In today’s world of customer empowerment, brands that help the customer are best placed to win the trust of their ideal customer. This blog is designed to help small and medium business develop leads by becoming a trusted advisor in the online research phase of the buyer’s journey.
Helping not selling
This could be the world’s shortest blog post. You see, the headline says it all. The single most important point when producing content to generate leads is to help, not sell. This is the gentle art of lead generation.
Why help, not sell? Surely potential customers want to know what your business is great at. While that’s true, selling comes later.
Put yourself in the shoes of your target customer
Marketers know that understanding customer needs, purchase motivations and buying behaviour place you in the best possible position to create compelling strategy and campaigns. These needs differ greatly from market to market, category to category and from brand to brand. In this piece, we’re focussing on the universal concept of helpfulness as a means of engagement.
Now, think about the last time you bought anything of any value, or perhaps a product or service that you’d bought for the first time. Or perhaps it was a B2B commitment to a new supplier. It’s most likely the first steps you took were to research your solution and options. The stats are clear. According to Retailing today, 81% of shoppers conduct online research before making big purchases.
When researching solutions and options, you’re not looking for an offer, or less still a hard sell. You want help to make the right decision.
As a customer, just imagine a world where all brands simply focussed on helping customers. It would certainly be a more pleasant.
One of the basic tenants of brand consideration is creating brand trust. It pays to think of your brand as a person. How do humans form trust with others? We need to know that the other person shows interest and care for us. We need to know we can rely on them. Conversely, when we lose trust in others, it is often a failure of these aspects of the relationship.
So, to first win a potential customer’s trust, demonstrating helpfulness is the first step.
How to demonstrate helpfulness
This is where understanding of your target customer comes into play. What information is your target audience looking for when researching solutions provided by your category? They need to understand best practice and how to get things done. What are the most important things to look for in a supplier and what are the traps to look out for? How can they save money by matching the solution to their real needs? And how can they realise additional value and save money in the long run, by being able to look into the future. Providing answers to these questions are all incredibly helpful to a customer in research mode.
Connection through content
The next step is to ensure your brand’s helpfulness is experienced. This is where content comes into play. Content can be in the form of online activity such as blogs and video. Well crafted, this content helps to boost organic search performance for your website. And not just in quantity, it will attract a larger mix of the right potential customers.
Social media channels and paid search can help to amplify your brand’s content visibility. Furthermore, your best existing customers can often play the role of an advocate, further working to increase the reach of your content through sharing.
Those that have access to your content are all potential leads.
Making helpfulness commercially relevant to the business
The first part of this blog has been focussed on helpfulness as a means of developing trust. But you may be thinking – how will this actually increase sales?
Lead generation is the first step of the process towards winning a new customer. To turn helpfulness into commercial benefit, we need to help the potential customer to take the next step. That step comes in the form of a call to action.
The simplest and lowest level of commitment for a customer is to simply provide their email address in return for access to more of your great content. The best result for the brand is for the customer to provide additional contact information such as name, phone number and company name in return for a content download. The content download could be a buyer’s guide, for example. A piece of content that can help them to take the next step towards purchase.
The commercial aim is to help the customer become empowered to make the right purchase decision. And because it is your brand helping them, you are better placed than your competitors to win their business.
Your brand is ahead because you’ve already won their trust.
Stuart Poignand is the founder and director of Poignand Consulting, a strategically focussed marketing agency that helps business to unlock value from its brands, products, services and customer experiences