Trust in a Digital World
I just spoke with a long-time customer whose company we helped to reposition years back. Dan’s business has grown and continues to grow. The bulk of his business comes from referrals; repositioning to target the right type of projects and build their reputation in specific industries made sense then, and it makes sense now.
During our conversation he raised an interesting point: His business operates in a high-trust environment. He doesn’t get hung up in contracts and POs. Because customers are gained through referrals, he is working with friends of friends. Dan’s website is essentially an online business card intended to validate his company’s credibility and prove expertise to people who have heard of them.
At a certain size, an organization can continue to grow by word of mouth. But what happens when you’re ready to step up to the next stage of growth? Inbound marketing is a viable strategy. Contrary to what some might assume, this approach does not mean you have to sacrifice a high-trust, quality relationship with your customers. Personally, I am often surprised by how much people feel like they know you through social media, webinars, and content before we’ve met face to face.
Inbound marketing is essentially about building credibility and trust with the right audience, but trust works both ways. To ensure that you’re attracting customers who value what you do, you may need to make changes throughout sales and operations. Our own shift to inbound marketing caused us to review contract language, revisit payment and delivery terms, and increase prospect qualifiers. Re-evaluating how you select and work with customers is a good business practice regardless of whether you pursue an inbound marketing strategy or keep growing through referrals.
Six Tips for Better Inbound Relationships
To grow quality, high-trust customer relationships through the web, consider:
1. Company & Product Positioning
What you don’t do is just as important as what you do well. “Everything to everyone” is an overpromise that costs you trust. A narrowly defined, specific and unique value proposition is an important step toward growth. Download our positioning guide to find yours.
2. Target Customer
Define and understand the commonalities in your good-fit customers. Learn what they’re interested in, what motivates them, where they hang out online. Download our customer persona worksheet to get started.
3. Quality Content
Educational content is the best way to build credibility and leads through the web. Content marketing demands transparency and a willingness to share your expertise for free, but it reaps benefits. Whether it’s a white paper, webinar, tip sheet, or application note, it should reflect your company culture and fit your customer’s expectations in terms of reading level, depth of technical detail, format, etc. Download our white paper writing guide today.
4. Qualifying Leads
This becomes critical as you increase leads and requests for quotes. Consider culling leads based on criteria such as:
- Information provided (drawings and specs, validity of contact info, etc.)
5. Onboarding Customers
Spend extra time exploring expectations, such as their reasoning behind specs. In discovery, set measurable outcomes together. Explore for fit as well, looking for signs that company work styles are compatible.
It’s OK to assign some ‘homework’ in order to check for mutual commitment to outcomes. Does the prospective customer provide the information you need, when they promised? You can’t ask for trust without earning it, of course. Deliver quotes, status reports, and deliverables when you promised, at every step. Schedule and commit to meetings. Start on time, end on time. A little rigor here goes a long way toward mutual trust and long-time customer loyalty.
Find out your customer's preferred form of communication. Email, texting, Skype, and Go-to-Meeting can all demonstrate that you’re there to serve them when needed, even before you have a chance to meet face to face. That said, there’s nothing like making in-person customer visits a priority.
6. Billing & Contract Practices
Customer agreements are always worth reviewing, but strong customer loyalty beats contract enforcement any day. Look for commonality in your aged receivables, and consider changing your policies if needed. Let customers know from the start what your sales process looks like, and ask what their legal and accounting departments require to avoid surprises or delays.
Scaling up may demand change, but an inbound marketing strategy does not mean you need to abandon the high-trust, customer-focused practices upon which you’ve built your business. Read more about getting the most value from inbound marketing.
If you're considering a shift to an inbound approach, why not start with Launch's free marketing assessment?