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The content conversation

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Claire Martin's avatar
Claire Martin

Back in the good old days, before the internet (we’re showing our age, we know) business was all about relationships.  

In the B2C space particularly, factors like trust, knowledge, authenticity and likeability were just as influential in terms of decision-making as pragmatic factors like quality, service and price.

Then digital came along, and the goalposts moved.  How could businesses build relationships, demonstrate authority, or be authentic in an online space?  The answer lay with content.

Two decades on, and it’s widely accepted that content marketing is a powerful way to build connections with customers.  In a digital world, content is an excellent substitute for many of the face-to-face interactions businesses once relied on to entice people into their sales funnel. 

But while we all innately know how to build authentic relationships face to face, many brands still struggle to do this using content.  Why?  Because they fail to recognise that just like real-world relationships, these digital interactions also need to be genuine, three-dimensional experiences that do much more than simply sell.

The problem/solution trap

For example, a lot of brands fall into the ‘problem/solution’ trap when creating marketing content.  Their ultimate goal is sales, so they think every piece of content they create should be selling their products or services as a solution to the customer’s need.  

Imagine Dave is a real-world businessman who sells paper clips.  Dave comes into the office and sees a customer sitting in the waiting area, but instead of saying hello, chatting about the weather, or asking how that person’s day is going, he immediately launches into a sales pitch for his latest paper clip innovation.  

At lunch, Dave meets with a new distributor, but instead of engaging in conversation about how business is going, sharing thoughts on challenges he’s currently facing, or offering advice in response to worries voiced by his associate, all Dave does is talk about paper clips, bombarding his companion with facts about paperclips, and information about new paper clips.

The people Dave comes into contact with over the course of his working day quickly get bored of hearing about paper clips.  They become fatigued by Dave’s constant sales patter.  Pretty soon, they stop answering his calls, and they delete his emails, unopened.

This is what happens when businesses forget that content marketing is not just a one-way conduit for sales information – but a conversation.  

Digital small-talk has value

When we’re building real-world business connections, we never limit ourselves exclusively to business conversation.  We rely on things like small talk and mutual sharing of our vulnerabilities to build trust and rapport with colleagues and customers.  

As a business, if you’re using content only as a sales pitch, or only to demonstrate how your product is the best solution for your customer’s problem, then you’re missing a vital opportunity.  Switching up your content to include things that aren’t about selling (and even things you might feel a little uncomfortable sharing) can have potent outcomes in terms of building relationships that ultimately drive sales.  Here are some tips: 

Add value (for free)

All content should add value for the audience, in terms of giving them information they need to know in order to make a purchase.  But you can take this a step further by offering something for free – no strings – in the form of useful content.  This could be how-to guides and tutorials, blogs containing ‘top tips’, downloadable branded tools your customers can use in their work or even just useful suggestions they can try to increase sales (which is what this blog aims to do for you!).

Lift the veil

In business, as in our personal lives, we gravitate towards people we like, who share similar values and opinions to ourselves.  As the line between brand and culture becomes increasingly blurred, allowing your customer to go behind the scenes of your business is a great way to give them the transparency they crave, show them you walk the walk and make them feel like part of your inner circle.  Sharing interviews with staff (fun or informative), posting candid photos on social media or providing insights into your day-to-day activities is a great way to build authenticity and trust, which makes customers more likely to convert. 

Be human

In an increasingly faceless, paperless, contactless world, humanity is a valuable currency.  What people crave most of all is real connection, and brands that fail to establish this are unlikely to thrive in the long term.  We’re not suggesting you fill your social feeds with personal musings or what you had for dinner, but creating content that shows the real people and the real human values that lie behind your brand is a proven way to engage with your audience.  Brands that are not afraid to be vulnerable can build incredible social capital with their customers, even if they’ve made a mis-step (check out these great examples of brands that said sorry:  Showing you care, by demonstrating social responsibility within your industry or local community, is another smart move for content creators.  If your business is doing something to help others, telling people about it can help you – by winning new business, increasing your reach on social media, and making your company a place that can successfully attract and retain good people.

Need help with your content strategy for 2022?  Get in touch.