The How and Why of Authoritative Content

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Back in the day, building customer relationships was simply a matter of creating an outstanding product or service then backing it up with some good user documentation. Today’s customers expect more — far more — from us. They want contextual, fresh, and relevant information so great engagement means you need to be part mind-reader, part sherpa, and part concierge. You can be all these things when you provide authoritative content to your customers.

What’s all this voodoo about authoritative content? Isn’t it enough to simply create an online knowledge base and let customers pick through your living documentation? Not anymore. Let’s take a look at the importance of authoritative content and why it’s more than just piling up words on your company’s website.

Be a mind reader. At a time when about 50% of business leaders pinpoint customer churn as the topmost threat to their company, Forrester analyst Kate Leggett notes proactivity is vital to customer retention. “Customers want to feel like the company has their best interests at heart and that the company is partnering with its customers to keep them satisfied and loyal throughout their engagement lifetime,” she says. “[And] they want this proactive service to happen, whenever possible, behind the scenes so that problems are addressed before they happen.” In other words, give customers the information they need before they even realize they need it.

Of course, evergreen content that people can reference for months and years to come is a priority. Paired with a continually-updated website, blog, or knowledge base puts you on the leading edge of information resources.

Be a sherpa. When you’re the go-to site for information about a particular type of product or service, customers will look to you for guidance in addition to their friends on social media networks. Peer assistance is great but customers need definitive answers, not supposition. Make yours the authoritative content that people link to as they help one another troubleshoot or look for new business solutions.

In addition to building your company’s personal brand, content that solves issues and shows users how to get maximum value from your product lets customers know you’re listening. Consumer loyalty is a minefield these days and authoritative content — in addition to a great product and superior customer service — is the glue that binds users to their product. Corporate communications writer Erica Harrison calls this cycle the “psychology of trust:”

1. A user searches for a topic relevant to your industry.
2. They come across your authoritative content (i.e. white paper, blog, or case study).
3. The positive response (i.e. trust) to the authority of your content is then directly paired with your organization.
4. The reader assumes if you have such informative content online, then you must be a leading authority in the industry.
5. This automatically builds their trust in your organization.
6. They then visit your site where they will most likely become a client or customer.

Be a concierge. Don’t underestimate the power of authoritative content to establish yourself as an industry leader. Spend some time sharing your thoughts on market trends and analyzing what’s going on in your industry. Don’t be afraid to make forecasts and predictions. Authoritative content is predicated on bringing fresh, new information to readers and keeping your finger on the pulse of things that affect your customers. Let them know where to go, what to see, and what to do.

There’s little doubt the customer engagement playing field has changed drastically in recent years. The good news is that with great change comes great opportunity. Serving up smart, authoritative content is a particularly important arrow in your quiver of customer service resources.

Image: Brian J. Matis

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