Establishing trust with your target audience is hard. Consumers are more wary than ever of brands and the claims they make. A study by Trinity Mirror Solutions and Ipsos Connect puts numbers to that claim:
- 42 percent of consumers don’t trust brands.
- 69 percent say they distrust advertising.
That presents a serious challenge for marketers trying to reach consumers with relevant messaging.
If consumers aren’t listening to brands and don’t trust them, who do they listen to and trust? Their peers. According to research from referral software company Ambassador and Neilsen’s Harris Poll, 82 percent of people seek recommendations from friends and family before making a purchase. People are turning to peers who have already had personal experiences with a brand before making a purchasing decision.
Consumers are turning your customers into your biggest influencers.
Customers are Your Key for Building Trust
Your customers can potentially be your pot of gold for content marketing efforts. They are people you already have access to and relationships with, people who have tried and been satisfied with your products and services. “Your customers are your best assets to help bring a story to life, humanize your product and build an engaged community, says Elizabeth Walton, vice president of marketing at Yext.
Marketer and writer Holly Chessman explains that by getting customers involved in your content marketing efforts, you are able to
- receive endorsements for your brand from people outside of your company,
- create emotional connections with your customers,
- gain the trust of your audience, and
- motivate audiences to engage with your brand.
Your customers possess a wealth of information about your company, information you can easily tap into with a little bit of outreach. Once you are able to collect that intel, there are a number of different ways you can use it in your content marketing to reach your target audience.
Testimonials are Evidence of Satisfaction
Audiences like reading testimonials because they offer unfiltered, honest feedback and insights about your products and services from their peers. Therefore, they have an intrinsic level of trust that your ads or endorsers cannot provide.
But getting testimonials is not always a simple task. Not many customers will volunteer to give you a testimonial. You will have to reach out and ask for one. Sujan Patel writes at Content Marketing Institute that you should “implement a system that allows you to request and receive testimonials at scale.” Here is a basic sketch of the system he recommends:
- Contact recent customers while their experiences are top of mind. For your best customers, approach them individually, which may increase chances of success as well as strengthen your relationship.
- Follow up with those customers whether or not they send you a testimonial. If they did, maybe they will send another, and if they didn’t, maybe they would be willing to at a later date.
- Ask the right questions to receive a testimonial that is informative and inspirational. Your questions must ask for specific details about how the customer benefited most from your product or service. Ask these questions in a way that demands facts and figures in the response.
Testimonials are more than just quotes from your customers about how happy they are. Testimonials are works of art that have to be engineered for maximum impact. Here are some elements of an effective testimonial, as explained by Derek Gehl, CEO of the Internet Marketing Center:
- Benefits. You want specific benefits to be front and center of any testimonial.
- Claim substantiation. If you make a claim, make sure the testimonial backs it up with facts and figures.
- Relatable. It should come from someone your target audience can identify with. Karisa Egan, inbound marketing consultant at branding agency IMPACT, suggests that you feature customers from all of your buyer personas. Be sure to hit all of the pain points of each persona to be more relatable to audiences.
- Credible. Each testimonial should include verifiable data such as full name, date, hometown and a photo, as well as any other information that helps legitimize the testimonial.
- Comparative. Include information that sets your product apart from the competition.
Once you have a collection of testimonials, they can be used in all of your content marketing — blog posts, case studies, offline collateral, emails — to help gain the trust and business of potential customers.
Case Studies Enable You to Tell Success Stories
Content marketing is all about storytelling. What better story is there to build trust with audiences than a successful customer story?
Case studies provide a relatable, real-world example of how your product or service was used to meet a customer’s needs. As Jenna Hannington, former content strategist at Salesforce Pardot, notes, case studies are a third party endorsement of your brand because they come from the customer’s mouth, not your company’s.
Case studies are unique because they combine storytelling with information about your company, which makes them a great addition to your content marketing arsenal. They are a strong element of peer-to-peer influence that helps your brand gain credibility and trust with audiences. Switch Video attributes the success of case studies to the fact that they tell a story, focus on the customer, demonstrate success, leverage a customer’s brand, and are inexpensive and informative.
When writing case studies, keep in mind that you want to highlight your successes, as well as your customers’, in a way that engages the audience and inspires them to act. In an article at Kissmetrics, Kristi Hines offers tips for creating effective case studies:
- Choose someone your ideal customer can relate to. After reading your case study, audiences should feel that you are comfortable in their industry, knowledgeable about their specific needs and know how to get results.
- Tell the story from beginning to end. Include information such as what the customer does, what her goals are, what her needs are, and how your company met the goals and satisfied those needs.
- Include numbers so the reader can see real, tangible results.
- Tell your specific strategy for meeting the customer’s needs.
Case studies offer marketers the opportunity to brag about successes with facts and figures, not boastful marketing language. Consumers trust this type of content because they can verify it.
User-Generated Content Can Open Closed Doors
According to Edelman’s 2017 Trust Barometer Survey, peers are now seen as credible as technical and academic experts.
Because user-generated content is voluntarily offered by your customers, your audiences see it as more credible than content generated by the brand. As Yotpo’s Joanna Alter explains, user-generated content is trusted because it “provides relevant information without trying to sell anything.”
For marketers, you need to be harnessing the power of your customers’ user-generated content. The key is to find the customers who are saying positive things about your company and integrate them and their messages in a way that is relatable to your audience. Consultant Aaron Agius notes that to succeed with user-generated content, you have to provide as much value as possible to your audience.
Content marketer Victor Ijidola, in an article on Revoo’s blog, explains different ways user-generated content can help enhance your content marketing:
- By letting customer sentiment guide content creation, you can focus your content on what has the most impact.
- When customers are creating content, you in turn have a better understanding of their needs. This understanding translates into stronger content output from your own team.
Reaching out to your customers and curating their content helps develop new relationships with your target audience because this content is more authentic than branded content. To build stronger content, take the time to search out your happy customers who are singing your praises and use their stories.
Your Customers Are Your Strongest Asset
Traditional advertising and marketing efforts are struggling to reach audiences in the age of content marketing. Aaron Orendorf, founder of iconiContent, argues that brands that have shifted the focus from selling themselves to encouraging their customers to sell for them are succeeding where traditional marketing is failing — building trust, earning credibility and making sales.
Give your audiences what they are looking for by tapping into your customer base and using satisfied customers, and their stories, to lend credibility and authenticity to your content marketing. You will see more success in your marketing efforts by utilizing your strongest asset — your customers.