The Dark Knight Rises TumblerEvery so often, Hollywood reminds us of how silly it is to argue over whether giving away content will result in a loss of overall sales — because they’ve been doing it successfully for years.

This week, director Christopher Nolan released this 13-minute viral video promoting the upcoming film The Dark Knight Rises in which an estimated 10 minutes of fragmented film footage is made available absolutely free of charge.

A bold move to be sure, and one that may have made Warner Bros execs sweat a bit at first. But how risky was it, really? Are fans likely to forego the actual film come July 20th (No thanks, Warner Bros, 10 minutes was plenty!) as a result of Nolan’s generous offering?

Of course not. The Dark Knight Rises is going to shatter every box office record imaginable, leaving nothing but a towering pile of fanboy pulp in its wake, yours truly included therein.

Why is it then, while Hollywood is fearless in its content marketing, that we should be any different in our B2B and B2C spheres?

From Superheroes to Marketing Heroes

In a recent interview on author Daniel Pink’s podcast, Office Hours, marketing guru Seth Godin stated:

“The problem with writing about how the world is changing is that it’s really easy to become a hypocrite. For years and years I was writing about the death of traditional book publishing, and then once a year I [would sign] a contract with a traditional book publisher where they’d ask me to do a book in a way I was predicting would go away.

“So last year, I decided to stop being a hypocrite, and announced that I was done publishing in the traditional way.”

The result? Godin’s Amazon-backed company, The Domino Project, had published two of the top 6 most downloaded free non-fiction books for Kindle at the time of the podcast interview.

Free? you might be thinking.

Yes, free. But consider this: Godin is known the world over as a thought leader in the marketing realm (You’ll notice I’ve referred to him above as a “marketing guru,” and I’m far from being the only one). Godin’s willingness to share ideas for free or a far reduced market price certainly doesn’t detract from this status — if anything, it further cements it, leading arguably to further book deals, speaking engagements, consulting gigs, etc. Godin has spent a career positioning himself as ‘the final word’ on an in-demand subject online — just Google “Seth” and you’ll see what I mean.

Consider another, more mortal, example: Marcus Sheridan, founder of River Pools and Spas, populated his company’s website with loads of free content, all targeted to buyers of fiberglass pools. There are videos, tutorials, checklists — basically everything you could ever want to know about the fiberglass pool industry. Scroll down the homepage, and you’ll find a Google Map displaying a brigade of custom installed pools peppering the state of Virginia and surrounding regions. Sheridan built a successful niche business by offering free content, and has since become an inbound marketing poster child as a result.

How to Get Started

Think of it this way: if you were at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast, how would you explain what you do to those sitting at your table? Start with that — just the basic elevator pitch, but expand upon it, adding useful information that can act as both a soft-sell for your services and a way to prequalify potential leads.

The finished product can take a variety of forms — ebooks, blog articles, 13-minute viral videos…whatever.

The goal is to position yourself as an information resource, entertainer, or thought leader — essentially, to distinguish yourself and your business as the superhuman alternative to the rest of the crowd.

What are your thoughts on content marketing? How have you refined your process for making your expertise available without losing potential business?

*Tumbler image courtesy of Rubens Alarcon / Shutterstock.com