Content and Credibility

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A classic print ad promoting the benefits of advertising in trade media features a dour, older bow-tied man–a tough customer from central casting–sitting in a wooden armed swivel chair saying: “I don’t know your company; I don’t know your company’s products; I don’t’ know your company’s customers; I don’t know your company’s record or reputation; now what was it you wanted to sell me?”

The premise of the ad was trade advertising would soften this tough customer up over time by positioning “your” company and establishing “your” credibility-“your” trustworthiness and expertise–in his eyes.

Unfortunately, trade advertising (offline or online) is no longer able to do that today because nobody reads anymore. At best, they scan. In competitive markets busy decision-makers filter out promotional messages because they no longer trust or have patience for outright promotional appeals and sales pitches. However, they still do need expert help in solving their problems.

Content is the way these decision-makers differentiate between a problem-solving expert and a promotional salesperson. What is content? Content is information of value to prospective purchasers. Content is how purchasing decision-makers judge the credibility of someone presenting themselves as an expert. And today, credibility is the key to initiating a business-to-business sale.

The behavioral sciences tell us credibility is made up of equal parts of expertise and trustworthiness. How does a business-to-business marketer convince a prospect of his expertise and trustworthiness? He associates himself with customers who have trusted him with their business. He tells specific application stories that demonstrate his problem-solving expertise. He expertly communicates aspects of his industry’s body of knowledge important to decision-makers.

Application stories, project photos, seminars, technical articles and other expressions of industry knowledge — are content oriented. They have value for the purchaser of business-to-business products and services.

A decision-maker may think “How qualified are you compared to your competition?” Or, “Are you credible enough compared to your competition?” Content made available to the decision-maker that addresses your expertise and trustworthiness could make your firm appear more credible, and more qualified, than your competition.

Professionals market their services by claiming specialties-an architect specializes in medical facilities, an accountant specializes in retail businesses, a lawyer specializes in divorce. If they can prove credibility in their “specialty,” then they only have to compete with other professionals who have the same specialty. Similarly, business-to-business marketers who can prove their credibility to prospects in a niche market only have to compete with other marketers promoting a specialty in that niche.

Sometimes market specific opinion leaders are the only ones who will read your content. They in turn will pass on a judgement of your credibility to decision-makers who respect their opinion on products or services like yours.

Value-added content creates and maintains the perception of credibility in decision-makers and opinion leaders for your products or services.

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