Why You Can't "Pretend"

I recently received an email newsletter about social networking. The headline caught my attention and the copy told me about all the cool things I could do using social networking tools. So far, so good. I clicked a big button that said “click here to our website,” and all credibility was lost.
The website I landed on was confusing and poorly constructed. Not only was there no trace of social networking tools on the site, it was hard to believe that this website represented someone who knew anything about online strategy let alone social networking. Big let down.
While certain topics are timely and worth sharing with customers, there are three important questions you need to answer before you write anything:

  1. What do my readers want to know?
  2. Why do they need to know it?
  3. How am I a credible provider of information (and not just facts)?

We can’t all be the guru on the mountain, but if you can talk about an idea in terms of the value you provide to your customers, then you gain credibility because you aren’t “pretending,” you’re doing.
Here’s an example: A commercial real estate agent could use the topic of social networking to gain credibility with her clients and prospects by answering the three questions as follows:
What does my reader want to know? Using social media to find real estate.
Why does he want to know it? To avoid paying real estate agents’ fees.
How am I a credible provider of information? Well, if our agent’s value proposition is applying geographic knowledge in order to help business owners make informed decisions about space for their business, maybe the conversation could go something like this…
Many clients are asking me about social networking and whether they should use them to find space for their business. I’ve noticed buildings for rent or lease on Craig’s List or LinkedIn. No one can deny the immediacy and power of these tools. What a posting on these sites doesn’t offer is the geographic expertise that an agent can bring to a search. It’s a great way to advertise, but at the end of the day, only an agent can tell you what the zoning requirements are in the area and whether you will be able to warehouse your equipment or allow parking in front of the facility. And what about the plans the city has to rip up the street and eliminate street parking? My advice to clients is use the tools to find agents to vet whether they have the expertise you need.
Start with the customer. Instead of starting with a topic, start with what happens when someone tries to do something. Then demonstrate how someone can solve that problem using you. We don’t need to make up topics or pretend we have deep knowledge. We can talk to our market in terms of the issues they face and start the sales dialogue based on how we solve the problem.
Simple? Not really. Most of us spend our days thinking about what we’re doing at the moment and not about what we do to improve the business of our customers. It’s sometimes difficult to make the shift. But once we get this right, we are no longer pretenders. We have valuable content to share with the people who want to buy from us.

Marketing CoPilot