The Edelman Trust Barometer is a survey that seeks to understand trust and credibility around the globe. For the past two years, Edelman has reported a significant decline in consumer trust across all four key institutions-business, government, NGOs, and media. Similarly, Forrester's 2018 CX research reported a drop in customer trust toward companies.
The Internet gives consumers unprecedented access to information and the ability to quickly gain insights about a company's customer experience. And customers are often not shy about sharing when companies aren't being authentic or don't listen to them.
That said, the Internet has also made it significantly easier for marketers to engage people at every stage of their customer life cycle, improving the way marketers boost trust and build brand loyalty. Forrester predicts that one of the most important needs for marketers in 2019 will be the ability to lead full life cycle experiences for customers. Companies that provide an engaging, honest experience to everyone who touches their brand will be the ones that come out on top.
A well-thought-out and methodical content strategy provides great customer experiences at every step of the journey. When building a content strategy, it's imperative to align your messaging to where the consumer is within this life cycle and create content that guides them through each stage and into the next.
In this stage, consumers have yet to form a strong opinion one way or another about your company, so you have a blank slate to build a platform of trust. First and foremost, it's important for your marketing team to decide who your company is and how you want to portray yourself.
Image attribution: Joshua Reddeko
Understand Your Brand
While it may technically be "pre-content strategy," establishing a strong voice and clear tone will help you reach the type of audience that naturally identifies with your brand. It's tempting to generalize your potential audience as any person who may be interested in making a purchase. However, creating content that offers a unique perspective and refining your messaging will help you attract an audience that aligns with your brand and believes in what you are selling.
Keep It High-Level
You have the attention, so it may be your first instinct to create content meant to sell, sell, sell. Don't do it. Your early-stage content should provide some kind of value to the customer rather than directly pushing a product. The awareness stage should be used for brand building and nurturing. One of the fastest ways to break the trust of a new consumer is to spam them with pushy, sales-centric content.
Tell Your Story
Storytelling humanizes a brand and builds a relationship with consumers by letting them understand that brand's identity.
The best content platform for brand storytelling in the awareness stage is your main owned channel and branded content hub. Create and build out a recognizable presence by publishing all content to your main website and then distributing it on your amplification channels.
Now, consumers are well-acquainted with your brand and are deciding if they want to engage with you or go with an alternative option.
People used to value price above all, but in an increasingly competitive space, consumers no longer automatically gravitate toward the cheapest option. Your reputation will be the key to winning a customer's heart. That's why brands should keep a close eye on major review sites as well as social networks to continuously engage with all feedback-positive or negative. Answering questions and addressing concerns could be the difference between gaining a new customer or losing out to the competition.
Here, consumers are ready to pull the trigger on a purchase. Taking reputation management a step further, this is the stage where companies should have already built a trusted relationship and are ready to make a soft pitch. In this phase, social proof like referrals, interviews, and testimonials are important.
In fact, more than 80 percent of Americans seek recommendations when making a purchase of any kind. Case studies are a great content piece to serve conversion goals because this content combines education, social proof, and results to provide a useful tool for building trust with the customer.
Image attribution: Brooke Cagle
Retention and Advocacy
By this stage, consumers have already purchased from you, but the content train shouldn't stop there. You now need to put effort into retaining their loyalty and interest in your brand. From a budgeting perspective, it costs five times as much to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one.
To add to that, you now have a brand advocate in your pocket. Why not utilize that source to get the word out to others in earlier stages of the buyer's journey?
Consumer trust can be a fickle thing, so it's important to continue conversations and engagement long after the initial purchase. Post-purchase campaigns should be a mix of educational content and promotional content. Providing educational resources that are interesting, relevant, and shareable is a great way to engage customers and help them spread the word about your company.
Did your customer have a good experience throughout the process? An essential key to retaining trust is asking them and truly listening to their answer. Sometimes companies get so caught up in their internal operations that they forget to ask what the customer actually wants. If you let the customers guide your strategies, understanding what to prioritize in your content becomes that much easier.
You know you've reached the ultimate level of customer trust when they share your company with others. Happy customers become brand advocates. Not only will they continue to purchase from you, they will encourage others to do so as well.
Though it seems difficult and elusive, it is possible for brands to develop consumer trust-it just takes a little bit of effort and engagement. Consumers want to make decisions at their own pace. It's your job to build their trust by arming them with whatever content and resources they need to make the best choice, even if they aren't ready to purchase just yet. The more you help empower the consumer, the more they will trust you to guide their brand journey.
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Featured image attribution: Kevin Grieve