Melanie Deziel (Chief Content Officer, StoryFuel) opened her Content Marketing World 2021 session with a tough pill for marketers to swallow. “Your audience doesn’t trust you,” she matter-of-factly stated to a packed room of content creators, publishers, and marketing storytellers.
Deziel goes on to cite a jarring 4As study that states “only 4% of consumers believe that marketers and advertisers practice integrity.”
“I know, it stings,” she empathizes. “But marketers aren’t exactly known for being transparent and honest.” Look at your email spam folder, your missed calls lists, and the rampant scams and fraud claims sweeping the EU and the US. Today’s audiences have so many reasons to be skeptical of marketing.
Deziel says it all comes down to the fact that we make a lot of claims — we’re convenient, we’re competent, we’re better than the competitor, etc. — yet we don’t provide evidence to our audiences that these claims are true.
“If we want our audience to let their guard down, then we need to provide proof — enough to set our claims apart,” asserts Deziel.
Showing Instead of Telling with Content Marketing
Content marketing is an ideal way to break down the wall of doubt and skepticism. Why? Because it presents us with limitless opportunities to provide evidence to substantiate our claims as a brand.
Deziel goes on, comparing marketing to a court of law. In marketing court, brands are the defendants— we’re the ones on the stand every day talking to the audience, so the burden of proof is on us.
And the risks of not making our case are dire.
When content doesn’t dispel consumer doubt, we don’t close the deal, and the competition can close it with their content instead.
But how exactly can marketers, beyond a shadow of a doubt, prove their brand claims? Deziel breaks it down into three core areas: corroboration, demonstration, and education.
An incredibly effective way to prove our claims is by corroborating them via third-party sources. And she doesn’t mean just any layperson; Deziel says you’ll want to leverage both experts and witnesses at the appropriate moments.
Experts bring in the informed perspectives, coming from a place of “above-average knowledge” in a certain arena.
- Researchers, academics, and speakers: these folks are respected leaders in their fields and niches. Deziel asserts that academics are often the best pick of this bunch as consumers consistently rank them as highly credible sources.
- Non-human experts: Don’t forget about rankings and awards which are also great for credibility as they signify that experts have already pre-validated the claims.
- It’s all relative: Remember that “expert” is a relevant term; and who a certain niche’s experts are needs to be defined by our audiences, and not us. Academics are great for corroborating many claims, but for certain items, like makeup, they wouldn’t be the best choice.
Witnesses bring in the first-hand account: “I was there, I saw this, I experienced this.”
Witnesses can vouch for the fact that you deliver on your promises. Consumers really lean on and trust positive reviews when going about decision-making, yet we just don’t include them enough.
Consider the fact that the average consumer spends 13 minutes reading customer reviews before making a purchasing decision.
But even with the use of corroboration via experts and witnesses, some people remain skeptical. So it’s then up to brands to demonstrate.
Stories help us to demonstrate expertise and enhance consumer trust and credibility by providing narrative evidence of the past. In this lens they provide a “this happened to me, and I’m sharing this with you” POV. But isn’t that just the same thing as a testimonial?
Deziel distinguishes the two in that we don’t have control over testimonials, but we do have control over the shape our customer success stories and profiles take.
So she urges us to shape them wisely. Use details, authenticity, and personalization in your customer success stories to really allow consumers to see that someone just like them had success with your product, which increases chance of purchase.
Documentation is the so called “showing of your receipts” in the world of content marketing. It allows the audience to see your claims with their very own eyes.
Documentation can take on many forms, but live video is particularly successful in this effort. For instance, consumers love unfiltered, genuine, behind-the-scenes content.
In fact, Deziel states that “behind the scenes content is the second most viewed type of content on Instagram.”
This inside look breaks down the wall between you and your consumers and gives them a truly raw look into your brand’s world. And in turn, this realness helps consumers establish a genuine human connection with your brand.
Don’t forget about the less glamorous documentation types as well. Revealing transcripts from an important meeting, financial reports, and other kinds of insider info can do wonders for establishing trust with your audience.
If you’re not providing purely educational content to your audiences, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to build trust by helping your audience obtain the information they need to make decisions.
Deziel recounts that “consumers who interact with your educational content are 100% more likely to purchase from your brand.”
She goes on to say that your educational content should achieve two core goals: inform and coach.
To inform, focus on sharing the facts. You can always add your own insight to help contextualize the facts against your product/offering, but don’t veer too far off course and be very cautious to not overwhelm or detract from the facts with your own narrative.
To coach, provide content that walks them through the process. Lead the way in helping your audience accomplish the tasks and clear the obstacles they need to work better and become more successful in their roles and in their lives.
A great example of this? Videos that show your audience how to setup your products in under 5 minutes.
Order in the Court
Proving our case to our consumers is no easy feat. It takes dedication, meticulousness, transparency, and authenticity. But providing value in the form of proof is simply essential to achieving our goals with our audience in today’s landscape.
Deziel’s final key to success in this arena?
“Don’t use just one of these methods. Use all of three them. [In order to be successful…] you need to make the endeavor of proving out your claims a practice, and not treat it as a tactic.”
Looking for more of the best of CMWorld 2021? Check out our session: Content Marketing Predictions for 2022 (And How to Navigate Them).