The biggest difference between traditional marketing and modern digital strategies is that customers are much more empowered. As recently as 10 years ago, people had to rely on reputation, word-of-mouth recommendations and advertising messages that only went in one direction. Today, research is the rule, rather than exception. When your potential business partners have more time on their hands to learn about your products and services, you had better be ready with answers for whatever questions they ask.
Head them off at the pass
A study by Hinge explored the ways that customers go about evaluating professional service providers, and there are some crucial takeaways for content marketing strategists who want to get brand content in front of the right clients. Here are the insights from the study, along with some methods for taking advantage of them.
Remember that your site is the face you show online and that it should be as navigable, attractive and up-to-date as possible.
Over 80 percent of customers admitted that their most common form of research involved simply looking at a company’s website. Remember that your site is the face you show online and that it should be as navigable, attractive and up-to-date as possible. No amount of social media marketing will offset the credibility you lose when your site hasn’t been updated in months.
Search results rank highly
It should be no surprise that 63 percent of customers use Google searches to learn about companies. This emphasizes the importance of recent updates to search algorithms and interfaces. For instance, ratings and images are even more important following Google’s latest additions to Maps searches. When Google+ Places listings are complete and include ample photos and reviews, they’re more likely to create a good first impression? to a customer doing background research.
People still like to hear about products and services from the horse’s mouth, and in the case of respondents to Hinge’s study, 63 percent identified the horse as their friends and colleagues. Therefore, a post with a lot of Likes isn’t quite as influential as seeing something shared by an actual Facebook friend. Active engagement on social media will help build a following in certain industries or among particular demographics, which increases the odds that people who know each other will see connections with brands and explore further.
The greatest challenge of content marketing is to make sure customers know that companies exist at all. However, the second-greatest might be building a reputation among prospects who have heard of businesses but still want to know more. Every channel should be optimized to reflect this mindset, or companies won’t be able to shape their own images.