In their recent e-book The Hub Mentality, Carl Wooston and Stephen Palmer provide a compelling case for engaging customers in a new fashion that goes beyond tending leads and working sales.

Prospective customers are no longer willing to be interrupted or intruded upon. "Your job is to cultivate trust, build community, and interact with your customers on an ongoing basis," they write. "Your job is to become a hub, a center of influence that creates value for your customers on their terms."Hub mentality

So what's the key to building a hub? As they explain, it's, first and foremost, about creating relevant and engaging content. "Relevant information is the new power," as they explain. "You're no longer trying to make one-time sales through hard closes. You're trying to cultivate trust. This is done by giving prospects massive amounts of free content in the form of blogs, videos and digital downloads such as e-books, podcasts, white papers and books. And this free content can't be skimpy or salesy: It must be substantial and create genuine value. It must be educational in nature and keep them engaged with you as the hub."

One example they offer is the software company InfusionSoft, which develops customer relationship management software for fast-growing businesses. Founded in 2001, it quickly became an Inc. 500 member and now serves 5,000 smalll businesses.

On the company's web site, one finds an online forum where customers can network with other small businesses while gaining access to an array of tools and content to support their own customer growth efforts. The site contains a number of useful white papers and e-books (such as "The Entrepreneurs Guide to Follow up") as well as a blog and resource directory. Some resources require registration, some not. The point is, the site becomes a one stop shop for resources to support the sales, marketing and customer care strategies of dynamic businesses.

In March of 2008, Infusionsoft launched its Double Your Sales
campaign based on a guarantee to — that's right — double the sales of any new customer. The campaign demonstrated the power of compelling content and community engagement. Leveraging social media such as YouTube videos and blog posts, the campaign featured CEO Clate Mask’s e-book on the nine building blocks to double
sales. Little surprise that InfusionSoft's customer conferences are now loaded with raving fans who hope to complement their online experiences by meeting their fellow entrepreneurs in person.    

Such stories are representative of the shift now taking place in marketing. As Wooston and Palmer put it, "Make a hard sell and you've sold a customer one time. Give them free content and get them in your permission-based database and they'll buy from you over and over again."