Content marketing is founded on six fundamental truths about human behaviour, which is the reason why it works as a sales tool. But what are these principles and how can you make them work for your company? Olle Lindholm investigates.
Professor Robert Cialdini has studied marketing and influence for decades, and in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, he explains why content marketing is (and always will be) a powerful way of setting up the right sales environment. Here are the six key factors, which he believes influence whether people want to buy your product or not.
Content marketing is all about providing value first. Your readers feel a certain kind of gratitude when they consume your content (especially if you’ve managed to solve their problem), which creates goodwill in the long term. The aim is to provide free content that in some way improves their lives. This goodwill makes the audience more likely to choose you over your competitors.
If we can’t have it, we want it even more. Exclusivity is a principle that marketers have used for many years. And it certainly works for content marketing as well. A limited number of seats at the conference, a limited-edition print run of that special book, a webinar that’s only available at a particular time… You get the point. But word to the wise, never fake it. It will end up damaging your brand.
Content marketing is the most effect way of establishing your name in your market. In solving customer problems, you teach your topic rather than talk about yourself. Let other companies brag about their excellence. Instead, become a brand that shares its experience and knowledge; educating the customer is the most underappreciated sales trick there is.
Content marketing shows how important commitment and consistency are. We rarely like to break our own promises – and likewise, by publishing content regularly, you show commitment and consistency. The result? Your readers commit to you too.
Whether we like it or not, life is sometimes a popularity contest. Who would you rather give your money to: a company that you like or one that you can’t stand? The answer’s obvious. The company that understands you, cares about you, and gives you valuable advice will always win the business over a company that you dislike. Content marketing leads to liking. The more they consume the content, the more they’ll like you.
6. Social proof
We’re social creatures who like to follow the crowd. Consensus is everything. We read what others read. We watch what others watch. That blog post that generated 1,478 shares? The testimonial that reflects the customer’s own doubts and concerns? These are examples of social proof. Unfortunately, these days even fake news can be social proof, but on the most part, social proof massively increases a brand’s credibility so it’s worth thinking about.
Bonus principle: Unity
Cialdini’s latest book Pre-suasion lists unity as another principle. This is how he defines it:
‘The experience of Unity is not about simple similarities (although those can work too, but to a lesser degree, via the liking principle). It’s about shared identities.’
His research shows, once again, why content marketing works so well. Content (ie stories) creates a sense of belonging that unites people. The more we identify with a company’s values, the more influenced we become. Simply put, we want to be a part of the journey. That’s powerful marketing.
A final thought
There’s a reason Seth Godin once said that ”content marketing is the only marketing that’s left.” It builds on old principles that set up the right sales environment, where people don’t feel cheated and manipulated, but rather inspired and educated. They both can and want to make a purchase with a company that helps them.
Content marketing convinces people to stop and listen – at a time when we’re all being spammed by content all the time. It’s noisy out there, but your content can teach potential clients who you are and why they should trust you. It’s good for them. It’s good for you. And that’s why it works.
PS. If you want content marketing to work for you, check out this article: