Interested in learning how to build trust through content marketing? You're in for a big challenge. One survey from the American Association of Advertising Agencies found that very few people trust marketers. Only 4 percent of Americans surveyed said advertisers and marketers practice integrity — 2 percentage points behind what they thought of Congress.
The results can be disheartening for B2B marketers, but fortunately, the survey offered several insights into what it takes to earn customers’ trust. When asked to choose a definition for the word “integrity,” two-thirds of respondents replied, “For me, integrity means always keeping promises.”
Here's how to build customer trust through content marketing.
When the virtual assistant startup Zirtual shut down overnight, employees, customers and observers were stunned. And if that weren’t bad enough, only three weeks earlier, co-founder and CEO Maren Kate Donovan published a Forbes commentary about managing change during a company shakeup. Her assertion that “the sooner your team knows about upcoming shifts in the company — the better” rang sadly hollow.
It’s disingenuous for an executive to publish a thought leadership piece about transparency knowing things aren’t going well at her company and deliberately not communicating that fact to her employees. Today, that commentary leaves Donovan looking even less trustworthy than she did after just shutting her company’s doors in the middle of the night. Her personal brand is damaged and so is the corporate brand.
That’s unfortunate because Startups.co quickly announced plans to buy Zirtual and get it back up and running. Donovan’s untrustworthy marketing moves won’t help — even if she doesn’t stay on as a company leader. And customers who don’t forget this incident will question her leadership in future endeavors.
The U.S. marketplace is full of similar examples. For example, Naked Juice got dinged a couple of years ago for allegedly misusing terms such as “100 percent juice,” “100 percent fruit” and “all natural” when its products included GMO ingredients. The brand’s parent company, PepsiCo, refuted the claims but stopped using the phrases and agreed to a settlement.
The lesson here is that you need to be honest and genuine in all your marketing — including everything your company leaders put out. Get attention for what your brand, product or service does right — not for claims that could come back to bite you later.
Steer Clear of Salesy Content
People today don’t want a hard sales pitch in branded content — and they will tune out as soon as they sense they’re getting one. The content you create should be full of information that customers and prospects can use, even if they don’t own or buy what you’re trying to sell.
To focus on providing valuable information and avoid a hard sell, look at ways to solve your audience’s problems, explain what new developments in the industry mean for them, and offer insider tips and tricks to help them succeed.
Share Your Competitors’ Content
It’s true; your competitors are producing great content, too. If you find something that makes you wish you had written it first, don’t be afraid to share it. Doing so not only provides your audience with valuable information, but also shows that your organization is confident enough about its own products and services that referencing a competitor isn’t a threat. When you show you have nothing to fear and nothing to hide, you build trust.
Check — and Double Check — the Facts
When people turn to your brand for information, that information needs to be correct. One of the goals of content marketing is to establish your brand as an expert in its field. Inaccurate or messy reporting makes it hard for your audience to trust your content — and by extension whatever you’re selling.
Acknowledge and Apologize for Your Errors
Of course, even experts aren’t perfect and we all make mistakes, so part of building trust means admitting when you’re wrong. The 4 A’s survey found 44 percent of respondents said they’d be better able to trust former "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams if he had given a more honest and direct apology for lying about his experiences in Iraq.
When you fess up to being wrong, it shows you’re dedicated to transparency and getting the story right. Who wouldn’t trust that?
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