog for the reasons you outline here make perfect sense for you. But for others (me included) it does end up feeling like an exercise that I do because I have to. Now, I don’t particularly like doing sit-ups daily, but I like the result of a hard body. So, while I understand it may not be my favorite activity, there are enough things I like about doing it, and perhaps enough rewards (I’m still trying to figure that out!) to make it worthwhile. But my conflict is always about not only finding worthy content with a new spin, but the time to actually write it. I’m still dazed by all we are required to do these days, as solo-preneurs, to hype our biz, without it seeming like we’re hyping ourselves. You do it so well.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Hey Debbie, as you just pointed out, freelancers have to wear so many hats. It’s almost impossible to master all aspects of running a business. Some hats are a better fit than others. By trying to do everything ourselves, I think we often hurt our business, instead of helping it. In the end it is much smarter and cheaper to outsource certain activities we’re not so good at, so we can focus on the things we excel in. I love words and I do not love numbers. That’s why I blog, and why my office manager does my books.

    [Reply]

  8. Matt Forrest

    As I always told radio reps and clients when we were writing copy, don’t try to sell your business – sell the ‘benefit’ business provides. Yes, we all do voiceovers, but we each provide something (hopefully) unique. And yes, many of us write blogs, but again, each one needs to be its own entity and unique in tone or content.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    To take up Matt’s point: The “trick” is to link those benefits to the needs of the customer. The best benefits in the world may not appeal to a client who has no need for them.

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  9. Helen Moore-Gillon

    Your blog is always interesting makes me stop and think about my work slightly differently… and consider things in a new way. Bravo to you for taking my assumptions apart!

    [Reply]

  10. Ted Mcaleer

    Genius, simply genius!

    [Reply]

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