Customer-focused contentAt a networking event recently, I was reminded of the phrase “Give away your knowledge, sell your expertise”. It’s an expression firms should live by.

However, the idea of giving away knowledge for free makes some businesses uneasy. They’d much rather create content that serves to sell their products or services, than part with some hard-earned knowledge.

It’s understandable why some firms might feel this way, to an extent. But this mindset is not conducive to gaining the all-important trust of customers in today’s business landscape. It encourages firms to stick with the hard-sell approach, which has long been out of favour with people.

High-quality, knowledge-driven content builds trust. Low-quality, product-driven content doesn’t. Consumers want to learn about your company and decide for themselves whether they can trust you or not – it’s not enough just to keep saying “you can trust us”. In fact, whenever anybody says “just trust us here”, you tend to do the opposite, don’t you?

However, according to the 2016 State of Small Business Report, still some 45% of small businesses are using content marketing and social media to directly promote their goods and services.

That isn’t to say there shouldn’t be a subtle sales message in your content, but it must be so subtle that your customers don’t pick up on it in the slightest.

Her are five tips on how to resist the urge to pitch and make content entirely knowledge based:

1. Toss the sales hat in the bin

When we first got into the content marketing business, we would make sure that every piece of evergreen content had some explicit client references, topped off with a call to action to try and tempt the reader over to the product pages. Today, however, you have to be a good deal more subtle when trying to influence the reader, which means taking the sales hat off altogether.

Sure, pick a topic that is well-aligned with your industry and of interest to your audience, but once you start creating your content, concentrate solely on writing a fair and balanced piece, setting your money-making inclinations aside until you tap the last full stop.

2. Go big on storytelling

Storytelling is a great way of ensuring that your content stays customer-focused. After all, nobody wants to tell a story that is poorly received, so every effort is made to make sure that the content is captivating as it can be. If the reader starts to get the impression that your story has an ulterior motive – i.e. it’s trying to get them to buy your products or services – they’ll be transported out of the narrative and away from your site, most likely.

There’s nothing wrong with telling the story of your brand, but the story must be strong enough to stand on its own two feet, i.e. it’s interesting enough to tell.

3. Research customer pain points

A sure-fire way of creating content that is in tune with your customers is to find out the things that are troubling them with regards to your industry, then offering up a solution. Positioning yourself as a brand that provides a solution to customer pain points will see people returning to your website – whether via a search engine or directly – the next time they have a question.

They’ll only need to come back for a few visits before they start to take your brand seriously, looking at what it is you offer. So get asking your existing customers about their challenges, whilst monitoring social media to get a feel for what’s confusing people.

4. Ask customers for content

One of the many benefits of incorporating user-generated content is that it’s great for gauging what content your customers like to see – insight which can be applied to your content marketing strategy going forward. You can also guarantee that the content isn’t going to be salesy in any way, which is probably why millennials love it so much; they spend more than five hours a day, or a third of their total media time, with content created by their peers.

All the while, it makes your business appear more authentic, as it proves you put your customers at the heart of everything you do.

5. Search out feedback

By asking for feedback, you will be less inclined to create a useless piece of content that only serves to show off your brand. It will also throw up some helpful opinions from your customers which will shape your future content.

With that, then, how did we do with this article?