Selling Sideways

Selling Sideways

Most businesses expect that once people find them, they should immediately convert into paying customers. They spend money on marketing, generate leads, and have a sales team to convert them.

They often forget that most of the people who discover them are not ready to trust them enough to convert into a paying customer. Even if they trust the brand, they are not having a need that is big enough for them to take the effort to buy something from the business. They might have a need in the near future, but in the short term, they are not ready to convert.

Most businesses feel that the cost to acquire customers is very high. It is true for them because all of them (including their competition) are hunting for customers who are ready to make a decision to buy in the short term. Any prospect that is not "hot enough" is completely ignored.

For example, we sell a cohort-based course on Digital Marketing. We generate leads to find more customers.

30% of our customers come from the ads where we advertise our course. But 70% of our customers come from our email list which we have built by advertising a free course on digital marketing.

This is how it works:

  • We have created a free digital marketing course (with community and certification).
  • We run ads for our free course
  • All the contents of the free course are not released immediately. We drip feed one lesson every two days.
  • The lessons are video lessons and they are hosted on a page on our blog
  • On the page, apart from the video, there are testimonials and more information about our paid cohort-based course.
  • Every time a subscriber of a free course watches the video, there is an ad subtly placed around and within the content that they signed up for free.
  • Since they are actively opening all the emails for the valuable content we send them, they are receptive to a sales message at least once a week (sometimes twice).
  • We invite them to a sales webinar where we sell our cohort-based course. Some sales happen directly from our landing page.

For acquiring most of our customers (around 70%), we do not run ads to acquire them.

Instead, we pull them into our funnel with free content, deliver content to them over a period of time with a drip sequence, sell slowly with one email and one content page at a time, and then they convert into paying customers without too much of a sales push.

The other 30% comes from ads. Out of the 30%, a good 20% would've already heard about the brand and interacted with one of our free content pieces (books, TEDx talks, YouTube videos, ebooks, free courses, and community).

Every piece of content subtly sells our higher-level training programs. Every training program also wraps up a subtle sales pitch for future upsells.

People who don't pay attention, don't pay money. If you want to get people to pay money for your products and services, you need to get them to pay attention to your content first. Then use that attention to sell, slowly, sideways.

With every piece of content you deliver, and every ounce of the attention your prospects give, you are moving them from being a skeptic to a contemplator to a paying customer.

Instead of delivering all your sales pitch at the same time to a lead that you have just generated, first sell them the idea that they have to pay attention to what you have to say, and use that attention to position yourself in their minds as one of the best options for their needs. The products will sell effortlessly.

C.A.T.T. (Content, Attention, Trust, Transaction)

The best way to sell sideways is to:

  • Identify what your target market wants
  • Create content that will be helpful for them
  • Put the content in a drip marketing sequence so that the engagement and repetition happen automatically (Drive attention and builds trust, over a period of time).
  • Trigger conversion for the leads using sales webinars, sales pages, sales calls, or sales meetings

Having something to sell upfront makes the customer shy away. People do not want to be sold to, they want to buy. They will only buy from you if they trust you. And one of the best ways to build trust is to get attention (through good content) and give enough time for the trust and familiarity to build.

Drip marketing is the best way to retarget prospects who are most likely to buy from you. Retargeting ads can be used to get people into your content funnel. Never sell via ads. Instead, promote your content via ads and then sell within your content.

Even if people do not buy immediately, they will at least share the content with others on social media and other channels. Because of their share, you might get more customers.

We've had plenty of subscribers who have not enrolled in our paid courses but referred other students to our paid courses because they were so impressed by our free content. They discovered our free content because we promoted it. We didn't just post free content on YouTube and expect the whole world to discover it.

Creating good content costs time and money. You might as well sequence the content and make it a coherent set of content than randomly posting content all over social media and pray that the algorithm favors you to get the reach.

If you know how to sell and generate profits, those profits can be reinvested in driving discovery to your small but powerful content - which keeps selling your paid training programs in the near future.

If you know how to generate ROI from the ads, the whole world is your content marketing team.

Interrupt their (the creator's) audience while they are consuming content, by paying for the ads, siphon them off to your email list, and engage them within your own ecosystem.

Take them from one step to another, prove your worth with your content and then convert them into high-paying clients and subscribers. You don't need to battle with any algorithm when you have built your own email list and community.

In short:

Don't advertise your products and services. Create content and advertise your content. Get people to pay attention to your content. Re-engage them using a drip marketing sequence via email. Then advertise your products and services within your content. You will sell effortlessly and also capture a bigger market share.

Deepak Kanakaraju