When we, as marketers, try to engage with consumers, we start out at a disadvantage. Our audience doesn’t trust us, as a group. Studies show that just 4% of the public believes advertisers and marketers are inherently trustworthy. To gain their confidence, consumers demand that we provide proof that what we’re saying is on their level.
Content marketing, done correctly, can provide that proof. It can provide evidence that marketers are pitching a legitimate product or service and that they stand behind what they’re offering. It can show that they’re committed to taking care of their audience and not just swooping in for a quick transaction. The product still has to work to sustain the customer relationship. But reaching the customer with effective content can go a long way toward establishing enough trust to get the relationship started.
Melanie Diezel, director of content at Foundation Marketing, nailed the formula during her talk at the Content Marketing World 2021 conference. The key, according to Diezel, is to deliver a carefully curated blend of corroboration, demonstration and education.
Corroboration is bringing in other people’s perspectives to back up your claims. It’s one thing to argue that you offer the most convenient, customer friendly and high-powered service around. It’s quite another to have a respected third party writing or speaking on your behalf.
Corroboration can come from experts and from witnesses. Experts – market analysts, academics and even, in some circles, social influencers – bring an informed perspective. Consumers rate analysts and academics as extremely credible. Witnesses, on the other hand, bring first-hand accounts. They’ve experienced us delivering on our promises. These can be packaged up as case studies, customer quotes in press releases or social posts.
Still, consumers are skeptical. They want more direct evidence that your claims are real. This can be done through customer-initiated stories and documentation.
Stories are testimonials and reviews submitted through the customer’s own volition and untouched by marketers themselves. Someone like them has successfully engaged with the brand. Perhaps a happy customer has reached out on social media with a positive story. Find that customer, and encourage her to amplify with a more detailed video about her experience. Or perhaps someone wrote a positive review. Circulate that review on social media. On average consumers spend 13 minutes reading brand reviews before purchasing. They trust impartial reviewers.
Documentation may sound boring, but it resonates with audiences. Whiteboard videos showing how a security platform fends off threats do well on social media. Facts about your operation – how are your products made, how much training your skilled operators receive – can bolster your arguments.
Consumers who get your educational content are 131% more likely to make a purchase.
Last, Diezel pointed out in her conference talk, consumers want to be educated. Consumers who get your educational content are 131% more likely to make a purchase. Big box home supply chains do a great job attracting audiences with their YouTube demonstration videos. Help consumers learn to become masters at your craft to establish a deeper connection with your industry and your brand.
Elsewhere at the latest Content Marketing World show, discussions centered around some of the biggest challenges we’re hearing about every day in our interactions with brand marketers across our portfolios. Here are a few.
If your audience is located inside a metaphorical moated castle, you can try to get their attention by storming the facility with untargeted content and ads. Or you can encourage your audience to lower the drawbridge and let you inside. Jay Baer, founder of Convince & Convert, identified his three key tactics to a more strategic content approach. You need to deliver the right message, with the right messenger in the right modality.
If you’re not segmenting your content carefully, you’re losing people. Nearly three quarters of customers are frustrated when content isn’t personalized to their specific needs. That means covering the entire funnel with content. If you have five personas at five funnel stages who have five questions at each stage, that’s 125 audience touchpoints. For a software provider, that would mean content flows aimed at developers all the way up to the C-level, focused on everything from tactical use of the product to broad discussions of digital transformation.
The right messenger? Studies show consumers rank content featuring actual customers as being most relevant to them, followed by content featuring influencers, employees and the brand itself. Modality matters, as well. For early-stage research, customers tend to look for listicles, infographics, blog posts and videos. Later on, case studies, customer reviews, analyst reports and ROI calculators. Preferences can be generational. Help customers self-educate using the modalities they prefer.
Content campaigns can fall flat if they don’t jazz the audience in new and unexpected ways. In one of his winning strategies for creating great content experiences, Imprint CEO Andy Seibert told a story about a restaurant client’s roll-out of a new set of “pizzettas.” Along with articles and charts about pizzetta ingredients’ nutritional value, the firm created content around making your own pizzas. Customers could choose their ingredients, name their pizza, write a back story about their choice and submit an entry for a chance to win a free lunch for a year. Rather than push out static content, the client created a journey for people to learn and make choices.
While some marketers stress the need for time-sensitive, microtargeted content, Carlijn Postma argues that content needs to be more sustainable – more “evergreen.” The founder of marketing agency The Post draws inspiration from television. TV series are proving to be relevant year after year. After one audience binges on a Netflix show, new waves arrive weeks, months and years later. They’re pulled in by captivating stories and pulled along by plot twists and cliff-hangers. Postma argues that corporate content needs to work more like this. Rather than single-use, disposable posts, create a series that people can binge on and solidify a lasting relationship with the brand.
Let’s face it, content is all about story telling – whether you’re peddling a world-renowned tale of a red-nosed reindeer or selling a set of well-worn couches through Facebook ads. Ann Handley, a partner at MarketingProfs, brought the two concepts together in a simple templated approach. In the Christmas tale, the book’s original sponsor, retailer Montgomery Ward, positions Rudolph as the hero, helping Santa save the holiday, bringing happiness to the world. In Handley’s Facebook ads, she mapped out a story for her couches – “pumpkin spice” colored furniture “perfect for … cozying up with your bestie on a chilly autumn night.” She brought the customer into the story, adding context, creating a connection. Her 59-word ad generated eight inquiries – and a sale.
Marketers are fighting an ongoing battle getting consumers’ attention and gaining their trust. As the conference speakers related, there are many best practices at our disposal that can help develop and sustain connections. What’s your secret?