Inbound marketers must constantly walk a thin line. On the one hand, the whole point of inbound marketing is to play the long game by building trust and relationships with potential customers. On the other, the ultimate goal is still to help your company make sales.
Inbound marketing costs time and money and if it doesn’t help the company increase profits, then it’s hard to continue to justify in the budget. But the moment you start pushing a sale you risk losing the trust of your audience. A recent Kentico survey found a mix of good news and bad news:
You need your inbound marketing efforts to eventually lead to sales, but all your work in building trust can be toppled in an instant if you’re not careful in how you approach your promotional messages. There are a few tactics you can take to help ensure your promotions don’t ruin your relationships.
The Kinteco survey touched on one of the solutions to the issue: full honesty. Almost half of consumers surveyed said they check the facts of a piece of content against other sources and start to lose trust if they don’t find sources to back up the piece’s claims. In the survey, 17 percent said that content that only includes the brand’s viewpoint also reduces their level of trust.
The message this sends inbound marketers is clear: Any temptation you might feel to present a partial truth that makes your business look better could quickly work against you. Make sure you cite your sources and back up any claims you make about your company or products with third-party sources as much as possible.
Another great way to show your audience you care more about helping than just selling is to honestly highlight your competitors in a way that’s useful to your customers. This could be a product comparison that shows the different features and strengths each product has, or a blog post showing some of the other trustworthy brands in the space.
It’s a hard step to take, but one that can pay dividends in showing your prospects how trustworthy you are. Marcus Sheridan puts the idea to the test with a post on the best HubSpot partners, tactfully leaving his own company off the list, while ensuring that people looking for a HubSpot partner are more likely to find their way to his website.
Anything you say about your brand or products is liable to produce cynicism in your audience. They know you have an interest in convincing them your products are awesome. But when a third party talks about your brand—one that consumers know doesn’t stand to profit directly—anything they say is likely to go further with your customers.
Social proof an especially powerful way to earn user trust: 92 percent of customers trust earned media more than paid advertising.
You can use social proof in your content by creating collaborative content with your customers or industry influencers, like HubSpot does by bringing marketing agencies and other guests onto their webinars. Having guests on your webinars or quoted in your blog posts shows that people are happy to be associated with your brand, without being on the payroll.
You shouldn’t use every piece of collaborative content to directly promote your brand, but when doing so fits naturally with the topic at hand, it can be a more persuasive format for including a sales message than content you create on your own.
So much of how a prospect will respond to a promotional message has to do with when and how you deliver it. If there’s a promotion in the first piece of content they ever encounter from your company—before they’ve started to have a relationship with your brand—they don’t have any reason to trust you yet.
Context marketing involves thinking carefully about which messages go out to a prospect based on where they are in their relationship with your brand. The idea is to use the data you have on each user’s behavior to tailor the messaging they receive, like Adagio Teas did here.
A consumer who’s shown interest in your brand’s content over time and has reached the point of, say, downloading a case study, is much more likely to respond well to a sales pitch than someone who just learned about your brand for the first time today.
Using personalization marketing increases your ability to provide relevant messaging and be strategic about the moment you start to get promotional, which reduces the risk of losing a prospect’s trust in the process.
Building trust is one of the most important goals of inbound marketing. If you push too hard too soon or in the wrong way, your inbound marketing efforts become worth far less. But if you can find the right balance between educating and being promotional, you can expect prospects to respond better when they do receive that first sales message.