Social SMBs Series #3
There was a time, a long time ago (i.e. before the internet) when vendors owned the customer’s choice. When a customer was in the market for a new [something] they would establish who the leading players in that marketplace were and wrote off to them to request prospectuses and sales literature. From that they would then select a shortlist and invite those vendors to pitch their wares.
The customer’s view of what the marketplace looked like was very much controlled by the vendors within that marketplace.
A customer tends to be 57 per cent of the way through the procurement process before they even contact the vendors
We saw in my last post how a very powerful and celebrated piece of research by CEB and Google discovered the arresting statistic that a customer tends to be 57 per cent of the way through the procurement process before they even contact the vendors. This implies they have surveyed the market fairly thoroughly and made their own mind up from a variety of sources - vendor web sites, peer reviews, media, user forae - as to whom they should invite to the tender process.
In the modern age the only way you can be relevant to the first 57 per cent is to add value. In that 57 per cent, the customer is trying to solve a problem. Help the customer solve the problem and you are invited to the table. This is the context to Thought Leadership Content Marketing - you must produce content that helps the customer understand and solve the problem at hand.
The default position for many SMBs is to promote their wares. Recent research conducted by Smartcompany and sponsored by Salesforce in Australia found that 77 per cent of respondants saw social media as a channel for “communicating company news” and 73 per cent saw it useful for “marketing and promotions”. Only 52 per cent saw it as a channel for “industry thought leadership”. In today’s world, where the customer owns the decision process, it is that latter category that has the most relevance. It is no longer about you, but entirely about them.
So what is the nature of the content you must produce? Here are a few pointers:
Value-able - while a over-worn cliche, let’s understand this term another way. If your content defines the value of your subject matter, i.e. hard numbers, then your content is more likely to play a role in the decision making and the problem solving the customer is about. Research the figures and values - or, even better, contribute net new data - and the content will be kept and shared. This kind of content will get you an invite to the board room table.
Actionable - thought leadership content that proposes an actual model for solving a business problem is priceless. Customers will most certainly keep and share this kind of content, and will most likely follow up with you for more guidance. By demonstrating expertise that can be converted into immediate business process, you paint a picture of yourself as someone worth doing business with.
Readable - your content does not need to be beautiful prose. You do not need to employ expensive copywriters or go on a writing course. However, it must be possible to read and consume easily and quickly. This is why lists travel well - they can be skim-read quickly and are immediately digestible. Brief and succinct is also important.
Personable - inject some personality into the content! People want to do business with people. Content with character and personal anecdote is so much more enjoyable to read and more likely to spur a comment or some form of further engagement. Do not be shy of giving some of yourself to your work.
Obviously from time to time it is necessary to talk about yourself. But if you imagine that you have to earn this right, you are far more likely to do this within the bounds of what is palatable. A good ratio is 4:1 - i.e. for every four times you contribute selfless and altruistic value to the market by way of your content, you can think of yourself as having earnt the right to talk about your products, services or customer success. But alongside the ratio always remember the golden rule - its not about you, its about them - and your content will go down well.