Building Relationships with Web Content
By James Atkinson, LLB
Building relationships with web content is one of the most important objectives for your online business.
I suggest you create at least one but preferably both an Educative and / or Social Relationship with your prospects before referring them to your sales material:
Educative – this is where you make your first connection with an online searcher. You establish your relevance here. Searchers arrive at your content site, bookmark you to learn more about your subject and / or opt-in to your email list.
Your goal is to start a relationship with a pathway of relevant content that encourages repeat visits and glues prospects to your content so they don’t return to the search engines for more information.
Many online marketers create “educative” relationships via email that are actually disguised to educate the prospect to buy a particular product. But you don’t need to educate in this somewhat underhanded way. The education we refer to here relates to the subject matter – not your eventual product!
Educative content is a One-way communication: from YOU > to the Reader.
It’s a way to establish your authority. Eventually, it’s via your authority that you can refer the prospect to your products. You use the relationship to softly inculcate your emotional benefits message to educate and to interact.
Social – the searcher finds you through a social connection or social site that you have set up. If they like what they see, they’ll join your online community.
Social interactions are a Two-way communication between you and the searcher. Basically, you show interest and create empathy with people in order to share content and achieve social prominence and authority like so:
YOU > social connection < Reader/Listener. Again, you use the contact to softly inculcate your emotional benefits message to interact and educate.
Direct Response – these relationships built around your sales process.
This is where you expect a “direct response” from your prospect. That is, they ‘respond’ to your sales or opt-in message.
Most internet marketers, probably the vast majority, don’t create genuine educative relationships but run their marketing through pay-per-click and direct response campaigns.
Words of Connection & Educative Relationships
I show in other articles that people buy products to gain emotional benefits. I also suggest that in the process of developing and enhancing emotional benefits you need to go below the surface, beyond the capability of the prospect to easily admit or expressly state the emotional benefit.
That is, you have to make the prospect’s mind work. (See: the articles attached to Consumer Psychology.) Educative relationships are an exceptionally good way for online marketers to deliver emotional benefits “below the surface”. Searchers bond with and buy from humans, not faceless, formless entities.
I’ve found on my sites that it’s very helpful to bridge the gap between what prospects believe now and what they need to believe in order to buy. Much of this gap is due to lack of trust when searchers first land on a web site.
So, there is a need to establish that you:
- Have a strong desire to help
- Understand what your prospects want (relevance)
- Are authoritative – know what you’re talking about and able to deliver
- Empathize with your prospects – have the same desires, problems, and solutions.
When you accomplish all or part of these goals, your prospects start to like and trust you. The qualities above are intangible, but you must communicate them if you want your credibility to be accepted.
However, you can’t simply say you want to help or that you are an authority. You have to demonstrate it. People don’t trust just because you say we are trustworthy. You have to show you can be trusted by actions over a period of time.
Reciprocal Relationships help you accomplish these goals.
Emotional bonding multiplies the power of everything you say online. I’ve found that once people trust you, they’ll pretty much accept what you say with very little skepticism and few objections.
As I discuss in other articles, sales letters efficacy is usually buried by a thick layer of reader objections based on lack of trust: “Who are you?” “Can I trust you?” “Will this product really do what you say?” - And so on.
This is probably a big reason why “cold traffic” only converts on average < 1%. Warm traffic from email list and social associations converts a little higher, in the range of 3-15% - depending on the marketer and the offer.
The sales letter on its own just can’t bridge the gap between what people believe now and what they need to believe to buy. It can’t effectively build trust with people who don’t know you and present your product’s features and benefits in the space of a few minutes.
Building trust takes time – you need to demonstrate that you are trustworthy and you do so with web content and social interactions.
How to Use Relevant Content to Build Relationships
The only way we can build relationships is to have repeated contact with people. How do you get the prospect to want repeated contact? You need to provide content they want and value - for free.
How do you know what content people want? It’s easy …
The survey results give you a content blueprint that makes it paint-by-numbers easy to create ultra-relevant content your prospects are demanding.
Your pre-marketing survey tells you:
- The unique segments in your market
- What each segment wants to know
- The language they use to express what they want to know, and
- The order in which to present your content (the search continuum).
See: Market Segmentation.
Here are some examples of the type of content I mean:
Web site content
Builds search engine rankings and has social networking benefits (social networking creates friends and fans and strengthens rankings).
Content that allows two-way communication. A blog supplemented by other social media like YouTube and Twitter works well.
A blog is more interactive and casual than a traditional web site, so it lets people get to know you.
Relevant content you email to your list.
PR / Media Content
This type of content, when successful, can enhance authority and increase traffic dramatically.
I cover the specifics of how to use content to get traffic from search engines and social networks in Chapter 5. I discuss PR / Media content further below.
Why Relevant Content Works So Well
People research information online before buying. These pre-buyers are a big part of any market. They are searching for information on Google, other search engines, and probably visiting your competitors.
They learn as they search and incorporate what they learn into their next search as they hone in on what they really want. They aren’t ready to buy yet – they are researching solutions to their problem. Direct sales messages won’t have a strong effect on them.
Most of your competitors – probably around 90% - are not reaching pre-buyers effectively. They only focus on buying keywords because they don’t know how to leverage information keywords into sales. This is equivalent to thinking that the tip of the iceberg you can see above the water is the whole thing!
This is a huge opportunity for marketers. The survey results give you the unique power to create an ultra-relevant content funnel for each segment in your market. Through your survey you should know which keywords produce which segments, so you can laser-target your message by keyword to a single segment.
You can put your message in front of your prospects at exactly the moment they are most interested in it – just after they’ve pro-actively searched for information. By giving them what they want and need to know, in the order they would search, you can take them off the market and stop them searching.
Then you can follow up and educate until they’re ready to buy.
As you educate prospects, you can shape how they perceive the market and their needs. You can position yourself as the best choice without doing any direct selling. Taking people off the market early in their search process is the cheapest and least competitive way to acquire customers.
Buying keywords are where the feeding frenzy is – information keywords are usually much cheaper and less competitive.
You also have the opportunity to build the strong trust and loyalty that is almost impossible for competitors to break into.
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