Starving for Content

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a television producer who was looking for interesting information about dreams. Having done some dream work, and still engaged in research, I offered some information and some resources. The producer, to my amazement, said, “Thanks so much for giving me content, not marketing.”

That made me stop and think about how we market ourselves. Often when I contact a company for information, I am turned over to sales. The sales representative immediately tries to create a need for me that their product or service can fill.

cheap, starchy filler

cheap, starchy filler

This week I’m looking into using solar energy in my house. I live in the Sonoran desert, where the sun shines 322 days a year. I want to find out information on using solar energy to replace electricity and to heat my pool. I guarantee you that I will be swamped with sales pressure before I am given enough information to make an informed decision. I’m dreading the process because I’m sure that instead of facts, I’ll be given slanted information designed to make me into a consumer. Right now I don’t want to be a consumer, I want to be a researcher. I’ll become a consumer when I have enough information to make me an informed consumer. But it won’t be easy. I’ll have to listen to the information provided and then untangle the marketing message from the facts. I won’t have enough knowledge of solar power to do this. The sales person will get impatient with me because I am not behaving like a consumer. He (the person scheduled to visit is a man) may well make me feel like I have an intellectual agenda, which is a bad thing. I should not ask so many questions and buy, like a good consumer.

I don’t want to buy yet. I want facts. I want information. I’ll sort it through myself. We are a nation of consumers, we sell stuff to each other. And I’m getting a little tired of it. I’d like to be a nation of content first, then a nation who considers the facts and makes a decision. If we’d done that a bit earlier, we would not have a mortgage crisis.

So right now, I’m looking for content, not marketing. I don’t want to be pounced on like a chicken on a June bug just because I’m raising my hand and looking like a consumer. I think we are a nation starving for content, and being fed marketing. It’s cheap starchy filler. We need some protein-rich content in our lives. Facts without spin. information without bias. I’ll bet I’m not the only one who is starving for content.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer who owns QuinnCreative, a content-providing site for life- and creativity coaching, and business communication seminars. (c) 2008 All right reserved.

6 thoughts on “Starving for Content

  1. Part of the problem is that salespeople work on commission. They get paid extra for making a sale, and the more expensive the sale, the better they are paid. Naturally they steer you to the product that maximizes their income.

    Here in Switzerland, most retailers get paid a set wage. I have been in many stores where salespeople would spend a lot of time with me and sometimes steer me to a cheaper product that suited me better, because they were working to keep me as a repeat customer, not trying to maximize their take on this sale. Plus, they weren’t dependent on maximizing customers, i.e. spending as little time as possible on each.

  2. An interesting way to UNHOOK the salesperson from the pitch is to simply say that you are getting at least THREE estimates before you buy anything. Say that your decision will be based upon the completeness of the information, the helpfulness of the salesperson in offering the information and not on a high-pressure salespitch, and the bottom-line price of the three estimates based upon the information provided.

    I did this with my first purchase of a heat-pump when heat-pumps were still fairly new items on the energy efficient hit parade and ended up having to actually interview five companies before I could obtain three quotes which included information without undue sales pitch. I did call each salesperson I disqualified and told them why they had lost their place in line without offering them a rematch, and told the winner why he ultimately won. As a result, he didn’t just make the sale to me, but to three of my neighbors, who had watched the entire circus with great interest (and I received referral payment for each).

    I have done this same performance since: for house siding and also for my sprinkler system and have been very happy with the results. High pressure people are more or less tossed out with the admonition that they were warned I was seeking information and not just a quote; the ones who qualify for consideration are usually polite, friendly (almost neighborly), provide tons of references both good and bad, and stand behind their information and work.

    Just a thought. As you say, the habit of just ‘selling,’ dies hard, but it can be unplugged.

    —-I did exactly as you suggested, and it worked. I got good information, and a product that I understood. -Q

  3. Since you live in Arizona and with so much sunshine daily, you will not need a very complicated (and expensive) solarsystem.
    Maybe your local energy supplier can also give you some information.

    —–My complaint is a bit different: in America, everyone sells. So it is hard to get clear facts without a sales pitch woven in. Every consumer needs to be an expert because there are no unbiased experts to explain things. Everyone with information is pushing a product or service. And I shouldn’t have to be an expert in solar energy to meet with a company so I can separate hype from help. Same thing with car repairs, water filters and investments.

  4. Quinn, maybe this website can be of some help and provide you the information that you are looking for:

    http://www.ecn.nl and click on the ‘English’ button.

    —-Yep, this is an excellent site with a lot of good information on how solar energy works and comparing the various kinds. Thanks. -Q

  5. Sometimes it can certainly be hard to get the facts instead of a “fact-lite” sales pitch. When my husband and I looked into alternative energy this summer, we were able to attend a couple hour seminar put on by the University Extension. No charge. All facts, current and relevant, with referrals if we wanted them and web-site links for further info.

    It’s a good time to think solar with the federal government offering financial incentives right now. In our state (Wisconsin) there are state rebates, too. The whole idea makes a lot of sense.

    I can imagine solar energy is a good match in a desert state like Arizona.

    I’m really interested in the tiny solar panels that are actually in roofing shingles. I think that is a great idea, though the technology is still fairly new in that option.

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