Message & Media: Marketing Guru Wanted
Thanks to Google, it’s easy to appear to be an expert. But as they say, the proof is in the pudding.
It’s one thing to try to look or sound like an expert in your marketing efforts. It’s another to actually deliver the specialized skills, knowledge and expertise your customer wants. Devoting a page on your website to a long list of credentials or touting you’ve been in business since 1863 doesn’t hack it.
What your customers really want to know is “What can you do for me?” They are looking for reliable assistance in making smarter buying decisions and finding solutions to their problems.
Experts (AKA gurus) are generous, genuine and germane in what they offer. They demonstrate their authority in all they say and do. It’s a strategy, not a copy tactic.
Here are some examples of what you can do to become your customer’s guru.
Insurance companies have long used “frequently asked questions” (FAQs) to disclose icky information required by regulators. If you have a Q&A section on your website or in a direct mail brochure, make sure it’s helpful and of genuine interest to those reading it. Talk with your salespeople and customer service reps. Ask them for a list of questions they get asked most frequently. Address these in your Q&A, not just topics your company wants to talk about.
For example, use the Q&A to educate customers about the benefits of new technology, or to deal with buying objections. Authenticity matters. Make sure your answers are germane — in plain English, not industry lingo, acronyms or company speak. Encourage potential customers to get expert answers to their own questions by using live chat, emailing or calling you.
Your Phone Number
Speaking of calling, why do so many companies discourage phone calls by not providing their phone numbers, or burying them in mouse type? They must think it costs too much. But what about the people who visit your website, see your ad, or receive your mail piece and want to talk with a knowledgeable expert? Unless research confirms that your customers and prospects don’t want to call you, don’t hide your phone number.
In direct mail, put the phone number on every piece in the mailing (except, maybe, the envelope.) You never know which piece will be seen first or retained. In the case of your website, a “Contact Us” call to action should be on every page. Typically, it’s in the top or bottom navigation.
Here’s another thing about phone accessibility. Inviting calls from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday though Friday may work for you, but not for your customers who have 9-to-5 jobs. Test extended hours. Also, service, I call the advertised numbers and ask questions and pose problems. I want to hear first-hand how calls are answered. And here’s what I’ve learned: True experts don’t have all the answers, but they know where to find the answers, and they’re willing to call you back or email you with what they learn. Experts are resourceful and generous.
This is digital’s answer to traditional media’s toll-free number. Well-executed, live chat is a boon for both marketers and customers. The key to its success is two-fold: speed and knowledge. When your customers select the live chat option, they’re ready to talk NOW, not later. Immediate response is critical. They also expect to chat with someone who knows your product or service, inside out. Don’t give this job to a summer intern or new marketing coordinator, unless they’re properly trained and experienced with your product or service.
If you’re selling direct and don’t include customer reviews (positive and negative), today’s consumer will probably view you with suspicion. Experts welcome the opportunity to learn what customers like and dislike. They want to hear about unmet needs and product shortcomings so these can be addressed.
Whitepapers, Guides and Calculators
These are all means for freely sharing your knowledge on specialized topics, and in the digital world, you can add videos, webinars, blogs and podcasts to this list. In the course of sharing generously, you empower others and establish your authority. The challenge is to avoid making this content sales-y and self-serving. As a trusted authority, you want people to know they can turn to you for sound advice and objective information.
Here’s an example: Tension Envelope’s 11-page whitepaper, “How to Create Successful Direct Mail Envelopes,” is a free download for designers, writers and anyone involved in producing direct mail. It offers seven pages of strategies and tactics for designing and writing outer envelopes (OEs), four pages of current USPS postal regulations, and a glossary of commonly used envelope types/sizes.
The only place Tension Envelope is mentioned is on the back page. This whitepaper establishes Tension as a direct mail envelope expert without shouting, “Buy your envelopes from us!” Other examples are HubSpot, MarketingProfs and Winterberry Group. All generously share useful information without beating you up about buying. There’s a time and a place for everything.
So who is your customers’ go-to guru? If it’s not you, it’s time you change that.