Twelve well researched, clearly articulated, thought leading blog articles on topics your business has expert knowledge on, could translate to a year’s worth of blog and social media posts, Fact Sheets, downloadable PDFs, eBooks and newsletter material.
Add a few well produced videos and infographics, and you have just created a rich content bank, to feed into your online communication and engagement strategy― and build trust.
Why has sharing good quality knowledge online, become so important?
In a globe saturated with choices of services and products that can be purchased without human interaction, trust becomes a key decision factor. Does the company selling the product or service have credibility? Can they demonstrate integrity? Do they engage with their customers well?
Building trust takes time. Sharing expert knowledge that demonstrates that you understand your market, can help build trust and integrity online. Just showing your wares ― selling your product or service in isolation ― isn’t enough, and never has been.
What about content strategy?
I’ve chosen the phrase communication and engagement strategy intentionally. The term content strategy has evolved to become a bucket for capturing all marketing activities – both paid and organic (unpaid), online and print.
In this article, I’m talking about getting in touch with your online community and opening up conversations ― around topics that your audience wants to engage in. Regularly sharing expert knowledge that may provide a solution to a challenge your audience is facing, will help establish your business as a trusted advisor or thought leader.
And why is trust and integrity important in sales?
Experience shows us that it only takes one trust failure to put a substantial hole in a business’s reputation. The financial services industry globally is still struggling to rebuild and gain trust, following the Global Financial Crisis. Consider the food industry. It only takes one leak of a food poisoning incident for a reputable dining establishment to weather a rapid decline in revenue that may close it down.
Global Public Relations experts, Edelman have established the Edelman Trust Barometer. It is a fabulous source of real life examples of how trust can build or destroy sales. It is also a fantastic example of some great content marketing! Look. It’s worked. I’m spreading the word as you read.
A case study in thought leadership
Retirement Communities Australia (RCA) is a retirement village developer in Victoria and a good example of online thought leadership for the over 60s. Their content strategy has been to connect with a qualified audience, building trust over time. Then, when the time is right, established trust helps in the sale process.
Their blog site www.retirement-communities.com.au hosts hundreds of blog articles on topics relevant to Victorian’s over 60 years of age. This content is shared via Facebook, and a monthly email newsletter. Only a handful of the articles shared over the years are directly espousing the products and services they are selling. The online formula has been a consistent program of original, researched blog articles - shared via Facebook and a monthly email newsletter.
Google Analytics consistently shows social media posts, blog articles and email newsletters driving traffic to the individual retirement village websites ― the pointier end of the sales funnel. Calls to action are important and these are found to the side of, or below the articles – either as campaign advertisements or links. This way, the calls to action don’t distract the reader from the content, but they are there.
RCA is one of the fastest growing retirement village operators in Australia.
ANZ BlueNotes is another example of this approach. Bluenotes.anz.com is an online hub of news and insights aimed at ANZ’s target audience groups. There is no direct reference to ANZ products or services on this website.
Thought leaders grow trust. At the point of sale, a sense of trust can make a big difference in closing the sale.
Before you build your content bank…
Finding an expert content strategist is not always a budget friendly option, particularly for small start-up businesses ― although the rewards later make it a worthwhile investment. Finding a professional online writer, is a great second option to start building your content bank.
Before you pick up your mobile phone and start getting quotes from writers, you need a plan.
Here is what you need to know about your business before you engage a writer:
- What is your communication / content strategy objective? I’ll help you with this one. Your objective is to build awareness of your brand through thought leadership. You should also have a marketing and advertising strategy to boost your audience reach and your sales.
- Who is your audience? If you don’t know who your customer is, it is time to find them. Come up with three to five ideal customers ― those that will give you the best return. Give them names, ages, gender, marital status, financial position, interests, likes, dislikes – give them life, it’ll help you understand your customer so you can grow your business. It will also determine the tone you use when you communicate with them.
- What challenges do your audience face? You and your business will hold knowledge and expertise that the majority of people don’t have. What topics can you provide expert knowledge on, that your audience will find valuable? For example, if you are a mortgage broker, topics such as interest rates; what to look out for in terms and conditions of a loan contract; and how to free up capital to invest in property, are all examples of topics that you can provide expert knowledge and insights.
- What happens throughout a calendar year that affects your audience? If you’re in the financial advisory business, the RBAs interest rates announcement might be topical news for your audience. If you’re in retail and sell gifts, special days like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day need to be highlighted in your online communications calendar. Some of these dates, may give you topic ideas as well.
Make regular content deposits
Once you know the topics you want to engage your audience around, you can now brief your content provider.
Twelve well written blog articles, means one topic a month can be posted via each of your social media, and other online channels.
Ideally you’ll want to communicate with your online community more frequently.
Deposit existing knowledge in to your content bank. You may already have material that just needs updating, and is worthy of sharing. Curating content can work very effectively too – Curating quality content.
As ideas come to mind, you can continue to brief your writer, and keep the blogs coming.
Diversify your content investment
Once you’ve built a bank of content, you can repurpose it to suit your online objectives. What that means is, tweaking your content to suit different online channels to achieve goals (such as building an email database) and extend the use of the content.
Why just use a well-researched, well written article for a blog – when you could transform it in to a downloadable PDF Fact Sheet? To download each Fact Sheet, you might request an email address ― talk to your web developer about how to make this happen. Provided you’ve clearly stated email addresses will be added to a mailing list – you’ll be growing an email database.
Or, perhaps all the articles could be edited into a downloadable FAQs booklet.
Best still, as you grow your online community, re-sharing content that was shared a year ago is perfectly okay as your subscriber base grows.
What are you waiting for?!