Almost by definition, money exchanging hands cheapens any relationship.
But you can't give away your goods or services for free either.
You simply have to sell to stay in business.
What if I told you there was a way to build trust and relationships with your customers and generate leads and sales at the same time?
This can be done through content marketing.
Let's take a look at these 9 tips on how to use content marketing to build trust and relationships with your customers.
#1 Offer free content
Obviously, you can't make your products free.
You're running a business, not a charity.
But you can add value to your customers through your content marketing efforts for free.
You will automatically build trust if you demonstrate you're not putting a price tag on everything that's associated with your business.
Consumers take note of this.
Marketing experts estimate that we are exposed to 4,000 to 10,000 ads each day.
Ads are screaming "give me your money!!!" from the moment we open our eyes in the morning and check the weather forecast to the moment we quickly turn on social media before hitting the bed at night.
Everyone wants our money.
Now, when brands properly use content marketing and help solve our problems with their content for free, it stops us in our tracks.
Differentiate your business from your competition by offering value for free with no expectations attached.
You'd think that giving something away for free hurts your ROI, but not content marketing.
You can check out my article on content marketing ROI and case studies if you want to see more statistics on the topic.
Creating free content that generates positive business results is not a novel concept.
Content marketing has been around for almost two decades now and has been employed by the biggest brands on the planet, as well as small "mom-and-pop" local businesses.
#2 Solve problems through your content
Publishing content for the sake of publishing content is useless.
Your content has to be comprehensive and solve problems.
To solve their problems, you first have to know who your customers are.
Create a buyer persona and identify their points of friction concerning your niche and product.
When you identify your customer base, you can easily extrapolate what their problems are.
The next step is to start creating relevant content that solves those problems.
For example, let's say you're a dentist and you want to demonstrate how good you are with kids.
You might be the greatest dentist on Earth when it comes to working with kids but an article like "Hey, I'm Doctor Susan and I'm great with kids because of this, this, and this…" just wouldn't work.
Instead, you should write an article like "Top 10 tips on how to prepare your 7-year-old for a dentist appointment."
This would teach the parents how to prepare their kids for dentist appointments and demonstrate your expertise when it comes to working with your youngest patients.
You can bet the farm that a lot of the parents would go like "Hey, Doctor Susan really knows what she's talking about. I'll take little Jimmy to her."
#3 Don't make your content salesy
You can fulfill the goal of providing free content that solves a problem and yet still appear salesy by shilling products left and right.
The fact that you're providing free content that solves problems is great, but being saley would cheapen the relationship with the consumer.
Being salesy is not necessary.
Don't underestimate your customers.
After consuming your content that helps them out, they 'will' find your product or service if you have any.
You can take this approach on social media too.
There's no need to mention what you do in every social media interaction.
Simply have appropriate info in your profile section and people will find out what you do if you demonstrate your expertise by providing value.
When you constantly mention your products and services, it shows that you're only interested in getting money from people.
Even when your content is otherwise spot on.
In fact, that the saddest thing is when a piece of content is actually good and it does what it's supposed to do, but it gets ruined by inappropriately placed sales pitches.
Avoid doing this and trust in your audience to discover your offers on their own because that's what will happen organically.
#4 Create informational and educational content
77% of B2B marketers choose educational content as their top content marketing method to support and develop their audience.
Here are some of the content forms that lend themselves well to creating informational and educational content:
- How to's
- Resource pages
As you can see, you're not limited by what you can do if you want to inform and educate your consumers.
One of the most important qualities of educational content is comprehensiveness.
Attack topics and keywords from as many angles as you can think of.
Try to include everything someone looking to educate themselves should know about the topic you're covering.
Creating comprehensive content will not only help your consumers, but it'll push your content up in the SERPs too.
Comprehensiveness tends to make the consumers stay with the content for longer, which, in turn, positively affects ranking factors like average session time, bounce rate, dwell time, etc.
Content marketing gives you the ability to target any segment of your audience so you can tailor your educational content to match the needs of users of any skill level and proficiency.
That's important because educational and informative content works just as well with novice audiences as well as experts.
If you want to learn how to create comprehensive content, check out my article on this topic here.
#5 Use content to humanize your brand
People forget that companies are made of living, breathing individuals that have their own dreams and desires.
Reminding them of this fact can have a deeply humanizing effect.
Content marketing is a great way to accomplish this.
It's a good idea to attach a face and name to all the content that your company publishes.
Use a conversational tone and keep your content lighthearted whenever possible.
By using a conversational tone, you make your company seem more approachable and down-to-earth.
Obviously, you can't do that if you're creating a technical manual or a whitepaper, but a lot of the time content is unnecessarily dry and stiff.
Another great way of using content to humanize your brand is to use real photos of the people that work at the company.
Pro tip: when your company fails at something, create a piece of content around it.
Cautionary tales can be very educational and relatable at the same time, making them very likely to get shared on social media.
Needless to say, admitting mistakes and allowing others to learn from them has a very humanizing effect.
#6 Prove your expertise through content marketing
Content marketing can be a great tool for you as a personal brand or your company to demonstrate expertise.
Of course, the best way of demonstrating expertise is creating a great product that works.
But people are often looking for an indication of competence to help them make purchasing decisions.
This is where content marketing kicks in.
It's free and it provides value without expectations.
