In professional services marketing, building trust with your prospects is key. You're selling a relationship - and the most important thing, in any relationship, is trust.
With that in mind, it’s no coincidence that many professional services firms traditionally won their business through referrals and word of mouth. But, in the digital world, we have to build trust differently. We have to work harder to earn it.
This is why many professional services firms today have adopted a content marketing approach. By providing your target audience with interesting, educative, and helpful content, you can position your company as a trusted source of authority and as the ‘go-to-guys’ in your field.
Creating helpful content
Content marketing focuses on creating, publishing, and distributing content for your target audience. The goal is not to create content that pitches your service. Instead, the goal is to create informative, engaging, and insightful content, that helps prospects overcome a pain point.
Creating content that is truly helpful requires a solid understanding of your target audience. Buyer personas, semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers, are essential to your content marketing strategy. They go beyond demographics and capture what drives them, how they proceed on their buyer's journey, and what a successful purchase looks like to them. They incorporate likes, dislikes, habits, and behaviours, as well as motivations, concerns, and where they spend their time online.
If you know your prospects fears, aspirations, interests, and needs, you can create content that speaks directly to them. If you know what type of content they prefer to engage with you can create content that will attract their attention. And if you know what media channels they use, you can share your content in all the right places to ensure it reaches them.
The importance of context
Each piece of content you create should be designed to meet an anticipated or known need of your target audience at a specific point in the buyer’s journey. The buyer’s journey can be split into three stages: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision.
To create powerful Awareness stage content, you should be focused on helping your buyers understand their challenges and ways they might overcome them. Identify a symptom affecting your persona and create content that will help them get to the root of their pain. Typical content might include blog posts, infographics, and videos related to a specific pain point or questions they may have, as they are easy to find and consume.
At the Consideration stage, you want to guide them through their problem and towards viable solutions. That doesn’t mean telling them all about your service and why yours is the right solution for them. If you seem to be overly pushing your company it will only turn people off. Instead, offer a balanced view of different options and the pros and cons of each. You’ll gain much greater trust this way. Longer-form, more detailed content like whitepapers and eBooks are effective here.
Finally, the Decision stage is the point where the buyer decides who they are going to hire, so you do want to give them a nudge towards your solution. But keep it helpful, rather than pushy. For example, offer case studies, client videos, and demo videos. For more details, you may find it helpful to read one of our posts on inbound sales.
Telling your story
Developing a content marketing strategy isn’t the only way you can build trust with your target buyers. Through helpful and informative content you can show your expertise and knowledge of the market. But if a prospect is interested in doing business with you, it won’t be long before they start looking into whether you’d be a suitable match.
Plus, there may be crowds of competitors offering similar services and also trying to establish themselves online as a trusted and authoritative source. You need ways to stand out from the crowd beyond just providing helpful and informative content. So what is it that differentiates you? And how can you leverage this to better connect with your audience?
The most successful companies ‘start with why’, according to leadership and brand expert, Simon Sinek. Why your business exists is the core purpose of your company, and this is the part you need to communicate to make prospects sit up and pay attention.
Sinek's theory is that communicating the passion behind the ‘why’ will communicate with the listener’s limbic brain - the part of our brain that processes feelings like trust and loyalty, as well as decision-making.
It’s the “why” that matters to your buyers. They aren’t interested in your turnover and profit, your management structure, or your business objectives. They are interested in why your organisation does what it does - and how this resonates with them.
A personal touch
Being personable is another way to develop trust and confidence with your target audience. Buyers want to know that there are real human beings behind your company’s online presence. These are the people they’ll potentially be entering into a relationship with.
So how can you appear more personable to your target audience? Some of these tips may seem obvious, but their value shouldn’t be underestimated.
- Inject some personality into your website, your blog posts, and other content.
- Use a tone of voice that reflects your company’s personality and values. A more down to earth feel might make your company feel more authentic, but this doesn’t work for all industries.
- Keep your About Us page up-to-date, and include pictures as well as a short bio.
- Use videos of key people on your website - interviews, explainer videos, etc.
- Ensure a consistent process in all social media interactions.
- Sign off all marketing emails with a named person.
As a professional services marketer, you're not selling a one-off product. You're selling what will hopefully be a long and prosperous relationship. And as with any relationship, trust is essential.
Demonstrating your company’s expertise and understanding of the market, as well as adopting an open and personable approach, are crucial to building trust with your audience.