How To Build Relationships With Your Content – An Essential Guide For Small Business
A good business lives on great relationships.
Think about it. Inside any company, there’s a trusted relationship with someone who delivers you something amazing.
They’ve put the effort into giving you what you want—and then some—by understanding who you are.
This is relationship marketing.
It’s something all businesses do, even if they don’t call it that.
And in the digital marketing space, content is your key conversation tool for growing these relationships.
It takes time to develop them, to bed down solid roots in the ground. But the returns to you and your business are truly worth it.
This is no waste of time. This type of content creation nurtures both potential and existing customers.
How do you make your content help this relationship marketing?
Here’s a quick guide for you below –
Idea One: Customer Contact
Idea Two: Feedback
Idea Three: Nurturing an Email List
Idea Four: Managing the Data Metrics
Idea Five: Personalisation
Idea Six: Your Content and People Skills
Customer Contact ^top^
When you’ve drawn up good customer personas, which highlight where your audience is likely to be connecting online, it’s your responsibility to head over there and join the conversations.
I’ve talked before about asking good questions on specific topics discussed in community forums or on social media platforms.
This helps peel back the layers of the people you talk to.
Say you’re a B2B service provider and want to build up a good customer base with a certain type of business owners and managers.
You can use LinkedIn to find this audience by typing “B2B marketing” or “Small Business” in the search bar, and the results will list the most relevant groups for that term.
You join up with one or two of them, and see what questions, content and conversations are bubbling in that space.
Facebook offers a similar return on business pages and groups, with the better connections contained within closed groups. So you need to become a member.
Choose a group, send through a request and if approved, be on the front foot interacting with other group members.
Search their forums for issues you think come up with your customers, or skim through the types of questions that are published. Dig into the responses and join the questioning because there are nuggets that you will find for future content.
Drawing up blog post ideas from those conversations:
Hopefully you had some Q and As with target prospects and found a host of interesting threads inside those digital communities (or offline, aka face-to-face).
What should come out of these is a good selection of topics your content can cover.
Can you see a pattern emerging? What fresh eyes can you bring to the table on a competitive topic? What issues are not getting enough show time, given there’s feedback on them?
The final question to ask yourself is: how can my content make my customer’s life better, even in a small way?
Yes, it’s an obvious question, but not enough businesses deliver quality to their community whenever they publish. They’re just feeding the search engine for the promise of rankings.
A good foundation is where to launch from.
Something coming from your core, something you believe, makes that relationship marketing much easier to develop. Customers want that genuine value from genuine people.
Whenever writing content, I always think about hitting the senses of my readers as well as the feelings. The post doesn’t have to be a piece of genius, but it has to hit deep inside the person’s mind and make them feel.
“Emotional connection driven growth opportunities exist across the customer experience, not just in traditional brand positioning and advertising.” The New Science of Customer Emotions, HBR, Nov 2015.
The things that happen after you publish your content:
Larger companies definitely have a head-start in relationship marketing simply because they have a content marketing team ready to converse.
Smaller businesses don’t have this luxury.
But putting time aside on a daily basis for you or your content manager to talk with customers about their questions means you care what they think and are willing to take the relationship seriously, even if it’s barely begun.
According to Harvard Business Review, fully connected customers are 52% more valuable to a business than highly satisfied customers.
The better you communicate with them and the faster you respond to them, the more rewarding those customers become to your business.
First impressions do count.
When you’re quick to respond and go over and above what they originally asked for, you set foundations for a fantastic future relationship.
It’s also on you to keep the consistency, and not become complacent after a good start.
Nothing spoils a good starting point like not delivering the service or content the way you started out.
For example, I wanted to put more thought into my fashion purchases and was recommended a company named Everlane.
They highlight that actions speak louder than words, so they give you the start-to-finish journey of every garment piece they sell.
So when I bought clothing from them, I subscribed to their email list.
Living in Australia, even with the exchange rate, the price and quality of the shirts were far better than the designer label ones—which were twice the price and made in ethically dubious working environments.
Everlane were quick to help you navigate your purchases on their delivery journey. They gave you access to the stories of how their products were made. And who benefits from your money.
Everlane send me a weekly email on responsible fashion trends, not fast-fashion throwaways.
They send out content matching their mission, and ask for feedback when things aren’t up to scratch (with a return option).
In September 2017, they added denim to their clothing line. Their founder, Michael Preysman, sent out an email detailing why they got into the Denim game and how they’re out to make a difference.
It’s aimed at continuing their transparent relationship with their target customers.
They want the relationship to work. Their content broadcasts this beautifully.
