Which company is the most trusted company in our industry?
I say it could be you. But I don’t think it will be you if you talk to customers only about yourself online—blasting out photos of your products or projects, proclaiming you’re “different” and describing what you do as having “quality,” “value” and “innovation” when everybody else does the same.
Instead, what you need to do is answer customer questions. Customers seek information online before they choose to do business. They are subject-matter experts, turning to the internet for answers to problems they have. They figure researching online is the best way to solve them.
What do customers see when they come to your website and your social posts? A bunch of “hero” shots? Line after line of brand-centric positioning statements about your firm? Or, do they see answers to questions they have about construction? That’s where the money is. Answering your customers’ questions cultivates their trust. And trust is what fosters transactions.
You Are Just a Data Point
A colleague of mine is a territory rep for a multinational corporation that markets home decor products. His company’s website has lots of gorgeous videos and hero shots of company products. You might not find a better website for its beauty. Its YouTube channel, too, is all marketing-speak: “Innovative product designs pair with gorgeous fabrics,” a breathy female narrator says in one product video.
But neither the site nor its YouTube channel answers customer questions. I even had a hard time finding the company’s blog roll. It was buried in the website footer, and it only had articles featuring brand-centric fodder.
The best “company” videos have been produced by one of its dealers, my friend says. They’re not expensive, glossy videos produced by a big agency. Instead, they’re quite low-grade—made with a phone, in one take, and uploaded with minimal editing—but they do a great job of answering questions. And they’re popular.
I understand it when companies want to put their best foot forward in their marketing. There is nothing wrong with professional imagery and Hollywood-style videos, but your customers have real questions. So answer therm. “How do you work?” “When can I expect delivery?” “What are your guarantees?” Those kinds of questions.
In the book, “You Ask, They Answer,” author Marcus Sheridan says a company needs to become the go-to source of information in its industry. That’s what content marketing is all about: teaching and problem-solving to earn the customer’s trust.
In reality, your website, social platforms and videos constitute a single data point in the vast digital universe. No one is going to form a relationship with you just because you have a presence online. But they will take interest if you become more than a megaphone for your brand. You must become a teacher—their teacher.
Be the Industry’s Teacher
Sheridan says businesses need to realize the lines between sales and marketing are blurred due to the internet.
Customers are their own “salespeople” now. They do their own research online. They fact-check points. They seek guidance on solving common problems. And they do this before they ever meet a living, breathing salesperson face-to-face.
On the flip side, marketing is no longer about brand-building. It’s about cozying up with customers (through content), convincing them you can be relied upon, earning their trust. That’s the function the sales team used to perform, but now the company’s digital footprint plays that role.
I suggest you call a meeting with your field and leadership teams. Get together right away. Brainstorm about what customers need answers to. Answer those questions. Answer them in detail. And post the answers to your new online “Learning Center” (or whatever you want to call it).
“There’s a teacher within each of us,” Sheridan says.
Which of you is going to be the wall and ceiling industry’s teacher? Who is going to be the one architects, general contractors, building inspectors, building owners and developers trust the most?
Will it be you?
Mark L. Johnson writes for the wall and ceiling industry. He can be reached via linkedin.com/in/markjohnsoncommunications.