I recently attended a Spiceworks event where a panel of IT buyers told a room of technology marketers exactly what they like and don’t like about IT marketing. One of the most surprising things the panelists said is that all marketing content – even customer testimonials and case studies – can’t be trusted, as it’s filtered by the company and doesn’t represent the full picture.
This surprised me, because with the rise of content marketing, many B2B technology companies are putting a lot of time and effort into educating customers and positioning themselves as trusted advisors. According to the “B2B Content Marketing: 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America” report, 91% of B2B companies are now using content marketing. However, the message may not be getting through.
So, as marketers, what can we do to build a deeper level of trust with customers? Here are some ideas:
1. Make social media your new BFF.
In today’s social world, if you’re not using social media to engage with customers, it may look like you have something to hide. Customers expect to find you on their favourite social networks, so they can receive support and engage in conversations.
2. Share content – and not just your own!
In addition to sharing your content, you should also find great content that others have published and share it with your social networks. While it may seem counterintuitive to direct customers to other websites, sharing valuable content from others can enhance your credibility. First, customers will see that you’re not just interested in pushing them to your landing pages. Second, when you share others’ content, they will want to share yours in return. It’s a win-win.
3. Encourage reviews of your products and services.
While case studies and success stories can enhance your credibility, IT buyers also want to see reviews of your products and services on social sites, so they can get unbiased information on your company. You can encourage this by giving customers and bloggers samples of your products and asking for reviews. You can also participate on social networks and in forums where customers are already leaving reviews, so you can respond to suggestions and let customers know that you care about what they think.
4. Stop selling. Start helping.
Customers are tired of being sold to all of the time. If you want to connect with customers, you must remove a lot of the sales-speak from your marketing.
For example, if you’re using white papers as a content marketing strategy, you will come across as too sales-focused if 80% of the copy in a white paper talks about how great your product is. Instead, flip those percentages around, so 80% of the copy is educational, while the final 20% talks about your product.
If you deliver a message that your customers find valuable, they will be more willing to learn about your product at the end. They will also see you as providing them with value, as opposed to just trying to sell to them.
5. Contribute guest articles to blogs and trade magazines.
Advertising in popular blogs and trade magazines can cost a fortune. Plus, customers are so skilled at tuning out ads that they probably won’t notice it. However, writing a guest article for the same publication can get more eyes on your content and boost your credibility. When a customer reads one of your articles in a popular publication, they will see you as a trusted advisor who understands their key problems.
Getting customers to see you as a trusted advisor will take time – especially if you’re transitioning from an old-school marketing model that focuses on sales. Publishing a few educational blog posts and following customers on Twitter isn’t enough to break years of old habits. However, if you use content marketing best practices and spend time getting to know your customers, you can transform skeptics into your biggest fans.
What about you? How do you think we can build credibility with customers? Feel free to leave your comments below.