A great way of proving expertise is to document what goes on in your company.
Gary Vaynerchuk coined the phrase "document, don't create."
Give your audience a glimpse of the inner workings of your business by simply showcasing various segments of your day-to-day operations.
This also lifts the burden of "creating" content.
The word "create" is such a heavy word and it attracts a lot of self-scrutiny and even auto-censorship.
Simply "documenting" something feels a lot more freeing even though you ARE creating even when you're documenting.
On top of everything, documenting something tends to lead to very relevant, educational and authentic content, which is priceless.
#7 Show commitment and be consistent when it comes to publishing your content
People are creatures of habit.
They like structure.
Committing to a publishing schedule and being consistent goes a long way to building a loyal audience.
Bruce Springsteen said it the best: "Sustaining an audience is hard. It demands a consistency of thought, of purpose, and of action over a long period of time."
This applies to creative as well as business endeavors.
You could argue that those two are essentially one and the same.
Regardless, content marketing is a long-term game and consistency is one of the key ingredients of success.
Consistent content marketing shows your commitment to your consumers and your product.
Furthermore, commitment and consistency in content marketing create an aura of stability around your company and your product.
A very desirable outcome that adds to the less traceable, but a very real side of ROI of content marketing.
#8 Make engaging your consumers a part of your content marketing strategy
A blog article is a piece of content, but a response on Twitter is also a piece of content.
In other words, don't think only long-form content is meaningful and valuable.
Small gestures matter a lot when it comes to building relationships with the audience.
In fact, on the old social media platforms like Facebook, the organic reach is almost non-existent.
So the only way of connecting with your customers is being there in the trenches of the comments sections and Facebook groups.
This kind of engagement is not very scalable, but it's very effective.
When you enter into a one-on-one conversation in the comments section, you impact that customer on a personal level.
This kind of content marketing carries a great potential for creating loyal customers.
Giving access to customers demonstrates your commitment to making sure they are satisfied with your brand.
When people see brand accounts actually responding to their customers they think "Oh, look at that! This company isn't afraid of their customers and doesn't treat them like an ATM machine!
Don't take audience engagement for granted.
Make it a two-way street and connect with your audience on a more personal level.
#9 Create relevant content
Content relevance is one of the most important goals to achieve when creating content that's meant to have positive impacts on your business.
82% of customers have a more positive outlook on a company after reading custom content.
Unique and custom content showcases the strength of your brand and your commitment to quality.
Creating relevant and targeted content gives you the ability to focus on smaller segments of your consumer base.
When you're able to do that, the potential of creating impactful value-driven problem-solving content gets much greater.
Creating broad content and targeting large audiences usually results in not reaching anyone.
There's usually too much competition for short-tail keywords.
Being 'forced' to target long-tail keywords is not a bad thing at all.
Long-tail keywords carry much bigger conversion rates because the purchase intent is usually much higher than in short-tail keywords.
For example, someone searching for "gaming mouse under $100" is much more likely to buy than someone searching for "computer mouse" in Google.
As you can see, creating relevant content is a win-win.
It's more useful to your consumers and it yields much better business results for you.
If you want to know more about content relevance and how to create relevant content, check out my article on this topic.
#10 Use storytelling in your content marketing
Storytelling is as old as humanity itself.
We always liked a good story and we always will.
Storytelling is just a tool humans use to make sense of the world.
How can storytelling improve your content?
Well, let me give you an example.
Let's say you own a content marketing agency.
Your "About" page could simply say something like:
"We're the XYZ content marketing agency and we help businesses leverage content marketing to reach positive business results."
Or you could craft something more compelling like:
"Every day, we are witnessing the same problems companies are dealing with trying to market their products. Paid advertising is getting more expensive, competition is getting tougher, and performance and relevance are taking huge hits… Our agency has been built from the ground up to take on challenges of creating top-notch high-performing content in any industry. And we have data to prove it."
And so on…
Anyway, I'm obviously not the best copywriter in the world (understatement of the century), but you get the point.
The second description of the fictional content marketing agency sounds much more captivating.
Combine storytelling with compelling visuals and you're in business.
Another great way of injecting some storytelling into even the driest of subject matters is mentioning relevant examples to back what you're talking about.
Numbers and statistics help as well.
#11 Create content around industry secrets
If you're struggling to get content ideas (which in most cases, you shouldn't) creating content around your industry secrets always does well.
That kind of content provides a lot of value to your consumers because not many people are aware of what goes on behind the scenes in a lot of businesses and industries in general.
Informing and educating consumers about what they don't know is a great way of building trust and relationships with them.
And don't worry about going out of business if you do this.
For example, if you're a divorce lawyer and you create content on literally everything you know around divorce law, you won't run out of clients.
People in your area still won't represent themselves in a court of law even if they read all your content.
What this content marketing approach would do is make you the foremost authority in divorce law in your area.
Clients would read your content, be impressed by your expertise and thank you for your honesty and authenticity.
And then they would hire you.
This is just an example, but this tactic works like a charm in so many scenarios.
Building trust and relationships with your consumers is one of the biggest benefits of content marketing when executed correctly.
Consumers are sick and tired of being preyed upon by companies thirsty for their wallets.
When someone different comes along, willing to help them out for free, they take note of that.
Be honest, authentic and blindly consumer-centric with your content.
Sprinkle in some patience and you will see results.