We are now living the age of the “self-directed buyer.” According to Sales Benchmark Index (and just about everybody else who knows anything about sales and marketing,) today’s buyers are entering the sales cycle much later than they did even 5 years ago.
Solid content marketing attracts qualified buyers and keeps them engaged until they are ready to buy. But just having a ton of content is not enough. For most of the people I meet with for sales, the biggest obstacle to buying is trust; or more accurately, a lack of trust. You can have the best whiz-bang gadgetry around and spend a ton of money marketing it, but what it all comes down to is: can I trust you?
Content Marketing=Nurturing a Trust Relationship Until a Buyer is Ready to Buy
Here’s 10 questions buyers need to answer from your content marketing:
What Do You Know?
Is your level of knowledge sufficiently evidenced by your content? Is it relevant to their issue or concern? Are you a thought leader in this space or merely a talking head repeating what others have said? Long before anyone agrees to speak to a salesperson, your online content will be used to determine one way or the other what you know or don’t know.
Where Are You?
There’s a huge discussion going on online. Social media forums are loaded with conversations about virtually every topic imaginable. Google, Bing and a slew of other search engine companies are now assigning higher search ranking based on social media involvement. Are you in those forums or are you relying on your awesome website and “word of mouth?”
Who Do You Know?
If you have been in your industry for a while, you get to know the other players in that space. If not, it might seem like you simply haven’t been around for very long. A strong list of acquaintances not only helps you gain trust, it is invaluable to your reputation. Buyers are looking for companies that have relationships that last. Clout in content marketing is greatly impacted by who you know.
Who Knows You?
Along the same line, strategic relationships don’t have to start with you. Again, if you’ve been around a while, others will know of you and be able to testify to your abilities, your character, how easy it is to work with you and so on. Your online reputation needs to be part of your content mareketing, because it reveals a lot about your reputation in the industry.
What Have You Done?
Nobody wants to have surgery done by the new kid on the block. No matter what the job, we prefer the ones who have proven skills and successful accomplishments in the area we are seeking help with. Content marketing is an ideal way to showcase your expertise, success stories, case studies and partnerships.
What Do You Do?
A history of great accomplishments is good, but things change too. Can you still, and are you still performing the desired tasks? Is your ability still in demand? Are you still in the game or resting on the accomplishments of the past? Content marketing needs to demonstrate your focus, your involvement and your value for the buyer in the here and now as well.
What Will You Do?
Do you have a vision for the future? It always concerns me when I talk to someone who has all they can do to keep up with today’s technology, trends, marketplace. It tells me that they lack the wisdom to prepare for what’s going to happen next, and things are always changing. Content marketing needs to build trust by showing that you are thinking about the future and how it will impact your buyer.
Will You Be a Good Fit Here?
Buyers ascribe more trust to companies that have similar values. It means they are less likely to be surprised by a different set of priorities, or a different idea of quality, timing, etc. No one wants to hire a firm that could make them look bad. Your content marketing should reflect a genuine view of how you operate so that buyers get a feel for who they are dealing with (your persona.)
Will You Be Easy to Work With?
Customer experience is a huge content marketing issue. If it’s hard to get your content, your buyer is thinking chances are good it will be hard to get, and implement, your solution. Make it easy to get, consume and share your content. Make it easy to understand and easy for them to see themselves in your story.
Will You Be Around Next Year?
This is another reason to have a forward looking look and feel to your content. For complex solutions, the lifecycle can be 5,10 or even 15 years. Even the sales cycle can be 9 to 18 months and implementation / migration can take several years before return on investment is realized. No wonder buyers put a lot of time and effort into purchasing the right solutions for their business, which means, they want to know you will be here to support them for the long haul.
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