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Trust Factors: Why Your Brand Should Take a Stand with Its Marketing Strategy

This may be of some interest.

Earlier this year, Salesforce made waves by announcing a policy that compelled retailers to either stop selling military-style rifles and certain accessories, or stop using its popular e-commerce software. 

For a massive brand like this to take such an emphatic stand on a divisive social issue would’ve been unthinkable not so long ago. But in today’s world at large, and consequently in the business and marketing environments, it’s becoming more common. This owes to a variety of factors, ranging from generational changes among consumers to a growing need to differentiate. 

But, like so many other trends and strategies we see emerging in digital marketing, I think it mostly comes back to one overarching thing: the trust factor.

In this installment of our Trust Factors series, we’ll explore why and how brands and corporations can take a stand on important issues, building trust and rapport with customers and potential buyers in the process.

The Business Case for Bold Stances

Executives from Salesforce might suggest that it made such a bold and provocative move simply because they felt it was the right thing to do. (CEO Marc Benioff, for instance, has been outspoken about gun control and specifically his opposition to the AR-15 rifle.) But of course, one of the 10 largest software companies in the world isn’t making these kinds of decisions without a considerable business case behind them.

Like many other modern companies, Salesforce is taking the lead in a movement that feels inevitable. As millennials come to account for an increasingly large portion of the customer population, corporate social responsibility weighs more and more heavily on marketing strategies everywhere.  

A few data points to think about:

  • Research last year by FleishmanHillard found that 61% of survey respondents believe it’s important for companies to express their views, whether or not the person agrees with them.
  • Per the same study, 66% say they have stopped using the products and services of a company because the company’s response to an issue does not support their personal view.
  • The latest global Earned Brand Report from Edelman found that 64% of people are now “belief-driven buyers,” meaning they will choose, switch, avoid or boycott a brand based on its stand on societal issues.
  • MWWPR categorizes 35% of the adult population in the U.S. as “corpsumers,” up by two percentage points from the prior year. The term describes “a brand activist who considers a company’s values, actions and reputation to be just as important as their product or service.”
  • Corpsumers say they’re 90% more likely to patronize companies that take a stand on social and public policy matters, and 80% say they’ll even pay more for products from such brands.

(Source)

What Does It Mean to Take a Stand as a Brand?

Admittedly, the phrase is somewhat ambiguous. So let’s clear something up right now: taking a stand doesn’t necessarily mean your company needs to speak out on touchy political issues. 

When Dave Gerhart, Vice President of Marketing for Drift, gave a talk at B2BSMX last month outlining his 10 commandments for modern marketing, taking a stand was among the directives he implored. Gerhart pointed to Salesforce’s gun gambit as one precedent, but also called out a less controversial example: his own company’s crusade against the lead form. 

I think this serves as a great case in point. Lead forms aren’t a hot-button societal issue that’s going to rile people up, necessarily, but they’ve been a subject of annoyance on the consumer side for years. Drift’s decision to do away with them completely did entail some risk (to back up their stance, they had to commit to not using this proven, mainstream method for generating actionable leads) but made a big impression within their industry. Now, it’s a rallying cry for their brand

From my view, these are the trust-building ingredients, which both the Salesforce and Drift examples cover:

  • It has to matter to your customers
  • It has to be relevant to your industry or niche
  • It has to entail some sort of risk or chance-taking on behalf of the brand

Weighing that final item is the main sticking point for companies as they contemplate action on this front.

Mitigating the Risks of Taking a Stand

The potential downside of taking a controversial stand is obvious enough: “What if we piss off a bunch of our customers and our bottom line takes a hit?” Repelling certain customers is inherent to any bold stance, but obviously you’ll want the upside (i.e., affinity and loyalty built with current customers, plus positive attention drawing in new customers) to strongly outdistance the downside (i.e., existing or potential customers defecting because they disagree).

Here are some things to think about on this front.

Know Your Audience and Employees

It’s always vital for marketers to have a deep understanding of the people they serve, and in this case it’s especially key. You’ll want to have a comprehensive grasp of the priorities and attitudes of people in your target audience to ensure that a majority will agree with — or at least tolerate — your positioning. Region, age, and other demographic factors can help you reach corollary conclusions.

For example, our clients at Antea Group are adamant about the dangers of climate change. In certain circumstances this could (sadly) be a provocative and alienating message, but Antea Group serves leaders and companies focusing on sustainability, who widely recognize the reality and urgency of climate change. 

Not only that, but Antea Group also employs people who align with this vision, so embracing its importance both externally and internally leads to heightened engagement and award-winning culture

As another example, retailer Patagonia shook things up in late 2017 when it proclaimed on social media “The President Stole Your Land” after the Trump administration moved to reduce a pair of national monuments. In a way, this is potentially off-putting for the sizable chunk of its customer base that supports Trump, but given that Patagonia serves (and employs) an outdoorsy audience, the sentiment resonated and the company is thriving

Know Your Industry and Competition

On the surface, Salesforce taking a public stand on gun control seems quite audacious. The Washington Post notes that retailers like Camping World, which figured to be affected by the new policy, are major customers for the platform. What if this drives them elsewhere?

