In the modern age of Internet marketing, digital companies, and handshake agreements exercised through instant messaging systems, trust is the coin of the realm. The key to trusting a company lies in believing that they really do have your best interests at heart, and that requires a level of transparency.
The same principles apply to content marketing.
When you address your customers with a proposition, you are implying that you can provide them with something valuable. But as content marketing has evolved, we have learned that it is vitally important to show that your customers are valuable to you as well. Many content writers at startups are able to leverage content marketing strategies and transparency to steal market share from the established brands.
How Inbound Marketing Has Changed The Game
Let’s make this as simple as possible: most markets are incredibly crowded. The ease of access and profound reach that the internet provides has led to an over-saturation of products and services, each with their own unique sets of marketing messages, branding, slogans, and varied advertisements. Researchers estimate that those of us living in an average size city are bombarded by as many as 5,000 marketing messages a day.
It’s no surprise that consumers have become incredibly sensitive to the feeling of being exploited and manipulated that many associate with traditional marketing. Most people are more than happy to completely ignore that beautifully worded piece of outbound sales copy that you cooked up a couple of weeks ago, and will likely move you to their spam list shortly thereafter. Congratulations, that potential lead has vanished forever.
Outbound marketing activates the defense systems in a majority of customers.
The practice is seen as invasive and imposing while providing the customer with little value in return. It positions the customer as a target to extract value from, rather than a partner that the company in question provides a valuable service to in exchange for mutual benefit. As consumers have become more and more resistant to traditional outbound marketing, an effective inbound marketing strategy has become increasingly important.
Inbound marketing is defined in different ways by different people, but it’s really quite simple. Inbound marketing is fundamentally about providing your potential customers with value in exchange for their time and loyalty. If they have a question about an element of your business, your content helps answer that question while defining you as a trustworthy and knowledgeable individual in your space.
If your customer has further questions, it is both your duty and in your best interest to answer them with complete transparency.
Transparent inbound marketing builds trust with the consumer by providing value and relating to them directly. It changes the relationship between seller and buyer from one of perceived exploitation to one of perceived partnership. For the third year in a row, marketers have increased their spending on inbound marketing by 50%, because it works!
Content marketing is an enormous part of effective inbound marketing. Successful content marketing does two things: it provides the consumer with real value while drawing back the curtain and placing a relatable face on the company. When designing your content marketing, preempt your customers concerns and appear as transparent as possible!
How The Digital Market and Social Media Have Turned the Marketing World on its Head
Digital forms of communication and social media have connected the consumers of products and their producers like never before. It is now entirely expected for a company to not only have numerous vibrant social media profiles, but to engage their followers on a personal level on a regular basis. A level of access that would have been almost entirely unthinkable just 15 years ago has become the norm, and constant surveillance has placed brands under the magnifying glass.
While some particularly old school and curmudgeon-y individuals might bemoan the loss of the good ole’ days of cloak and dagger marketing, savvy companies are taking advantage of this by building images that are appealing to their customers’ demographic. These days you’re just as likely to see pictures of company retreats, vacation days, and pet photos on a given corporate Facebook page as you are to see overwrought branded messaging. Forward-thinking individuals will apply these lessons to their own social pages, thereby building a transparent and relatable home on the web.
The same principles hold true for your content marketing strategy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and Jill a bored client. The corporate training many of us go through tends to leave some lasting marks on the way we talk to customers.
The “marketing brochure” language we often lean on when talking about our services has two enormous issues associated with it:
- It’s often boring, and fails to inspire customers or truly relate to them. Reading that content or speaking with people trained in that manner can feel like talking to a robot rather than an individual with a unique perspective and useful information.
- It’s dense and lacks transparency. The individuals reading it feel like they are being sold to rather than helped.
Needless to say, conversion rates from this sort of content are not exactly sterling. When developing your content marketing strategy do not be afraid to recognize that your clients are real people, and that you’re a real person too. Real people have jobs and children and pets and hobbies and worries and joys all their own, and sharing some of yours will make you dramatically more relatable and improve the overall quality of your content.
Companies That Resonate
Although one might think that the incredible scrutiny brands are subjected to in this newly social world would be oppressive, many find it incredibly empowering. Now more than ever, organizations require a relatable face and recognizable voice. Transparent companies with real people behind them are cutting ahead of the pack and establishing themselves as market leaders.
Consider the recent uproar over the firing of Men’s Warehouse founder George Zimmer. Mr. Zimmer was terminated by the Men’s Warehouse Board of Directors for an at this time unknown reason. The removal of a founder against his will is somewhat unusual, but it rarely generates the broad interest that this firing received. Why was this case so different? Because for years Mr. Zimmer was the face of Men’s Warehouse in their various advertisements, always promising men that they’ll “like the way they look.”
Companies built around real people resonate in a unique way with their consumers.
Mr. Zimmer made Men’s Warehouse something more than a faceless entity that sold discount clothing, he was able to connect with customers on a human level and earn their trust. Men’s Warehouse had been incredibly transparent about their corporate structure and forged a unique connection, but by releasing their founder without being clear as to the reasons why they lost that transparency. Their stock tumbled over 2% as a direct consequence of that decision.
The lesson with regards to your content marketing is clear: a relatable individual behind your content is just as important as the content itself. Humanizing what you share with your followers and putting a consistent face on your company’s work will make it that much more appealing.
Quality Content As An Extension of A Company That Cares
Tens of thousands of pages have been written on the unique motivations of various blocks of consumers, but at the core it’s really not that complicated. Customers share a common desire: they want to feel cared for. They just want to know that you have their best interests at heart, and are invested in their happiness. They have a need, and they want your product to be the solution. This means that, fundamentally, customers are on your side! They want you to be successful, because your success is their gain.
That’s an incredibly empowering thing to realize.
All you have to do is deliver consistent value and not betray their trust, and customers will inevitably flock to your door. For all the complex marketing techniques that people talk about, the most effective one will always be an incredible value add and consistent customer service.
That’s where your content marketing comes in. Freely offered high-quality content is a demonstration that you care about your customers on something more than a financial level. It is the natural extension of a company that cares. When you produce quality content, you meet the customer on their level and relate to them personally. You let them know, “Hey, we understand where you’re coming from. You have a real problem, and we can solve it. We’re just like you guys.”
That kind of human connection is something that will always triumph over more exploitative marketing strategies, because it connects person to person rather than person to company. Transparency and trust are the key to successful content marketing. By developing a personal relationship with your following and establishing yourself as a trustworthy entity in the market, you will dramatically increase the loyalty of your followers and stand out from the rest!