As a side note: I’m not affiliated in any way with Everlane. I’m getting nothing from them and giving an honest recommendation.
Nurturing An Email List ^top^
Email is still, without a doubt, the best way to grow an audience. When you use your content and website options right, the users who subscribe are going to be ideal customers.
When people sign up for incentives from content they come across, whether it’s from a Facebook post or an About Us page, they’re interested enough to give their email address.
This email list is your homegrown community.
It’s unaffected by social media platform changes, which can change quickly and limit access to your audience. For no reason whatsoever.
Your email list and website stay in your control, not that of a social media giant.
Here are some excellent posts on the steps to generate action from:
How to Create a Killer Email List From Thin Air – (Crazy Egg)
An Advanced Guide to Building an Email List – (Matthew Barby)
Managing the Data Metrics ^top^
The details of your audience and how they interact with your content.
How are your current blog posts performing with your website visitors? Are they finding certain topics, spending their time reading them or running away?
Knowing what types of metrics you should highlight will depend on what you’re after from visitors.
When it comes to content and relationship marketing, using the metrics of pages visited, time on pages and by setting up concise goals like sign-ups or content downloads, you’ll get a better picture of what people are doing when they arrive at your website.
When you know who your target customer is, you can set up key metrics to watch each day or week to monitor what content is working.
A simple example is Netflix. Although its analytics and algorithm are complex, their aim is to deliver more of what their customers want.
That is, movies in genres they have spent time watching. If you like war films and view them on Netflix, chances are they’re going to recommend more war-related movies.
Netflix is like your old school librarian: once they know your taste in storytelling, they will search out the back catalogue for those types of movies.
The analytics data has taken relationship marketing to the next level by companies like Netflix and Amazon.
Yes, it is an echo chamber of the recycled reward but you don’t need to be so rigid. When you’re smaller, the human touch of flexibility can set you apart from any competitor.
The content marketing academy have a terrific post exactly on the analytics to measure for different objectives. You can find it below:
How to identify and leverage your top performing blog articles and content – The Content Marketing Academy
Personalisation can be quite a challenge for businesses with limited resources for a content marketing team.
Using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, you can set up and collect touch points for every time a customer interacts with your content or website.
You can see at a glance what type of contact you’ve had with each customer and what action they’ve taken with your content delivery, like email, blog posts, social media, and website clicks.
When you visit a website, cookies are placed in your browser window to give data to that business on who you are and what action you take.
If you return to that website through an email or social media link, the CMS confirms your identity and tailors what it judges as relevant content to your experience.
Each one varies in what tools are available for customer data and communication but aren’t as pricey as the top CRMs.
CRMs are great for content marketing by planning out what content is given to customers throughout their contact with your business.
They give you a blueprint for creating new content that addresses what your community wants.
Being vigilant in your consistency of contact, and giving them so much more than what they asked for, builds their trust and confidence in you.
A great relationship stems from each participant wanting to support the other when they need it. Business relationships are the same.
Your Content and People Skills ^top^
When your content is published, sent to subscribers or promoted through your chosen social media channel, things are only getting started.
When you’re marketing your content, it may take ages to grab that community attention.
Entrepreneur Dan Norris once said it took over 300 posts before he got his first comments on his blog.
That’s right, 300 posts!
Nothing wonderful is going to happen quickly.
Like I said before, it will take time and attention to develop the relationships with the people you want.
When people do comment on your posts, unless it’s spammed with links or offensive, respond. Comments are made because people are interested in what you created.
Start the conversation, be as helpful as you can be, make it ten times better than they expected.
Relationship marketing IS people skills.
Getting to know the personality traits of your customers through the conversations you have (and the questions they ask) gives you opportunities to pitch your value.
When you understand more of who exactly your customer is, you can connect with them much, much easier.
If you want to know how to read people better, both online and in the real world, I’d recommend reading Captivate by Vanessa Van Edwards.
It guides you through how to manage different types of people in your personal and working life, and where your communication with them can make or break a relationship.
I cannot tell you how much this book has opened my eyes to social communication.
It gives actionable blueprints for understanding different personality types, what they respond to in an interaction and how you adapt your delivery to connect with them.
What you should take away:
Relationships are the fabric of all businesses.
Great products and services are fine, but people work with someone they can trust to deliver them value and make their experience personal.
Relationship marketing is something most companies are aware of (and to an extent, doing), even if the phrase has only taken off in the last five years.
Your existing customers are built on a winning relationship. The more customers you attract, the more attention you need to supply to them.
It also takes time to develop these relationships and tie strong threads between customers and businesses, between you and your customer.