Content marketing is all the rage, but it isn’t as simple as bombarding your customers with content and then expecting them to hand over their hard-earned cash. The way to build trust online involves more of a softer touch, using other people’s content to drive interest and credibility, encouraging them to be interested in your content, and only then asking for the sale when people have some faith in what you’re offering.
Don’t be selfish, share other people’s content
If you want to get off on the wrong foot, then post a ton of branded content, including blog posts all about you, your upcoming events, why your product is the best, and what life is like working for such a cool company. The problem with this approach is that you’re effectively shouting at your potential customers, when you should be making their life easier with valuable information, and eventually, showing them how your product or service can make a difference in their life.
To make sure people don’t unsubscribe from your social media channels within the first week, focus on sharing lots of useful third-party content. You don’t have to promote your competitors, but find experts in a similar space that are offering advice your customers could use. By doing this you’re showing your fans that you care, instead of going straight for their wallet or purse.
Share your story, but make sure it’s authentic
Everyone has a story to tell, but whatever you do, don’t try and embellish the truth. Even if you think your startup story isn’t “interesting” enough, or doesn’t sound like enough of an adventure, stick to the truth. Customers are interested in taking a peek behind the curtain, getting to know the people that run the company, along with their values and interests. If there is an overlap between your reader and your company, then that person is much more likely to become a paying customer.
Think about someone telling you a story about their last holiday. Now think about how easy it is to tell when they’re making half of it up. The same goes for your about page, the blog posts which update people on life inside the business, and anything that aims to build a connection with your customers. People can tell when you’re faking it, and even if you get away with it for a while, there will come a point when you get caught out, and that’s very bad news for business.
Tell people how your product solves a problem
Once you’ve established some trust, it’s time to tell your customers about your product or service. Again, don’t just shout about it, but make sure you’re positioning it as something that can solve a particular problem, or enhance a particular part of someone’s life. That way you’re not just offering another shiny widget, you’re offering something with real value.
It’s fine to do this on a regular basis, just so long as you’re sprinkling sales emails and promotional blog posts in amongst other pieces of content that are purely informational. Converting a site visitor to a customer can take months, even years in some examples, but as long as you’ve got the right balance between asking for the sale, and solving your customer’s problem – you’ll be making money.
Finally, get your customers involved in content creation
This is where things get interesting. Once you have satisfied paying customers, you should encourage them to leave reviews, blog about your product, and submit their ideas for product improvements or new services. Instead of racking your brain for new content every week, customers will come to you with ideas.
If you get a few emails that ask the same question, the answer will probably work well as a blog post. If you’ve got customers who want to share interesting ways that they’ve used your product, why not ask them to write a guest post? If people are posting rave reviews around the web, why not compile them into a post that calls out notable reviewers?
As you can see, content marketing gets easier as you along. In the beginning you have to be patient, and you have to be selfless, as this is the only way to gain your customers’ trust. After that you can start bragging a little, and eventually, you can start selling and asking people to come up with ideas for new content.
So maybe the title should say, “Find out why sharing your own content on social media is a bad idea…at first.”
How long does it take your business to build a relationship with customers? Have you ever skipped straight to selling?
Lead image via Flickr