There's something of a myth in online marketing that if you simply offer enough great free content, people will naturally buy your products. But the fact is, just giving valuable content doesn't always sell your products, no matter how valuable the content might be.
That's why Milana Leshinsky of http://milana.com/newblog/ advocates that marketers connect the dots between their free content and their product. She says the first few times she gave wonderful free content, she got all kinds of thanks and accolades but not a single sale. Learning from her mistakes, she now says there should be only one clear, logical step after they consume your free content, and that's to buy your program. Here's how she does it:
1. Introduce the problem your product will solve. For example, in the dating niche you might tell why people fail to attract the right person into their life.
2. Show why some solutions to this problem didn't work in the past
3. Teach them a concept that creates a “breakthrough” moment, something that gives an ah-ha reaction and makes a light go on over their head, also known as a mind shift.
4. And finally create desire for your product by inspiring them to want to change or to solve their problem. Show them why your solution is better, unique, etc.
I would add a couple of things to this.
First, always keep in mind that for the most part, you're going to tell them what they need to do, but not HOW to do it. “You need to get your energy and focus up to it's highest level so you can achieve your successes and dreams as easily and effortlessly as possible.” But with the exception of the “ah-ha” moments, you don't tell them HOW to do it. That's for the paid product.
Second, don't be afraid to mention that there is an optional paid product at the end of your free content. Use phrases like, “if it's right for you” and “you might choose to stay with us and go to an even higher level” or whatever is appropriate. You're letting them know you will extend an invitation to them when they reach that point in your launch process or sales funnel. And who doesn't like invitations? You're priming them to expect a great offer that might change their life, rather than springing it on them seemingly out of the blue. This alone can work wonders for increasing interest and sales.
One last thing: You sometimes hear the advice that you should give away your very best content. Supposedly when you do this, people will think, “If s/he's giving this away, imagine what s/he's selling!” And they're right, people will think this. HOWEVER, what happens when those customers consume your paid product and realize that you did indeed give away your best stuff for free and charged them for the lesser information? They'll lose their belief in you. And you'll lose future sales.
Giving away your very best content is something that fly-by-nighters do, not savvy marketers who are in business for the long haul. Sure, you should give away some tasty hors d'oeuvres, but save the main courses and desserts for the paying customers only.