Want to Create Content That Delivers? First, Create Trust
“About 1,670,000,000 results (0.51 seconds).” That’s the result you’ll get if you type “content marketing” into your Google search bar. That’s over 1 billion results in under one second. It makes sense, when typical consumers are growing blinder to typical ads and more indifferent to typical promotional emails.
But in 2018, it’s not enough to just create content. After all, that Google search makes it clear how many marketers are scrambling to do the same. The key is to create content that stands out from the rest, that doesn’t fall to the unopened, unread, unconverted wayside.
If anyone knows the secret to content that delivers, it’s Marcus Sheridan, owner of IMPACT and author of “They Ask, You Answer.” At the recent INBOUND 2018 conference in Boston, I had the chance to hear Sheridan outline his seven keys to creating content that promises drastic sales and marketing results.
The backbone behind all seven? Trust. “Trust is the building block of all business,” Sheridan states. “It is the tie that binds. This will never change.” Which is why his seven pieces of content advice center around just that — fostering trust between the business and consumer.
Openly Talk About the Negative
It seems counterintuitive to the goals of marketing; why would you want to put on blast any potential problems your customers might face using your product or service? The answer, though, is simple: “You can address your customer’s hard questions or not,” Sheridan points out, “But know this … someone will.”
By allowing that someone to be you, you put your brand directly in front of those customers seeking answers, and foster trust in the process. While working for River Pools and Spas, an inground fiberglass pool manufacturer, Sheridan put this philosophy to the test. After his business partner wrote a detailed blog post, “Top 5 Fiberglass Pool Problems and Solutions,” traffic to the company website increased drastically. After 6 years, over 260,000 site visitors have found River Pools and Spas by searching some variation of “fiberglass pool problems” on Google, and they can credit the article with over $500,000 in sales.
Sheffield Metals International, a Mazzella Company, is a manufacturer and distributor of metal products. A blog post on their website, “7 Common Problems of a Metal Roof,” generated more than 11,000 hits to the website after just a few months.
Share Your (Not So) Secret Sauce
Another huge traffic success for River Pools and Spas was a logical next step in the “transparency” game: it created videos which show its entire manufacturing process, in detail. Companies, reasonably, tend to shy away from showing how they do what they do. But for Sheridan and his team, it became just another piece of content driving search engines and visitors to their site.
By showing the process, you’re owning up to everything you do — proving you have a product you’re proud of. Plus, as Sheridan points out, “99% of the time, ‘secret sauce’ is not secret at all. And everyone knows it’s just Thousand Island dressing.”
Embrace Our Review-Obsessed Society
If your content isn’t shying away from answering tough questions, it can’t shy away from honestly addressing the competition. Customers are constantly searching for reviews and ratings to make decisions — in the past 2 years alone, mobile searches for “product reviews” have grown 35%.
Consumers are going to read about your competition, so make it work for you. By posting an honest, thoughtful review list, "Who Are The Best Pool Builders in Richmond, Virginia?" (Reviews/Ratings), Sheridan saw RiverPoolsAndSpas.com become the No. 1 non-Yelp result on Google when searching for pool reviews … for his competition. Within four years of posting the list, the site went from 2,000 to 600,000 visitors a month. By the way, River Pools and Spa is not included on the list.
“Consumer ignorance is no longer a viable sales and marketing strategy,” Sheridan says.
Make It Personalized
We all know about FNAME/LNAME merges for email and direct marketing — now it’s time to carry over personalization for your content. You could send a “Subject line: Following up” email, with a first-name greeting and a generic “Thanks for chatting with me today about _____ product, let me know how I can help moving forward!”
Or, you could show the customer you really created your content with them in mind. For example, would you be able to resist clicking this video, seeing the personalized screencap?
To put it simply, Sheridan asked, “When was the last time someone from your audience said, ‘You did this for me??’”
Unleash the Power of Self-Selection and Self-Configuration
People in general are always looking for the option best-suited to their own personal needs, however specific. The Internet makes it easier than ever to do so — which is probably why “for me” searches (“What car is best for me?” and “Which litter is best for my cat?”) have gone up 130% in the last 2 years. Meanwhile, “Should I?” searches (“What should I order for lunch?”) have gone up 60%.
We gravitate to products and services that seem custom-built for us, or that we can feel are truly our own. If your content can reflect this mentality, you’ve got a loyal customer for life. Sheridan’s example was Wix.com, the personal website creation tool, which took his daughter through a step-by-step process that allowed her to create exactly the home page she wanted for her business, tailored to her exact specifications. Only when the home page was complete did it ask for her payment details. At that point, Sheridan said, Wix had already won: “If we create it, we own it.”
Focus on the Money
Possibly the only idea more terrifying to sales and marketing people than bringing up problems up front, is bringing up prices up front — after all, you could lose the sale, or your competitor could change its own prices to beat yours.
But Sheridan has numbers to prove otherwise. Be transparent and honest about prices, and you’re immediately giving a trustworthy, reliable impression to customers searching for your product. Generally speaking, “_______ cost” is the No. 1 search related to any product or service across the board, and by getting out in front of it, you’re sending all those searches directly to you.
“Fiberglass pool prices” and every imaginable variation are ranked No. 1 for keyword searches about fiberglass pools. River Pools and Spa’s response to this was a thorough article post: “How Much Does a Fiberglass Pool Cost?” The post can’t give one specific answer, but it provides ranges, averages and plenty of context to educate the marketplace.
Now, the site is the first non-sponsored Google result when searching “fiberglass pool cost,” and that single article lead to over 200 sales appointments and over $5 million in sales. If you can create content that isn’t afraid to educate, it stands to reason that prospects will seek you out.
Show It, Don’t Just Say It
This final piece of advice should be familiar to anyone who has taken a writing class: show, don’t tell. The rule can lend itself to truly effective content for telling your brand’s story. We can write all the clever copy in the world about how our company is the best at what it does, and why you’ll love working with us, but it could never make as great an impact as simply showing it.
In yarn manufacturer Service Thread’s "We Believe" video, we learn this company is a clean, happy, caring work environment that honors diversity and quality — without the script ever mentioning these points. Because they’ve shown us, we feel we can trust what we’re being told, that they really do believe the values they’re espousing. Again, it all comes back to trust.
Try these tips out on your content creation, and you’ll not only earn views and conversions, you’ll strengthen your reputation for industry reliability and expertise.
For more information and advice from Marcus Sheridan, check out https://www.thesaleslion.com/.