However, peer companies like Amazon and Shopify have their own gun restriction policies in place, so the move from Salesforce isn’t as “out there” as one might think. When you see your industry as a whole moving in a certain direction, it’s beneficial to get out front and position yourself as a leader rather than a follower. 

Actions Speak Louder

Empty words are destined to backfire. Taking a stand is meaningless if you can’t back it up. Analysts warn that “goodwashing” is the new form of “greenwashing,” a term that refers to companies talking a big game on eco-friendly initiatives but failing to follow up with meaningful actions.

According to MWWPR’s chief strategy officer Careen Winters (via AdWeek): “Companies that attempt to take a stand on issues but don’t really put their money where their mouth is, or what they are doing is not aligned with their track record and core values, will find themselves in a position where the corpsumers don’t believe them. Fifty-nine percent of corpsumers say they are skeptical about a brand’s motives for taking a stand on policy issues.”

Be Transparent and Authentic

One interesting aspect of the aforementioned FleishmanHillard study: 66% of respondents say they’ve stopped using the products and services of a company because the company’s response to an issue did not support their personal views; however another 43% say that if company explains WHY they have taken a position on an issue, the customer is extremely likely to keep supporting them.

(Source)

In other words, transparency is essential. If you fully explain the “why” behind a particular brand stance, you can score trust-building benefits with both those who do and do not agree. 

Where We Stand at TopRank

At TopRank Marketing, we have a few stances that we openly advocate. 

One is gender equality; our CEO Lee Odden noticed many “top marketers” lists and editorial collaborations were crowded with men, so he (and we) have made it a point to highlight many of the women leading the way in our industry, both through our content projects and Lee’s annual Women Who Rock Digital Marketing lists (10 years running!).

Another is our commitment to serving a deeper purpose as a business. Of course we want to help our clients reach their business goals, but we also love working with virtuous brands that are improving the communities around them. We strive to also do so ourselves through frequent volunteering, donations to causes, and charitable team outings. These include packing food for the hungry, renovating yards for the homeless, and our upcoming Walk for Alzheimer’s participation.

The Worst Stand You Can Take is Standing Still

Trust in marketing is growing more vital each day. It’s not enough to offer a great product or excellent customer service. Increasingly, customers want to do business with companies they like, trust, and align with. Those brands that sit on the sidelines regarding important issues are coming under greater scrutiny. Meanwhile, those with the guile to take bold but strategically sound stands are being rewarded.

To learn more about navigating these waters without diminishing trust or eroding your brand’s credibility, take a look at our post on avoiding trust fractures through authenticity, purpose-driven decision-making, and a big-picture mindset. Or check out these other entries in our “Trust Factors” series:

The post Trust Factors: Why Your Brand Should Take a Stand with Its Marketing Strategy appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Thank you for reading.

Trust Factors: How Best Answer Content Fuels Brand Credibility

This may be of some interest.

How Best Answer Content Builds Trust

How Best Answer Content Builds Trust

Page one. Answer box. The top result. In the minds of marketers, these prime destinations have largely been associated with SEO success.

From the days of keyword-stuffing and algorithmic alignment to more nuanced modern approaches accounting for semantic voice commands, influencer integration, and search intent, edging competitors on that SERP has been a key source of aspiration. As it should be: heightened visibility on Google makes a big difference in terms of driving traffic.

But it’s a little short-sighted to think only about that first, fleeting interaction — the search, the discovery, the click. What about the deeper impact? As customer experience becomes a central focus for brands everywhere, we should be more considerate of what happens after a user clicks through that search result, and how it affects your brand.

We talked recently about how best answer content helps fuel strong SEO results. But as part of our new “Trust Factors” series, which examines practical ways for marketers to strengthen trust with their audiences, we’ll shift our perspective and break down the critical benefits of effective best answer content when it comes to building credibility and authority in your niche.

[bctt tweet=”As #CX becomes a central focus for brands everywhere, we should be more considerate of what happens after a user clicks through that search result, and how it affects your brand. @NickNelsonMN #ContentMarketing #SearchMarketing” username=”toprank”]

Beyond the Click: The Lasting Impact of Best Answer Content

Brian Dean of Backlinko is a masterful creator of best answer content. He preaches, and practices, a quality-over-quantity approach. At the recent Social Media Marketing World 2019 conference in San Diego, Andrew Pickering and Pete Gartland (the hilarious speaker duo @AndrewAndPete) shared the story of how Dean decided on a plan of publishing one blog post every 4-6 weeks, investing huge amounts of time into making sure each of those pieces was as robust, useful, and comprehensive as possible.

To get an idea of what this output looks like, you can check out his SEO in 2019 or Link-Building for SEO, either by clicking those links or simply typing the basic terms into Google; his posts will show up near the top.

