When I work with financial services companies and discuss their content marketing strategy, almost inevitably the topic turns to “attention.” Basically, the program is being measured as an alternative to the advertising the firm is running. And the question that is asked is, “are we getting more of our audience’s attention?”
Every day you see new strategies to increase the attention we receive from our audiences and buyers. You have “attention marketing,” a term describing a business model built around the hyper growth of social media. There is the “attention economy,” which elevates the ability to gather attention as “one of the most important currencies of the 21st century.”
Interestingly, in our latest research at The Content Marketing Institute, we’re finding that there is an interesting correlation between the companies that are succeeding with content marketing and those that are building audiences. In our latest survey, 90% of those that are succeeding are focusing on building a loyal and subscribed audience. And that subscription comes down to something more than just attention. It’s a
If attention is gold, trust is bitcoin
As the saying goes, “Trust is the hardest thing to find and the easiest thing to lose.” And today, trust is in crisis. The annual Edelman Trust Barometer found this year:
“(The) general population’s trust in all four key institutions – business, government, NGO’s, and media – has declined broadly, a phenomenon not reported since Edelman began tracking trust among this segment in 2012.”
But you don’t need a research study to know that. You can feel it. It is an era of “fake news,” ineffective and corrupt institutions, cynical politics, duplicitous businesses, and even distrust of each other. Astonishingly, less than half of us think most people can be trusted.
As a marketer, you can personally lament the decline in trust in our culture, but you can’t ignore it. Developing a trusted relationship with your consumers is one of, if not the, most important things you must do.
Now, the development of trust is nothing new. Marketers have been talking about how to build more trust into our approach for decades. But becoming more transparent or dependable in the sales process no longer cuts it. Put simply: It is no longer adequate to begin developing a trusted relationship after the customer determines your product or service may be the answer.
Our world no longer starts trusting and occasionally becomes disappointed. As the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer concludes:
“Two-thirds of the countries we survey are now ‘distrusters’ (less than 50% trust in the mainstream institutions of business, government, media, and non-government organizations to do what is right).”
That’s right. We as consumers have become actively distrustful of every institution and brand. We have successfully democratized distrust in everything we do. But, would you like the good news?
As content marketing practitioners, this new era of distrust is our opportunity.
Be the trusted source
In my books, I talk at great length about how a subscribed audience gives you more efficient and effective access to your customers. And when we talk of Content Marketing, we almost exclusively talk about its benefits as a:
- More efficient means of developing engaged leads
- Method of being discovered in a noisy marketplace
- Differentiator from the competition
- Way to increase customer value
But what if one of your primary benefits of content marketing was developing “most trusted” status with your consumers more broadly? What if your brand could not only be the most trusted on a topic among the competition, but the most trusted brand full stop?
Historically, we looked at publishers of trustworthy media in our space and proclaimed, “Well, there’s no way we’re going to compete with that magazine, or that nonprofit, or that association, or that government institution.”
Except, now you can.
Trust as a metric
A few years ago, we worked with a B2B financial services institution targeting investors and advisers. We asked a sample of its target audience to rank the institution and its competition on a level of trust — both content and brand. We also asked them to rank a sampling of the top media companies in the space.
Our client company was middle of the pack when it came to trust among competitors. But, interestingly, its trust ranking was above — and in some cases well above – some of the media companies where the institution had been putting a good deal of its advertising.
Now, comparing trust in the financial services brand to trust in media brands was like comparing apples and oranges. But to help it reach its “increase brand trust” goal, we set a goal for its new content marketing property: become one of the most trusted content brands in thought leadership for advisers and investors.
Recently, we found some wonderful results when we looked at benchmarking research. The brand had, indeed, risen in general trust among both its competitors and media companies. Though the owned media property and its team certainly created some of that trust, the institution’s other brand and marketing efforts have assisted here as well.
Even more interesting were the results from the content brand’s subscribers. When we queried them in terms of trust of the content brand (using the blog name) among competitors and media companies, a large number trusted the brand more than any other competitor and most of the media companies.
These results provide a huge business case for continuing a content marketing initiative: Develop a more trusted relationship with audiences than the content platforms where you are placing paid media.
So, I ask this: will there come-a-day when this institution’s ad buyer goes to a media company, shows the subscriber research and asks, “We have a more trusted audience than you do. Perhaps you’d like to advertise with us?” Perhaps. But until then, it’s an extraordinarily important business metric to show success with its content marketing program.
Value is a trusting audience
As you can see from this example, success all comes down to the audience. All value is derived when an audience trusts the brand. The company may use this trust to leverage the trusting audience:
- To provide data to inform other advertising and marketing efforts (Example: See how Kraft uses its platform.)
- To be used as a pre-customer database to draw in more optimized leads (Example: See how Schneider Electric uses its Energy University platform.)
- To provide cash or cost-savings value by bringing in partners (Example: Learn how companies like Zappos are making money with content marketing.)
- To ensure that the brand’s TAM (total addressable market) expands (Example: Discover how Arrow Electronics is driving marketing as a business model.)
Media companies are going to double down on regaining trusted status. They must. Trust and the relationship with an addressable audience will be the only value left as advertising transforms and formats such as subscription, native advertising, and even sponsorship replace traditional banner and skyscraper ads.
Getting attention simply doesn’t cut it any more. And holding attention doesn’t really work any longer either. And even if you hold someone’s attention, you haven’t necessarily made them care.
Your opportunity is here. If you choose to act, the democratization of distrust can be the foundation of a transformation of what’s possible for your brand. Your brand’s trust no longer has to sit below media, nonprofit, or governmental institutions. You can develop the most trusted status with your consumers.
It’s up to you to be worthy of both the trust and the opportunity.