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Why how-to content can hurt your business

April 23, 2021 4:32 pm

Are you constantly posting free tips, tricks and step-by-step tutorials in an effort to show up as an expert in your area and draw in new customers, but not seeing sales go up? 

For the longest time, small business owners have been taught that in order to be successful (a) we need to serve before we sell, (b) the only way to add value is to give people more information, and (c) that one of the best ways to accomplish these things is to create how-to or educational content presented in a list or step by step format. 

The truth? There are so many different (and arguably more effective) ways to both add value AND increase conversions. 

How-to content isn’t inherently bad–I would even say that it’s an element you need to include in your content calendar. But it CANNOT be the ONLY thing you provide your audience. 

Why is how-to content not as effective as it maybe used to be?

Why how-to content can hurt your business
  1. Competitive markets

    Studies show that our content consumption has increased dramatically, and because of that, there are more creators and more content out there than ever before. What does this mean for you? Increased competition.

I know, I know–we don’t want to see our peers as “competition”, but we also can’t ignore the fact that this is one of the main reasons why it’s getting increasingly difficult to catch people’s attention. Everyone is constantly bombarded with information, and it’s hard to stand out amongst the crowd.

It’s important to note that what worked in 2019 (when the trend was to create tutorials), or even in 2020, probably won’t have the same effect now, in 2021.

  1. Being helpful doesn’t guarantee sales 

We all use Google when we need help with something. But when was the last time you actually paid Google for helping you?

Being helpful (unfortunately) doesn’t guarantee sales. Sure, it’s good to demonstrate your expertise and experience by lending a hand, but it often results in you just putting more information out there rather than you gaining a new client.

Ask yourself: What does your audience actually need? How can you create content that is valuable to your target clientele, without simply adding more onto their plate?

Best selling books, TED Talks, movies, sermons and presentations don’t just show you how to do something step by step like a bland technical manual. Instead they speak to your curiosity. They use storytelling, analogies, examples, and persuasion techniques to shift your perspective and open your eyes, to get you hooked on an idea so that you want to find out more, even if you initially disagree with what is being presented.

Humans inherently want to be challenged. We want to grow. We don’t just want to be told what to do. We’re wired to long to satisfy our curiosity.

Without storytelling and narrative, your content looks just like everyone else’s. Without it, you’ll just end up saying the same things and giving out the same kind of information as others in your field when instead you should be focusing on crafting a unique sales narrative that not only pulls people in, but moves them to say YES to you and your offers.

Here are three simple and effective ways to help you take your content to the next level:

Perspective-shifting content

Make yourself heard by exposing your audience to something new and different that is beneficial for them. Understand where your audience is at. What are their opinions and emotions? Content is powerful when it aims to shift perspectives, to counteract beliefs that are holding people back from something or causing them pain.

Curiosity driven by survival problems 

Most people are driven by survival. In survival mode, our brains are looking out for threats and problems. This is why we put on seat belts or lock the door when we leave our house because we *know* the consequences of NOT doing that. 

However, your audience probably doesn’t know better. So when you can begin to point out unknown threats and CAUSES to current symptoms, you become extremely relevant in your audience’s mind.

Maybe you’re thinking: “But I don’t wanna spread fear.” 

Friend, the fear is already there. Most people are living in fear and going through pain without even knowing why. What is going to be really valuable for your audience is having someone who finally opens their eyes to see what they didn’t know about so they can stop making the same mistakes over and over again. 

The choice-bind

Want to increase your conversions? Try this one simple, but super effective technique! Remember the red pill and blue pill in the movie Matrix. People are more likely to take action when they’re presented with TWO choices. 

A bind is a fork in the road. It’s an opportunity to give people two choices. However, the trick here is to make one choice negative and the oer choice positive. And obviously the positive choice is the one you want them to make.


The old way that costs ____(undesired situation) or the new way that _______(desired situation).

How are you planning to shift away from a heavy focus on how-to content? What is the story you want to tell your audience? What content have you produced in that past that has been the most effective at translating into an increase in sales and paying customers?

Why how to content can hurt your business


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