Many elements come into play for consumers when choosing to make a transaction. From picking a real estate agent to finding an honest HVAC repairman, we want to feel validated in our decisions. Sure, ads and commercials help give us a starting point for the process, but what really drives our decision making process is our perception of reputation.
These perceptions of reputation can come from researching businesses on Google and Yelp, asking for recommendations from our group of trusted friends, or both. This could happen instantly, like searching for a place to get a haircut, or over time, like finding a loan officer. We pull the trigger once we’ve reached a comfortable level of validation for a business.
So how then can you, the business owner, take control of your perceived reputation so that when someone finds you online or hears about you from friends, you immediately stand out as the right choice for them?
The answer is content marketing.
How Content Marketing Builds Your Reputation and Business
Necessity truly is the mother of invention. In Marcus Sheridan’s case, he didn’t invent content marketing, but he became really good at it pretty quickly, because he had no choice.
Before the recession, Sheridan spent $250,000 annually on traditional TV, radio and pay-per-click advertising for his pool installation business in 2007. Cutting his marketing and advertising budget drove Sheridan to think deeply about how he could engage with customers more affordably and effectively.
With a tenth of that budget, he increased his market share within the pool installation industry by focusing on content marketing – writing blogs and producing online videos that answered many of the questions that he fielded from customers over the years. Rather than selling his business and services, he took the approach of helping through information. As a result, during a time when people were cutting back on luxury expenses like pools, his business grew tremendously because of his reputation.
So How Does Content Marketing Work?
Content marketing is a way of indirectly promoting yourself and your business by connecting with your clients on the issues that they care about. The goal of content marketing is to build trust and relationships, as well as a reputation of integrity and authenticity.
By becoming a trusted authority in your area of expertise, you stay top of mind with your clients and are better able to convert your marketing efforts than through traditional marketing and advertising, which people have tuned out.
Did you know: seven out of 10 consumers prefer to learn about a company through articles, not advertising, according to Marketing Tech Blog.
Online, content marketing takes many shapes and forms, like blogs, videos, how-to guides and social media. But as a concept, content marketing is now essential to any marketing strategy.
Use LinkedIn Publishing for Content Marketing
Recently, I shared a guide to LinkedIn’s powerful publishing platform and how this tool can skyrocket your social reputation and influence through your professional network. Free social media tools like LinkedIn’s publishing platform can help you use content marketing to promote your business, build your reputation and expand your reach, all at minimal cost.
Neat fact: Over 80 percent of social business to business leads come from LinkedIn, according to an Oktopost study. This is compared with 12.73 percent from Twitter, and 6.73 percent from Facebook.
LinkedIn’s publishing platform enables you to create your own content and share that content with your network – past clients, people in your industry, friends, and family, or other acquaintances with whom you are already connected on LinkedIn.
Publishing your own content on LinkedIn is a way to indirectly remind past clients and connections about the services you offer, which is especially important if your industry has a longer sales cycle, such as real estate, insurance or lending. Providing useful information and advice can be a way of reconnecting with past clients or getting introduced to potential clients in an unobtrusive way. Using the LinkedIn social media platform also allows you to capitalize on the trust and reputation of your contacts, because when they like, share or view your content, that activity gets shared on their contacts’ news feeds.
Grow Your Reputation and Influence Using LinkedIn
By staying focused on the needs of your clients and customers, your storytelling and marketing efforts will be more effective and build a powerful reputation for your business.
Remember, content marketing is not the same as advertising; it’s very tempting to sell and market your business the traditional way. “We have the best realtors in town!” “We offer the lowest interest rates of all of our competitors!” “We offer the most fabulous products and the most awesome services ever!”
And though everything you say may be true, clients and customers – and even your friends and family – don’t really want to hear the hard sell. It’s the fastest way to get ignored, to garner unsubscribe requests, or to get tagged for the spam filter. You will lose their trust and become suspicious in the eyes of your contacts and clients. So avoid the temptation of the straight, hard sell.
Instead, think about what your customers want to hear and what will spark an ongoing conversation that will keep them engaged. A simple way to do this is to do as Sheridan, the pool guy, advised: stop for a moment to think of the questions that your clients and customers have asked, then answer them.
Examples of Good Content Marketing
If you’re a realtor, the questions may be: “What types of fees are related to buying and selling a house?” “What services do realtors really offer and how do you justify your fees?” “I can only afford to spend $5,000 to make improvements to sell my house. What should I do?”
If your business is a wellness spa, your customers might want to know: “What type of training do acupuncturists need to go through?” “What causes the knots in my back?”
If you’re an insurance agent, maybe you answer these questions: “My insurance rate went up. Why?” “How does age impact insurance rates?” “What Should I Remember When Filing a Claim?”
If you’re a loan officer, the questions may be: “My neighbor got a four percent interest rate and I got eight percent. Why?” “What can I do to help build good credit?” “What factors impact my interest rate?”
Content marketing acknowledges the fact that people have the power of information, search and research in their hands, and smart business owners do their best to be transparent, informative and professional. However, building up this credible reputation is an ongoing process, both for staying top of mind as an influential person with past clients, and being outwardly known as an industry expert for newcomers.
Using LinkedIn’s publishing platform can be an effective part of an overall content marketing strategy that keeps the clients’ needs at its center, while simultaneously building up your reputation and that of your business.
In short, content marketing means offering reader-focused information that’s meant to help, not sell. Providing your honest, expert advice and useful information keeps clients engaged and you at the top of their minds when asked for recommendations from their friends or when they need your services.