Are you going to spend a lot of money to buy a pricey electronics gizmo from a no-name company or one with an established name you’ve bought from before? If you’re like most people, you’ll buy from the known entity.
People tend to buy from companies they feel comfortable with, that they know and trust, especially when it comes to more expensive purchases. That same principle applies whether you are selling something as niche as a database of high-tech buyers or something with wide appeal like a swimming pool. That is, any product or service that is more than a reflexive buy.
So, how do you get people to feel comfortable with your company—even if you’re a small business in your industry and not the market leader? And even if you’re about as well known as a hermit?
A key to doing so is to become a thought leader in your industry. Underscore the word "industry." You don’t need to be an expert about everything. You do need to know something about your industry. And no doubt you already do.
Becoming a thought leader in your industry doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily the smartest kid on the block. It does mean that you’re the most receptive and understanding of your customers' needs.
A few cases in point.
The marketing software company HubSpot has experienced rocket-propelled growth in its seven years in business, attracting over 1 million visitors and more than 60,000 leads through its website each month. Not bad for a B2B company. It has succeeded in large measure by creating oodles of great content that is valuable for its SMB audience. As Mark Roberge, senior vice president of sales and services at HubSpot, has been quoted as saying, "You can’t generate enough content. Remember both quality and quantity."
Similarly, Marcus Sheridan, an owner of River Pools and Spas and author of the popular sales blog, The Sales Lion, was hitting a rough patch in 2009 and had overdrawn the company’s bank account on three consecutive weeks. Sheridan, realizing he needed to do something different, started blogging. He didn’t just blog to blog but answered customers’ questions strategically—answering the biggest questions they had—thereby securing top rank in the search engines for the answers to the questions most on his customers' minds. Suddenly, River Pools was the authority on fiberglass pools. Sheridan's approach worked, with revenues now exceeding what they were before the downturn and Sheridan hailed as a web marketing guru.
Now—ready to become a thought leader? Here are 6 ways to help you do just that:
1.Address your customers’ concerns. What do they want to know? Develop content geared to addressing those questions. And remember to include a call to action at the end of your blog. It can be to another, related piece of content and/or to a special offer. Better yet, give people a choice of actions. They are more likely to choose one if you give them options.
2.Amplify your answers. Don’t just limit yourself to a blog post. Tweet about it. Create a video addressing some of the questions. Post in other social media channels. You want to be everywhere your customer and prospect is.
3.Curate content. Provide a quick synopsis of articles in your industry. People won’t remember that you didn’t author the articles. But they will appreciate that you referred them to the articles. And by extension credit you with the actual author’s expertise. Post links to the articles in social media in addition to blogging about them.
4.Don’t forget email. Summarize and link to a blog post via email to generate more readers.
5.Write for trade publications in your industry. Trade publications are looking for content written by industry experts particularly if the content is not self-promotional. If you’re not a writer, hire a student or a freelancer to help.
6.Meet and greet. Speaking is a great way to be in front of a captive audience eager to learn. Seek out opportunities to speak at trade shows by suggesting great content you can present.
Focus on these 6 tactics and you will go from hermit status to thought leader. Are you ready to get started?
[Image: Flickr user Robert Engberg]