Today’s customers – both consumers and b2b decision makers – like to research their buying decisions… and those companies that provide them with good quality, objective information which helps them better their lives or business, are the companies they are most likely to buy from.
How has the Internet has changed human behaviour?
Photo by Africa
Social media like Facebook is so popular because it allows people to set the terms of how they engage, with whom they engage and when they engage… and this trend is also dominating how these same people interact with the people they buy from.
We know from research that 92 per cent of New Zealanders will research their buying decisions online – it’s convenient in our busy, time poor society. But not all research is online. People also rely on the opinion of others (influencers), like their accountants, friends, family and colleagues.
They will also look for customer and media reviews, customer ratings and ‘how to’ information in other media such as magazines, newspapers and blogs.
This is because the financial crisis and the overwhelming level of marketing noise out there has made people wary – trust and credibility are far more important in the decision making process. Above all, they don’t like the ‘interruptive’ marketing techniques of the past (it’s inconvenient and takes away the feeling of being able to make up their own mind).
A new strategy to build trust and credibility
Most people will acknowledge – from their own experience – that they are more likely to trust the sales person or company which offers them advice that is selfless, objective and in the best interests of the customer.
For example, I recently popped into a small supermarket to buy window cleaner. The cashier said to me: “You know, you’d don’t have to buy this. A 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon liquid soap or detergent, and 2 cups of water in a spray bottle will do the job”.
Effectively she was prepared to forego a sale with some objective advice that demonstrated she had my best interests at heart. I put the window cleaner back and bought a special sponge, which cost 50 cents more, because I suddenly had ‘budgeted’ money come free.
In one sentence she built trust and credibility with me. She also got more business out of me.
It is a simple example, but one that has universally application for all kinds of business transactions.
Some people worry about giving away their intellectual property. Well you don’t have to give it all away, just enough to be helpful and add some real, tangible value.
Most of the information is out there somewhere anyway. In marketing, we’re always happy to share ideas because the majority of clients understand that nobody executes like an expert anyway; and they are too busy looking after their own core business to take the time, or bother, to do it themselves.
Decision makers really just want to make an informed decision about the best solution for them, and to know that they can trust the suppliers as experts in their field.
If you are going to provide your customers with objective, good quality information it must be professionally presented.
For example, your website must look good (not a budget job); the content must be expert and useful, and it must be professionally written and presented.
Anything less undermines the credibility of your brand.
An important tactic for building your business the new way
Search engine optimisation, advertisements, direct mail pieces, flash websites, brochures, newsletters, social media, blogs, email campaigns… they are all useless, unless you give equal weighting to conversion.
For example, there’s no point in spending a fortune on search engine optimisation, only to have visitors leave your website without taking action.
All of these channels are valid – depending on your target market – but unless you have a compelling offer, value-added information and a consistent and credible image, nobody is going to stick around, never mind take action.
Your communications must also be geared to engage your clients in a conversation that’s about them and their needs. This is particularly true for social media.
Ideally you want to incentivise potential customers to give you their name and email address so you can stay in touch through the delivery of good quality information that they can use to improve their lives or business.
Your conversion tactic – the one that gets them to part with their first name and email address – could be a discount voucher offer, a free report or book accompanied by a powerful promise, or a free trial of your product of service (the software industry does this well).
Once you have created your compelling, value-added and objective information, your organisation can publish that content across a broad spectrum – such as magazines, content directories and newsletters – as a means of attracting people to your website, building reputation and converting new business.
Colin Kennedy is the Group Editor for the Albany Buzz and the director of Iron Road Communications, a content marketing and strategic communications company – www.ironroad.co.nz