There is a great deal of confusion today about what digital marketing means. In my last post on this topic, I showed how digital marketing is a lot like analog marketing. I noted how a speaker at a conference could use certain thought processes to produce a compelling presentation for their audience. Those same thoughts processes could be applied to an online article, especially if it is published in a specific channel in LinkedIn.
In this post, I want to explore an even more important goal of digital marketing – developing trust. I believe that one major goal for digital marketing, one amazing opportunity that was previously unavailable in analog marketing, is building trust with prospects. The payoff is huge to those who do the work.
When you build trust with people in an online community, you increase affinity for your counsel, ideas and perspectives. You shorten sales cycles, increase profit-per-deal and queue up a steady stream of prospects who want to work with you and your company. Let’s explore together how to accomplish this.
Effective digital relationships will likely convert to analog relationships.
Since when is a hack a good thing?
Let’s start by defining some things that are not good for building trust. I’d like to introduce one simple principle here that I think trips up a lot of people. If you wouldn’t say it in the analog world, you shouldn’t say it in the digital world.
Think about it this way. One goal of digital marketing is to give an online audience a sense of what it’s like to work with you and your company, the kinds of ideas you might discuss, the feeling of what it’s like to sit across the desk from you. So I’d like to recommend this guiding principle.
When you use digital marketing, think of the way you speak and present yourself in a meeting with your most important client, maybe the senior team at your company or even with colleagues brainstorming a project. However you speak and present yourself in these types of meetings should be a guide for how you speak and present yourself in the digital world.
This immediately rules out certain types of language (unless you work at very different types of professional service firms than the ones I serve). For instance, would you ever say to the CEO of your company – hey I’ve come up with a great hack to grow 20% next quarter?
Would you ever say to a client, I think we can cheat the system if we just take these steps? Would you ever say to colleagues when you’re brainstorming an idea, I think we can use this idea to trick 20% more traffic to our website?
Hacks, cheats and tricks all suggest a mindset that does not inspire trust. These comments indicate some things about a person, the type of character they have. Do you want to be thought of as someone who believes in hacks, cheats and tricks?
It sometimes appears to me that people use this type of language to show that they are part of the cool in-crowd, the digerati. I don’t believe that the people you want to connect with and build trust with really care about the digerati crowd. But they do care about finding someone they can trust, someone who is knowledgeable and ethical and someone who has insights that can help them achieve their goals.
When they find this type of person online, they want to connect in the digital space. But soon, they’ll also want to connect in the analog space.
Digital relationships become analog relationships
If you build effective digital connections based on trust, it is very likely that those digital relationships will convert to analog at some point in the future. Let me give you an example.
Let’s assume that you have some great insights about how to accomplish a goal that matters to people in your market niche. You deliver those insights in a series of blog-posts, let’s say on LinkedIn. Your blog-posts are featured in channels and groups where your ideal clients tend to hang out. Then what happens?
Well here is what we have witnessed. One of the very first things you’ll notice is that people will begin to follow you. A certain number of brave souls may even reach out with a connection request on LinkedIn. Your network will grow, sometimes quite quickly.
Those who really like your ideas will probably also visit your website. If you have great content there, they might register for some of your content assets and carefully think about how you can help them. This consideration stage is one of the most important parts of the in-bound journey.
At some point, when the time is right for them, they’ll reach out to you for a conversation. The relationship that began in the digital space will convert to analog. How do I know this to be true?
Let me tell you about an experience that happens to me quite frequently now. I produce quite a number of online videos that accompany my blog-posts. When a prospect requests a conversation and we first begin the call, they’ll often say something like this.
“It’s nice to hear the voice I’ve been listening to for months now online.” When I look at their behavior score in our marketing automation system, sure enough, they’ve been watching my videos. They feel as if they already know me. Although I’ve never met them, we’ve formed a digital relationship which is about to become real in the analog world.
A good first impression
When I was in high school, there was a saying painted on the wall of the gymnasium. I’m sure you’ve heard this. “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” This saying has stuck with me for years.
The same thing is true in the digital space. The impressions you make through your website, your blog-posts and your LinkedIn profile say some things about who you are as a professional. I’m not talking specifically about messages in the written copy of these areas. I’m talking about the presentation of these digital properties and how they communicate non-verbal messages
Let me be specific, just for a moment, about three important areas:
- Your photograph
- Your LinkedIn and other social media profiles
- Your blog-posts
When you look at your personal photograph today on any of your social media profiles or on your website, does it communicate the image of a trustworthy and capable professional? Does it inspire confidence that you are a person of integrity, friendly and easy to work with? Does the picture look like it was taken by a professional photographer or maybe does it look like it was taken in someone’s back yard while you were at a dinner party? Do you have some work to do here?
What about your LinkedIn profile? Does your profile include a mission statement for who you serve and how you help them? Does your profile describe your ideal client so a person reading your profile can figure out quickly whether or not you might help them? Does your profile include posts that are insightful and contain great ideas for prospective clients? Or does your profile simply list your resume and educational background?
What about your blog-posts? Are they professional? Do you use appropriate grammar and sentence structure? Are the posts long enough to demonstrate that you have really thought about what matters to ideal clients and can articulate those thoughts? Are your posts short enough that someone can quickly read them? Are they respectful of a person’s time?
You see all of these factors go into making a good first impression. They also make a statement about you. They say that you care about the way you present yourself to the world. This sets expectations with prospective clients. If you care enough to get the details right for your personal brand, you’ll also care about getting the details right for any project you would work on for a new client. That’s an important message.
How do you develop trust?
Making a good first impression is an important step in building trust. But it’s not the only step you should take. If you really want to set yourself apart, you need to show, not just say, that you are an expert.
You need to demonstrate some fresh insights that may not be entirely intuitive to prospective clients. You need to make sure every point of contact in the digital sphere is value-laden, where you are not asking for something but instead giving people something.
Think about the top goals of your ideal clients and then make a list of recommendations for how they can achieve those goals. Then turn that list into a set of content assets that pull prospects toward your company.
How to convert digital relationships to analog
For many leaders of professional service firms, it’s hard to understand how to pull prospects from the digital sphere into the analog sphere. It’s hard to envision how to build trust with people they haven’t yet met. Sometimes this feels completely ethereal and impractical. It can feel like a foreign land and a foreign language. Do you know this feeling?
However, there is no doubting anymore the power of digital marketing. More and more service-based organizations are beginning to realize that since they’ve always been in the relationship business, they need to become masters at building digital relationships.
Do you believe that you have tremendous opportunities in the digital space that you haven’t capitalized on as yet? You know what? I’ll bet your right.
This is why I want to recommend a great next step for you. I’ve written an E-Book called Ten Things Service Websites Must Do To Drive Revenue. This free and valuable resource provides all sorts of ideas about how you can master digital marketing to build relationships of trust with organic prospects.
When you register for this E-Book, you’ll also get access to the audio E-Book that makes it easy to listen to the ideas on a plane, while exercising or maybe even while gardening or just relaxing. If you want to make digital marketing a driver of great new relationships for your company, I know this E-Book will help you achieve that goal.