This week’s marketing advice to those in the manufacturing and industrial areas, with the hopes these articles and blog posts help build more sustainable business practices for the readers, features a guest post from Marc Bissonette of Canadian ISP about Writing to Sell – Without Selling, or how to build trust and credibility through content marketing. Next week we will resume the Digital Marketing Strategy series, going over the best practices of digital assets, social media platforms, and online communities.
Every now and then, you come across a site that just “gets it”.
Last week, I came across exactly just such a one: www.cerasis.com – More specifically, a blog entry of theirs, cerasis.com/2013/06/27/freight-damage/, or “5 “Knowledge is Power” Tips to Mitigate Freight Damage and Freight Claims”.
What does it have to do with IT or ISPs ? Nothing. What is it doing in an article on a websites for ISPs in Canada ? Everything.
“Marketing” is, in the most general term, about communications with the public – Ideally, the portion of the public that will be buying your products or services. But “marketing” is not about putting up a page (or a flyer, poster or TV commercial) that says “buy our stuff” – Marketing is about communication – Most importantly, it is about creating two critical conditions in communications with the general public and your potential customer base:
Credibility and value.
You create credibility by demonstrating that not only do you know about the product or service that you sell, but equally – and more importantly – the industry in which your customers will use it. You create value by giving your customers the ability to benefit from the knowledge that demonstrates your credibility.
The cynical usually respond about now with “Ah, but Marc, nothing in life is free!” – And they are right – We’re not even trying to hide the “catch” behind this: By giving away this knowledge, we want people to buy from us: This is up front and in the open. It is so up-front, in fact, we don’t even need a “Buy now!” button on this type of information: The customers will decide for themselves that they want to buy from the company that is benefiting them. The thought process is often “If I benefit this much from their free knowledge, I wonder how they would benefit me if I were a customer ?”
If we take a look at Cerasis, as mentioned in the beginning here, what do they do ? They sell proprietary freight management software; They sell software that helps manage your pick-pack-ship process, a critical component of your sales cycle; Either the end-of-cycle, deliver-to-your-customer-after-the-sale part of the process, or the beginning of the same, which is receive-your-supplies-in-order-to-create-the-products-to-sell-to-your-customer part of the process. (More realistically: Both processes)
Now: Does this blog make reference to Cerasis software ? Yes, yes it does. Is is blatant, in-your-face mention ? No, in fact, the knowledge being shared can be used with any freight management system, including the old pen-and-paper (and lots of headaches) system. This is the beauty of this type of marketing: It provides valuable information that is useful to anyone within the industry that the company serves or operates, but does not require the company’s software to make it true or useful. That being said, it does, however, reinforce the fact that the company’s software helps achieve the advice even more efficiently, with greater cost savings and efficiencies.
The short sighted and impatient often dismiss this as “feel good fluff”, usually with “Pah! If they want my stuff, they’ll buy it, I don’t have to waste my time with this ‘marketing’ garbage!’ Those people, of course, are not in the “they get it” crowd: On the Internet, customers, especially customers of proprietary software solutions, do not make purchase decisions based on a single visit to a web site. That advice cannot be repeated enough: You have to get customers to return to your website in order for them to make a buying decision. This is true for websites selling widgets for $5.99, and even more true for websites selling widgets over $50,000. (Even if you’re not in the market for freight management software, when was the last time you walked onto a car lot, on a whim, and purchased the first vehicle that caught your eye with your debit card ? ). If you think that just listing the features and benefits of your offerings is enough to sway your customers into buying from you, you are sorely, sorely mistaken; Customers want to know that not only do you make a good product, but that you know the industry to which you purport to support.
Obviously, you cannot review the resumés of each seller on the ‘net, but you can see if they “walk the talk”. But here’s the kicker: It’s not just about putting up some brilliant hints and tips, then sitting back and waiting for the sales to roll in: You have to keep putting up the advice on a regular basis. Your customers certainly know that their industry is constantly changing and you have to show that you are aware of this, as well; After all, it’s not just about impressing the customer pre-sale, it’s also about impressing them after they buy from you. This isn’t rocket science: Everyone knows that a single sale is nice, but repeat and multiple referral sales are even better. (Impressing your customer, post-sale, is yet another topic, for another day)
“But I don’t have time to write content on a regular basis!”, some complain, “I am in the business of making widgets, not writing about them!” – This is understandable, but it is no excuse, especially if you want to compete against those who DO have the time to write about their products and their uses within the industry. So you don’t have time to write every day ? That is completely reasonable: Take some time, once a week, or, at the very least, once a month, and write several pieces in advance. Then, take the five minutes to post them to your site every couple of days and – voila! It looks, to the general public, that you are super-business-person, busily making your widgets, serving your customers AND writing about your industry and how your customers – existing and potential – can benefit, all on a regular basis.
In short: Show your customers not only that you know how your product or service can benefit them in their business, but that you also know how to improve their business lives simply by your knowledge of their industry. It is this kind of credibility that builds the trust that leads to a purchase decision.