Provide them with excellent content they can rely on
One powerful way to build profitable relationships with your customers and prospects is to position your company as a trusted resource – a place where they can learn how to solve their most pressing business problems, identify new opportunities and run their businesses more effectively.
In the world of content marketing, no one does this better than John Deere with its legendary agricultural magazine, The Furrow.
Published for over 125 years, its purpose is not to promote the equipment manufacturer’s big green and yellow machinery. It’s to help farmers manage their businesses more effectively. As part of its editorial mission, every article in The Furrow must tell an engaging story. It’s a formula that has generated untold amounts of goodwill and trust for the John Deere brand. Today, this remarkable magazine reaches over 500,000 readers worldwide via its print and digital editions.
You don’t have to be a gigantic global equipment manufacturer to use this powerful strategy in your business. If you provide your customers and prospects with excellent, informative content they can rely on then you, too, can build trust with them, elevate the value of your brand and – yes – sell more products and services to them.
Why trust matters more than ever
A confluence of trends is making it harder for B2B buyers to make well-informed purchase decisions today:
- Experienced engineers and purchasing managers have retired, taking their incredible depth of tacit knowledge with them. The people replacing them don’t have as much knowledge and practical experience. According to Google, more than half of all B2B researchers and decision-makers are millennials. They need a trusted partner they can turn to for insights and knowledge.
- The majority of B2B buyers prefer to do their own research before contacting a salesperson. According to Accenture, most B2B buyers are already 57% of the way through the buying process before their first meeting with a sales representative.
- B2B buying cycles are getting longer and more complex. Buyers are conducting more detailed ROI analyses before making a purchase decision, use more information sources for research and evaluation and have increased the number of people on their buying teams.
- According to Salesforce, a large percentage of purchasing decision-makers (45%) say that the content from prospective vendors doesn’t help them make informed buying decisions.
All of this points to a huge opportunity to position your firm as an unbiased source of relevant knowledge and insights – a resource your ideal customers can trust.
The opportunity is yours to lose: if your company doesn’t position itself in this way, then one of your competitors probably will. According to Salesforce, 50% of B2B purchasing decision-makers stopped buying from a current provider because a competitor provided a better buying experience.
How can savvy marketers build trust?
The best way to build trusted relationships that ultimately lead to sales is to provide a customer experience that is uniquely tailored to their needs. The linchpin that makes this possible is high-quality content. But it can’t be just any content – it must be laser-focused on their needs and delivered to them on a regular cadence.
Where many marketers fail is that they create content based on what they assume are their ideal customers’ needs. Or they take a templated approach to creating buyer profiles that are superficial at best and detrimental to the business at worst.
According to Adelle Revella of the Buyer Persona Institute, this common approach tends to organize your existing perceptions, or even more dangerously, your company’s assumptions and wishful thinking about your ideal customers. Not surprisingly, this lack of awareness of your ideal customer’s actual needs tends to erode trust, not build it.
Think for a moment about who you trust. Most likely, the most trustworthy people in your life are those who are genuinely concerned about you. This translates to the buying process as well. You feel good about a prospective supplier whose focus is helping you solve your problems. In contrast, you naturally feely suspicious about one who is mainly focused on trying to sell you their products and services.
Buyers are looking for the right knowledge, information, insights and data to help them make a well-informed purchase decision. It’s up to you to provide it in a friendly, helpful and unbiased way.
Rethink your buyer personas
Buyer personas need to go much deeper than a personality profile or “day in the life” description. Think for a moment about what’s at stake from your ideal customer’s perspective:
“Already coping with a full plate of responsibilities, this buyer is confronted with an evaluation that will require a significant effort over weeks, months or even years. Most critically, this persona knows that their choice of providers will have long-term consequences for them, their teams and their company,” Revella explains.
That’s why your buyer personas must be based on real customer input. In addition, they need to accurately track the needs of your ideal customers throughout their buyer’s journey. As they get closer to a buying decision, their needs evolve. The better you understand their entire buying cycle, in their words, from their point of view, the better the customer experience you’ll be able to create.
The next step in building trusted relationships with your ideal customers is to do an inventory of your existing content – once again, from the perspective of their buying process. What’s missing? Look for gaps you need to fill. If your company is like most, chances are you have a large amount of content that’s focused on the awareness stage of the buying process, but very little on the consideration and evaluation stages.
Next, build content around the needs you’ve identified in your personas and content audit. Tell compelling stories that speak to their deepest needs. Focus on education and inspiration. Advise, don’t sell.
Select content formats that are consistent with their preferences for consuming information. For example, if you’re selling to C-level executives, they probably aren’t going to read a 20-page, single-spaced white paper. If your primary decision-makers are millennials, you may want to consider using video or a podcast series to communicate with them.
Meet them where they are. Create experiences that are based on what they value, not on the types of content that are easiest for you to create.
Build a sense of community
Regardless of the age and demographics of your target audience, an e-newsletter is an excellent way to communicate with them. Use it to drive them to visit your website to consume your content.
Consider creating a webinar series where your ideal customers can take a deeper dive into the challenges and issues they’re struggling with. Webinars are a very engaging format for conveying education and information. They also enable your audience to ask questions and get answers.
To further create a sense of community around your customers’ needs, consider creating a private Facebook or LinkedIn group, or if your audience skews younger, a Slack or WhatsApp group. Use it as an ongoing source of informal market research. Ask them questions. Run polls. Answer their questions. Give them a “place” they can go to network, share ideas and find answers.
Using this simple but powerful approach, you can cultivate greater customer trust and loyalty and grow your business – just like John Deere’s popular business magazine, The Furrow.
Need help positioning your company as the authoritative, trusted resource in your industry? Cultivate can help. Contact us today to discuss your needs.