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Inbound Marketing

Lesson 5: How To Build Trust Based on Transparency

Continuing where we left off constructing our house of inbound marketing, it’s time to get transparent, so as to build trust with your prospects. The more straightforward and accessible your content and marketing messages makes you, the easier it will be for prospects to feel like they want to partner with you.

This article is lesson 5 in a 12-part series: The Ultimate Guide to Inbound Strategies and Tactics

We’ve completed the blueprint for our metaphorical home and built a foundation, a structure and added a roof for protection, so now it’s time to move forward with window installation. Windows create the transparency that needs to inform your messaging. In this context, transparency includes communicating clearly about your products’ value while not over-promising – transparency and clear understanding builds the right reputation, inspires trust and eases the path towards conversion.

Although in generations past, standard marketing tactics often involved reliance on hyperbole and bombast, this practice was acceptable only because there were no automatic consequences for under-delivering on corporate promises. Today, however, in the world of free and constant communication, if your firm provides a negative user experience, the repercussions can be both immediate and dire. Cultivating positive transparency is critical.

Customers appreciate clarity in micro-copy, explanatory content and even in offsite promotional content. Let’s take a look at why and how to be direct, easily digestible and free of the trappings of overstatements.

How Extreme Honesty Builds Business

Be honest with yourself. Your product is not for everybody. You have already profiled your ideal customer with your personas – stay faithful to and focused on that goal.

As content marketing thought leader Neil Patel puts it in an awesome analogy (one that has nothing to do with construction), if you’ve been finding success selling to zebras and a lion heads your way, try to avoid thinking, “Cool! I could sell to a lion, too!” The wiser approach is to say to yourself, “Our solution, which I’ve effectively optimized for zebras, is probably not the right fit for the lion’s needs. Let’s see if I can refer him to a more appropriate, lion-focused vendor.”

Always be a helpful resource, and embrace that this may even entail referring a lead who’s wrong for you to a competitor who would likely serve this lead better.

Now here’s how the power of this type of transparency paradoxically helps you to drum up more business. The lion will remember that you’ve kept his best interests in mind, despite the resulting possible loss of business that you’ve incurred as a result. That level of integrity makes an impression on people. The prospect may not purchase from you today, but this interaction has earned you powerful equity that is likely to come back to you in future referrals.

How Publishing Honesty Builds Trust

When it comes to your content, you may be tempted to try and appeal to as many people as possible, but the riches are found in the niches. Be opinionated and take a stand. If you attempt to resonate with everybody, your content is going to resonate with nobody.

Be clear about whom you’re targeting, speak their language, be consistent in your voice, and enable people to get to know you. If you’re targeting California-based generation X-ers and favor slang like “dude” and “hella” in your descriptive text, inevitably you’re going to render your website somewhat inaccessible the teens of Europe. So what? It will endear you to your target market, and that’s your goal.

Another tactic for using transparency to build audience trust is to present the facts. Today’s top-of-the-funnel consumers don’t want to hear a sales pitch – they want to be educated. Frame your case in the context of scientific findings, since people find (true and valid) research to be extremely persuasive.

Keep in mind, you need to be forthcoming with the terms of your offers and your value proposition. For example, if you’re trying to motivate sales of overstock merchandise by marking the prices down dramatically, it might make good sense to state overtly in your marketing copy that the prices are so low because you need to make space in your warehouse. The benefits of this transparent approach are twofold – you will assuage any suspicions that your merchandise is defective, and your refreshing honesty will also earn you equity.

Finally, be conscious of your tone. Often, those starting out in content marketing wonder about finding their voice. Whether your brand is chatty, conservative or spiritual, ensure that you are communicating with your audience with the same words and rhythm you’d use with a trusted friend. Etiquette shouldn’t go out the window just because these relationships are virtual – the same behavioral rules apply. It’s all about clarity and respect.

How Title Transparency Inspires Empathy

While eight out of ten people who see it will read your article’s headline, only two out of ten will read the rest of your post. By optimizing your headline, you’ll increase the number of people who will read your content, which is the first step to building relationships online.

Click baiting is a commonly used tactic, especially in the B2C market. It will inevitably drive traffic, but be warned – misled people are not audience members you want, and it can backfire.

If you’re publishing an article on how to groom pets, for example, you could go with a click bait title like “Adorable Poodle Pup is Given a Hairbrush – You’ll Never Believe What Happens Next!” but unless you have video of an actual poodle doing an actually implausible thing, those who click through will feel like they’ve been deceived. They’ll bounce out without making any purchases, they won’t opt in for your marketing emails, they’ll never come back, and they might even talk trash about you to their friends.

Since you’ve already done the research on exactly which keywords and information your audience is searching for, using titles that are highly transparent and that leverage this research are most likely to resonate and to deliver on their promises.

How Micro-Copy Transparency Removes Boundaries

The use of extremely literal and clear micro-copy for your site’s buttons and navigation links is imperative for two reasons.

First, people like to know where they stand and what comes next. There is a certain comfort in being led along and directed, as long as it’s done in a respectful rather than patronizing manner. Avoid too much clutter or too many options on your landing pages to really highlight the next step you want your customer to take. Make your calls-to action straightforward, brief, specific and easily understandable. This way, you’ll map out your prospect’s journey on his or her behalf, making the entire process of funnel advancement as friction-free as possible.

Second, keep in mind that a clear user experience is a refreshing departure from outdated marketing tactics that favor trickery over value. When it comes time to prompt a customer with active verbs like “buy now” or “add to cart,” you’re avoiding any suspicion of underhandedness. It’s evident that you’re not out to scam anybody, and that transparency is comforting.

Transparency as a Culture

Keeping secrets is outdated. You’re not McDonald’s or Coke – no one is sending in corporate spies to discover your secret formulas. Try not to take yourself too seriously when it comes to content marketing. In fact, we’ve landed solidly in a “give it all away for free” marketing culture.

Transparent access to corporate information, in fact, is going over exceedingly well for some major players in the market, including Buffer. The founders of the social media dashboard company are adamant that the more transparent their company can be, the better their business will perform, so they publish their software source code, their salaries, their operating budgets and much more via a dedicated microsite.

Take a moment and picture a potential customer peering into the window of the home you’re building. She sees right through it, because you’ve worked hard to maximize transparency, but she also sees her own reflection, since you’re providing exactly the information she seeks. She feels understood and not only receives valuable knowledge surrounding your product, but she also finds herself identifying with you.

Ultimately, transparent interaction helps to forge an emotional connection with site visitors, which in turn wields major influence on purchase decisions.

Written by Ben Jacobson / July 9, 2015

A content and social media marketing specialist, Ben Jacobson joined the Lean Labs team in the summer of 2014. Ben has been active as a digital branding professional since the early days of social media, having overseen projects for brands including MTV, National Geographic, Zagat and Wix. His writing has appeared in Social Media Explorer, Search Engine Journal, Techwyse and the Mad Mimi Blog. Ben resides just south of the Carmel Mountain ridge in Israel with his dashing wife and two sprightly descendants.

Articles by Ben Jacobson