Using this approach, Dean reported his blog was receiving more than 200,000 unique monthly visitors with just 51 total blog posts, which is a pretty amazing feat. Obviously, the premium SERP placements have helped him achieve those gaudy numbers. But it’s the substance beyond the headlines and meta descriptions that really makes his content powerful.

Perusing one of his in-depth resources, you’re going to learn a ton. The posts are extensive but navigable; technical but understandable; fun but serious. They include videos and images to illustrate concepts and break up the copy. Most importantly, they answer pretty much every ancillary question a searcher could ask about their respective topics — accurately and actionably.

Backlinko's Definitive Guide to SEO

And that’s how Dean turned his SEO training company from a humble startup to a seven-figure business in five years. His credibility speaks for itself. People trust him and want to learn from him because of the content he creates — not because it ranks so well, but because of how it ranks so well.

How Best Answers Build Trust

He’s a great example, but Dean is hardly the one out there building trust through best answer content. At TopRank Marketing, this methodology is fundamental to our integrated strategy mix, and we’ve seen plenty of awesome results with our clients. As two examples, there was this content and strategic PPC campaign for DivvyHQ, and this SEO-driven content program for Antea Group.

While both of those efforts drove excellent results in terms of traffic and reach, what’s really heartening in both cases is the deeper business impacts.

“Lead quality has definitely improved,” said DivvyHQ Co-Founder Brody Dorland. “The prospects coming through our website front door are much closer to our ideal customer than they have been in the past.”

“We’ve been able to marry our field and digital marketing efforts together, resulting in numerous digital leads, real revenue opportunities to the tune of millions of dollars, and credibility with our clients, partners, and media as a go-to source for EHS&S information,” said Antea Group USA Solutions Marketing Manager Margaret Uttke.

As any sales team can tell you, prospects who are both well qualified and predisposed to respect your brand are vastly more likely to convert and become happy customers. Here’s how effective best answer content achieves these outcomes:

Demonstrable Authority

This more or less speaks for itself. When someone finds content on a topic they’re looking for and it gives them everything they need, expertly articulated, it paints your company as a trusted source: These people know what they’re talking about. They know how to present the info. They’ve done it well enough that Google’s algorithm — which now heavily weighs dwell time and quality inbound links — has elevated it above most or all others.

Value First

Sometimes, content marketing can get away from its essential purpose: providing value. Pressured to show results — even if just vanity results — some practitioners blur the line between pull and push with strictly gated content or thinly veiled promotion.

Best answer content gets back to the basics. When done right, it’s all about delivering value and earning trust before you ask for anything. Dean spends weeks researching and composing his hefty Power Pages, which are freely available to anyone who visits. He even makes them downloadable in PDF form if you can’t consume all of that content in one sitting, and while the assets are technically gated, in that you must enter an email address to receive them, you aren’t required to fill out a long contact form.

[bctt tweet=”Best answer content gets back to the basics. When done right, it’s all about delivering value and earning trust before you ask for anything. – @NickNelsonMN #ContentMarketing” username=”toprank”]

Competitive Positioning

Yes, it’s helpful to outrank competitors for key terms because you are more likely to bring in that search traffic. But there is also an important reputation element. When you outrank a direct competitor, the optics are compelling. And even if you’re not at the top, simply ranking in the vicinity of a giant company or reputed publication enables you to soak up some of that “second-hand trust.”  

It’s a simple psychological phenomenon, as Neil Patel explains on his blog: “This is not just a convenience issue for users. It’s a trust issue, too. When a result appears first, second, or third, users tend to trust it, believing that it is somehow more reliable, popular, or more legitimate than anything lower in the SERPs.”

Given that Google is increasingly structuring these SERPs based on indicators of query fulfillment, that’s a valid shorthand conclusion for searchers. And when your page delivers a definitive best answer to back up the ranking, you’ve made the right impression.

Organic and Inbound

It’s getting harder to build trust through ads. That doesn’t mean you should ditch the paid side by any means, but it does raise the stakes for organic content. As digitally native millennials grow to account for more and more of the buying population, we must be cognizant of their ingrained instincts. They are more likely to trust information they find themselves, as opposed to sponsored results or content that is (in truth or perception) pushed on them.

Gaining the Top Rank Is About More than Search Placement

Yes, it’s great to rank at the top of a SERP, for a variety of reasons. But it’s also vitally important to rank at the top of your audience’s mind for strategic topics, through content that satisfies their curiosities and provides legitimate value.

As Google’s algorithm continues to evolve and prioritize the most satisfying results rather than the most technically optimized results, you can trust that best answer content — which, when done right, covers both of those bases — is increasingly a no-brainer.

Want to learn more about TopRank Marketing’s best answer framework in action? Check out our CEO Lee Odden’s post on How A Best Answer Content Strategy Drives B2B Marketing Results.

The post Trust Factors: How Best Answer Content Fuels Brand Credibility appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Thank you for reading.