Customers Network for Data to Solve Problems

By Stephen Dupont, vice president, Pocket Hercules

Because there is so much information readily available about products and services in today’s on-demand Internet Age, during the buying cycle, potential customers seek the trusted opinions of peers (friends, family, co-workers, etc.) with whom they can personally and readily connect. These peers are often your brand’s core fans.

This is a critical step in the buying process that more companies need to consider when developing marketing communications campaigns and outreach efforts. Before a customer contacts a sales person representing your product, he or she often shares content available about your company’s products and services with their peers to filter that information into more digestible nuggets, based on research conducted by Dr. Mike Porter, APR, director of the University of St. Thomas Master of Business Communication Program.

“People network for data they need to solve a problem,” says Porter. “They seek information on their own, but to make sense of that data or to find higher quality data, customers seek out expert opinions to filter that data into their reality.”

This is why it’s critical to make sure your branded content is accurate, authentic and shareable. In a sharing culture, we trust the links that our peers share with us, especially those whom we believe have an expertise in a particular area. For example, even though I consider myself a serious downhill skier, there are those I know who are really into it, and whom I’ll contact in planning a trip to a new ski resort. In many cases, these peer experts are a brand’s core fans — the people who have invested their identity into your brand and who are in the unique position of amplifying your branded content through their actions and their shares.

So what can your organization do to build more trust into its branded content? Here are my top five recommendations that you can start to implement into your marketing communications strategy today:

  • Anticipate the information needs of your customers. Have you ever encountered a sales person who isn’t prepared with the information a customer wants – now – to close a sale? Your content may be doing the same thing. Design branded content to anticipate the toughest questions a customer may have to move a potential customer to a “yes” decision faster.
  • Build it with authenticity. Customers want branded content that speaks to their reality. Invite your customers to participate in the development of your branded content by actively seeking out customer opinions and insights and personalizing your branded content to your customer’s day-to-day, pocketbook needs.
  • Show them. A salesperson’s most powerful tool is a visual demonstration of a product or service. Use visuals – videos, photos, infographics, slideshows – to demonstrate product value. Think of your website as your company’s new sales showroom.
  • Make it easy. Experienced sales professionals know that if you want to increase your sales, make it as easy as possible for customers to buy. Make your company’s branded content as easy as possible to access and in a variety of formats and presentations to allow for the greatest number of potential customers to be exposed to it?
  • Don’t make it pushy. What do most B2B and B2C consumers hate the most about salespeople – pushy salespeople. Your branded content can come off pushy too – if you use hyperbole to urge a decision now or if you demand that customers provide an excessive amount of details to obtain information about pricing. The top sales performers become trusted for their experience and wisdom. Your branded content should, too.
  • Make the decision safe. Nearly every customer fears making the wrong decision and that’s why the greatest hurdle to closing a sale is the “no decision.” Your branded content needs to help your potential customer feel that he or she is making a smart, sound decision. Build your content with the intent of educating and informing your customer versus selling your customer on your product or service.
  • Know and stay ahead of your competitors. As you’re creating your branded content, carefully monitor what your competitors are doing. Has a competitor staked out a position on a specific issue or area of customer concern to create that cognitive monopoly in a customer’s mind and position themselves as the leading expert?
  • Strengthen your weakest link. Empowered informed customers who have spent hours researching solutions expect sales associates to be accurate, knowledgeable and available – and prepared to translate the product or service into a solution that meets the customer’s reality. Make sure your sales associates complement the trust you’ve worked hard to build into your branded content.

In a world of empowered customers, branded content no longer plays a support role – for many, if not most companies in today’s digital age, it plays point, serving as the first impression of your company – the way it thinks, what it offers, and what it promises to deliver. If you want to see more qualified sales, add a new, high performing salesperson to your team – branded content.

Stephen Dupont, APR, is VP of Public Relations and Branded Content for Pocket Hercules (www.pockethercules.com), an integrated advertising, PR, digital, branding firm based in Minneapolis. Contact Stephen Dupont at www.linkedin.com/in/stephendupont.

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