THE BLOG
08/31/2015 12:12 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Are You Creating Content That Empowers Your Customers?

By: Ashley Rust

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(Image source; Thinkstock)

Product and service referrals have always been a part of life. We've always relied on the expertise and recommendations of others to make buying decisions. Historically, if we needed advice on a new product or service, we'd contact the person we thought was the expert, or we relied on friends, colleagues, and trusted advisers. But what about more important decisions, like how to improve next year's marketing strategy or what HR platforms will be the best for a growing company?

We all know the Internet has brought about the democratization of our buying influencers. Now, instead of relying on certain people's recommendations, customers are educating themselves before making purchase decisions. In fact, studies show B2B customers are 65% - 90% of the way through their purchase decision process before contacting companies.

To help you create content that will nurture and move prospects down the sales funnel, keep these things in mind:

Be Visible Online

A fundamental change has occurred concerning access to information. I'm a Millennial; my parents have more knowledge about specific subjects than I do. But the difference now is that Millennials know how to access and find information faster -- I don't need to inherently "know" the information at all. What I do need is the ability to find and locate information quickly. So I need you -- and your customers need you -- to be a part of the conversation happening online.

A great example of someone who has done an amazing job of building an online presence and empowering women is Marie Forleo, a life coach, motivational speaker, author and web television host. She describes herself in her "About" page as being "part business strategist, part marketing maven and part spiritual ass-kicker with a side of hip-hop swagger."

She created MarieTV, uploaded weekly with inspirational, helpful content on various topics in business and lifestyle improvement. Also, Marie developed an eight-week online training program called Marie Forleo's B-School, designed to "turn your business into a force for good that fuels higher profits and your higher purpose."

If there's a woman taking the business world by storm with content, it's this spunky lady.

Build Trust With Your Target Market

As a female business owner, if customers can't find you online (and I don't mean by your company name or by Googling you directly), you're not part of the online conversation customers are looking for. Thus, the chances you have an organization I trust to solve my problem are slim. So how am I, your customer, ever going to find you? How will I even know you exist?

By publishing content in online publications your target market is reading, you're considered a trusted resource. This is an opportunity a lot of companies are missing; it's also one my team believes is incredibly valuable. When we work with clients, we pinpoint publications that are going to reach target markets while also achieving clients' goals. Getting published in niche publications gives you the opportunity to showcase your expertise and to start building relationships with your prospects.

When Writing, Be Helpful and Conversational

Think about how you're making your customers' lives easier. Remember: People's incentives are tied to their personal gains and desires. Is your service one that can help advance their roles? Will it make their bosses happy? Will it make them more money directly?

This is why your content should be extremely targeted and tied to your customers' goals. Discover what they find valuable and write to those needs. To help you streamline the content creation process, use a spreadsheet or knowledge management template to help write stronger, more engaging content.

Offer Opportunities For Self-Selection

Understand that you have to give people the power to teach themselves -- that's the direction in which we're moving.

Our CEO wrote an article for the Content Marketing Institute about how knowledge banks fuel content strategy. In it, he links to our company knowledge bank. He did this in case readers wanted a deeper look into what the bank was and how they could use it. That gave us an opportunity to further engage readers with more quality content.

Build Your Content by Speaking With Clients

Think about what you'd be searching online if your company's product were in its early stages. Gain insights by asking clients how they found you, what articles they read, what sparked their interest in your company, etc. Then, build content around that feedback.

As the buying industry shifts and quality content becomes more important in the sales process, female business leaders need to adapt accordingly. Your customers are self-educating before ever getting on the phone with you, so create and publish the content they're looking for.

Ashley Rust is the director of new accounts at Influence & Co., a company that specializes in expertise extraction and thought leadership through content creation. She is also a former online reputation management specialist who helps executives build their personal brands.