Consumers don’t trust as easily as they did in the past. Years of false advertising, spam, and disingenuous marketing tactics have made us cautious about the brands we trust. According to Hubspot, only 25 percent of people accept advertisements as truth, while 70 percent trust online consumer opinions. This means that consumers trust strangers more than what a company says.
Yet the fact remains that, whether you run a B2B or B2C company, you need consumers to trust that what you’re saying is actually true. This applies to emails, social media posts, ads, website copy—basically every type of brand messaging.
So, what can a company do? Stop selling. People know when the messaging’s only intention is to sell something, so it feels disingenuous. This doesn’t mean that you should literally stop every sales activity. It means that selling shouldn’t be your main focus. Instead, your focus should be on building authentic relationships with consumers. People don’t want to be seen just as another customer, they want to partner with you.
Build Relationships Instead
Let’s say you know a guy. You met him at a conference a while back and he seemed cool, so you friended him on social media. Since then, though, he hasn’t responded to your messages about heading out for that game of pool you talked about, and the relationship fizzles out. Then out of the blue he messages you asking you to help him move. Worse, he wants you to buy the moving-day pizza from his new mobile-only pizza ‘experience.’
Would you help him, let alone call that guy your friend? Yeah, no.
However, if that guy engaged regularly with you, helped you with that one pool shot you always have trouble lining up, showed interest in your life, and then one day opened a pizza business, wouldn’t you support him?
So, how can your company be like the second guy?
There Are 4 Ways to Get Sales Without Selling
- Be authentic
- Build a community
- Be part of a community
- Invest in organic growth
Authenticity has become a buzzword in marketing but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. In the context of marketing, being authentic means that a company’s interactions with its customers are honest, original, and genuine.
If your company stays true to its identity, values, and customers consistently throughout its marketing efforts, people will perceive it as authentic. The opposite of an authentic company is a company that uses false advertising, has inconsistent branding and messaging, and is unoriginal.
Customers gravitate towards brands that have a unique identity, that are purpose-driven, and offer an honest relationship because people care about what they support. It doesn’t matter that ultimately you’re trying to sell products or services if you are offering a genuine connection first. In fact, 86 percent of consumers say authenticity is key when deciding what brands to support.
The solution to traditional marketing tactics that aren’t performing as well anymore is authenticity. That means branding and messaging that feels human—not coming from a common template or a computer—and honesty.
Build a Community
According to a report from First Round Capital, 80 percent of startup founders say building a community is important to their business. While the term “community” can mean different things to different people, the best definition in this context is: A group of people with a strong emotional connection that come together over the things they care about.
True brand communities are not simply a company’s user-base. It goes far beyond that. A community requires a certain level of connection to the company to be considered as such. This community purchases the brand’s products, recommends them, interacts with its content, has a sense of ownership, and overall, helps the company grow. They’re not just interested, they’re invested.
Sounds great, but what does a brand community actually look like?
The answer to this question depends on the brand. Your company could have a private Facebook group, host in-person events, or your product itself may be the platform where people bond, like Twitch. The point is to provide a better experience for your biggest fans and build these connections.
With this in mind, the way your customers bond over your products will depend on their habits and interests. No matter if this happens offline or online, achieving this level of connection is not an easy task. But when done correctly, the returns are outstanding.
On average, brand communities generate a 6,469 percent ROI. Other benefits include:
Benefits of a Brand Community
- Helping consumers with product research by having user-generated content
- Increasing brand loyalty by offering exclusive rewards for your community
- Driving innovation through feedback
- Improving your brand perception through positive word-of-mouth
- Gaining valuable insights on your customers
To start a successful brand community you first need to figure out how a community can help your company and how you can help them. For example, a startup may need help educating others about the product, improving it, or simply to spread the word.
On the other hand, people generally have three motivations to join a community: to learn, to have a sense of belonging, and/or to get exposure.
With that in mind, what could this startup do? A simple idea could be starting a Facebook group where people can ask questions about the product and users can answer. This solves both parties’ need for education. In addition, the startup now has a place to interact with users, ask for feedback, and build the relationship.
Once you understand your needs and your customers’ wants, start your community by following Airbnb’s “100 lover strategy.” Basically, you need to find 100 people that love your product and make them feel like they are contributing to the growth of your community. At the beginning only focus on this group and improve their experience through feedback. Soon, lovers spread the word and generate buzz around the community, making others want to join. (This strategy also worked at Strava).
After that, you need to come up with ways to keep people engaged and spreading the love. Fortunately, your community can help you with that. Listening to what your fans actually want is probably the most important part of building a community. So do it.
Be Part of a Community
Similar to building your own community, adding value to other communities is effective at connecting with people. This means that you should get involved with the communities that matter to your customers and support their interests. This way, your company will be up to date on the current issues and you can show up to support and add value.
Let’s say your company is a Fintech. You can add value to other communities by providing information on current events, create educational content on industry-related topics, and offer financial advice. You should do this with the genuine intention to add value to the overall finance community or to specific communities on social media. This creates the potential to become an industry thought leader, build a connection with people in your space, and drive awareness of your products where it matters.
You also need to remember that people buy on belief. That’s why 64 percent of people would support or boycott a brand just based on its position on social or political issues. Showing where you stand on industry issues helps build your relationship with consumers. Keep adding value to other communities and show people that you are on their side.
Invest in Organic Growth
Organic growth has always been important for organizations. By ‘organic growth’ I mean any marketing effort that tries to make it easier for people to come across your company. That is, online content on your website or social media. According to the 2021 B2B Buyers Survey Report, these are the most important factors that influence purchasing decisions of decision-makers, decision-influencers, and researchers:
The 3 Most Important Influences on Purchasing Decisions
- Easy access to targeted content
- Easy access to pricing and competitive information
- Content that demonstrates expertise
In addition, 41 percent of respondents said their first step in the purchasing process is anonymous research. Only 19 percent said talking to a vendor was their first step.
What all of this means is that focusing on selling will never be as effective as adding real value to people’s lives. Giving consumers easy access to the information they need will do the job much better.