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Content: the Proof of Concept

How do you buy these days? If you’re like me, it’s a mix of on- and off-line activity, and it can go on for weeks, even months. I’ll see something in a shop, or listen to a friend rave about their new gadget, or even pick it up from good old-fashioned broadcast or magazine advertising, but it’s very rare I’ll buy something on the spot on a whim. (Not unknown, but rare.)

Once I’m aware, I go to Google and find out more: what are people saying about it - and more specifically, what are people like ME saying about it? Can I get it cheaper, or should I pay more for better customer service? Do they do it in purple? Is there a new model about to come out, in which case I should hold back and pick up a bargain later? Do I REALLY need this, and if so is there a better alternative out there? It’s a combination of personal preference, my own perceived need (and I use ‘need’ in the loosest possible sense here) and social proof.

I usually visit the manufacturer’s site, but only to check logistical details such as dimensions and technical specs. My decision to buy is barely influenced by the manufacturer’s marketing copy, unless it's so bad they lose my trust: the decision is taken on others’ experience of the product in action and a more nebulous sense of whether this Thing (whatever it is) fits the life to which I aspire. I want it to work well, look good, or bring me kudos - ideally all three.

Buying services - off a coach, say, to pick a profession at random - is not so different. Put yourself in your client’s shoes: in considering whether or not to work with you they’ll be triangulating personal preference, perceived need and social proof in exactly the same way as they would for a dishwasher. The difference is that, unlike the dishwasher, they can’t see exactly what they’ll be getting up front and they can't return it so easily if there's a problem, which makes the social proof aspect that much more important.

What exactly social proof looks like for them will vary, but one of the most potent tools in your marketing kit as a business is your content. A professionally published book with good reviews is a passport to instant credibility, of course, but just as important is the more informal ‘publishing’ you do: if I’m buying services from someone, I want to read what they’ve written. Are they talking sense? Do I like the way they put themselves across? Do they really know what they’re talking about? Good, regular content not only ticks the mechanical SEO boxes, it builds that precious, nebulous sense of trust and connection between you and your readers - hard to quantify but none the less valuable for that.

I'm also interested in what others think of them. How many Twitter followers do they have? are people liking/commenting/sharing on their blog? do they have a credible number of connections and endorsements on LinkedIn? That’s why it’s vital that as well as credible, informative copy on your own site, you’re putting new content out regularly through multiple channels: you might not ‘get’ Twitter, but some of your customers will use it as a measure of your credibility whether you like it or not, and you have to decide whether you’re willing to lose them if they find you lacking.

Yes, creating content and channels takes time. But not creating them can be more expensive than you might think.

Tags: content | social media

This entry was posted on 05 June 2014 at 17:05 and is filed under content strategy. You can leave a response here.

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