If I’ve learned anything during my two-plus decades of marketing leadership, it’s that trust is the backbone of the seller-buyer relationship. Modern businesses must work harder than ever to establish early rapport and nurture it for the customer’s buying journey and life cycle. With heightened competition for customers’ business, attention, and information, it’s no easy task.
Although marketing communications can include face-to-face encounters, it tends to lean toward digital content. Consumers do much of their initial and ongoing purchasing activities over their devices, and they want touch points along the way that validate their decisions.
Communication during the sales process—whether it’s from providing content or speaking with potential buyers—allows buyers to establish and build trust with your company. The more questions you can answer, the more informed your buyer will be, and the more inclined that person will be to do business with you.
Every time consumers receive a correctly positioned piece of content, they have one less reason to doubt they’ve made the right choice—and one more reason to become vocal, happy advocates. This could mean anything from a free ebook, a webinar invitation, or a post-purchase survey, depending on where they fall in the buying cycle.
Dig into your customers’ buyer’s journey
Before any content goes out, companies should spend time mapping out buyer journeys based on collective personas. Buyer personas ensure content is tailored to meet and exceed customer needs with the overall goal of improving credibility through helpful, pertinent, timely information, tools, and resources.
Conduct market research to create these personas. Ask your customers about their interests, their needs, and their digital preferences. Use analytics to keep track of how people interact with your brand’s social media, website, and other digital assets. Once you’ve collected that information, you can extrapolate it into a broader context to find patterns that inform personas.
With personas in hand, any small business can begin cultivating a bevy of content distinctly concentrated on satisfying customer needs at key buying stages.
Content and touch points in key buying stages to build trust
Each customer’s interaction and activity with your brand should inform you about where they are in the buying cycle.
You should know what information will be most applicable and valuable to each persona at these four key buying stages:
1. The awareness stage
At this stage, users realize they have a problem. They crave informative content from an industry leader without the hard sell. Satisfying their needs involves putting out premium content in the form of anything from blog posts and ebooks, to whitepapers and checklists. One of the most attractive content types for people in the awareness stage is video.
According to research by Wordstream, companies that use video to connect with customers can generate revenue 49 percent more quickly than those who don’t. Consequently, a home builder who wants to reach buyers in the awareness stage might want to post a “3 Myths About Home Loans” video along with a companion blog piece.
Use search ads and banner ads as virtual guideposts to attract early buyers to relevant content. After prospects have shown some interest or provided email addresses to keep the conversation going, you can then move them on to the next phase as marketing qualified leads, or MQLs.
2. The consideration stage
Buyers who show an interest in a company’s products or services are usually weighing their options. This stage focuses on research, and organizations that make themselves available through site chatbots, email drip campaigns, or other easy-to-navigate platforms can help consumers view them as go-to resources.
The content you create for MQLs at this stage should not be the basic, 101-level of content that you used in the awareness stage.
You’ll want to begin to position your company as the answer to the customer’s dilemma. For instance, the home builder from the previous example could create a whitepaper called “5 Ways ABC Home Builders Creates Customized Houses for Growing Families.” Other types of exceptional content for buyers in this stage include automated email sequences based on personas, product webinars, case studies, demonstration videos, and ads on social media or Google.
Just like during the awareness stage, ask prospective buyers to make a relationship-building move. You might encourage customers to contact your sales reps or request further information through a contact form, effectively pushing them from MQLs to sales qualified leads, or SQLs.
3. The decision stage
What matters most during the decision stage is user-generated content, such as reviews. As BrightLocal research shows, 91 percent of younger buyers depend up online reviews when making decisions. Plus, buyers of all ages typically read at least 10 reviews before selecting a company. The more pertinent, attractive reviews available, the better it is for everyone.
Ask consumers who decide to do business with you to complete a post-purchase survey or testimonial to boost your validity with future purchasers. In addition to serving the company, writing and posting reviews keeps your partnership with customers alive and healthy. Even reviews that shed light on stumbling blocks during the buying process are an opportunity for you to make immediate improvements.
Sales agents and marketers should nurture buyers through the decision-making process. Content that includes exclusive offers, tours, consultations, estimates, discounts, and similar incentives can sweeten and deepen the relationship. This will be incredibly important during the last stage.
4. The delight stage
Many organizations stop communicating with buyers after the decision stage, but it’s the ideal time to turn customers into brand advocates. Buyers appreciate getting the insider track or feeling as though they are part of your team. For this reason alone, the delight phase is essential.
Delighted customers might become micro social media influencers due to their excellent experiences. Some might provide referrals and word-of-mouth recommendations. Regardless, they are more likely to agree to fill out a survey or sign up for a loyalty program. If customers were hesitant to write a review before, they might be nudged to do so after receiving an email or text reminder. Power Reviews data reveals that 60 percent to 80 percent of all reviews stem from an email solicitation.
Consumer behavior has changed over the generations, but the core of what buyers want has not. Every prospect hopes to make the right decision, regardless of whether he or she is buying cruelty-free cosmetics from a local upstart or hiring a national construction company to create a backyard oasis.
Companies that tend to their customer relationships throughout the buying journey will inevitably produce more trusting outcomes that lead to improved revenue and trust.