Transparency: it's all the rage in content marketing. For obvious reasons, one of best ways to attract visitors to your site or blog is to give them the information no one else is willing to. We all want to know the deep dark secrets of other companies, and by being the ones to actually tell these secrets, your company has a lot to gain. Here are three immediate results of offering open and honest advice to prospects online:
An increase in website traffic
The development of a social following—more Facebook likes, LinkedIn company followers, etc.
The innumerable value of earned trust from your prospects and clients.
Transparency may seem like quite the risk to some companies in highly competitive environments, but those who take the leap absolutely see the rewards. Just ask Rand Fishkin of the SEO-resources company "Moz." They publish all their funding and the results in full detail for anyone to see on their blog. It's no coincidence that Moz's revenues continue to soar and they are the second most recognized marketing technology brand after Google. They have nothing to hide and hopefully you don't either.
We all love learning each other's trade secrets and reading about employee culture, but when it comes time to hit publish, you may get a few butterflies. To help you get over your fears, we've put together a list of 6 different types of transparency you can actually market and examples of companies (all that you've probably heard of) who have embraced them. Oh, and I forgot to mention, this list grows more and more daring as you move down the list.
1. Be Proud of Bumping Conventional Industry Methods
In 2006, a internet marketing company was funded by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah with the hopes of doing something radical: no spam. While interruptive marketing still reigned, HubSpot gave their customers the means to do heavy, spammy email marketing, but they emphasized the philosophy and tools to rise above such dishonest techniques. Rather than focus on buying email lists, they gave companies the ability to organically grow email subscriber lists. Rather than focusing on serving advertisements, they optimized websites for opt-in conversions. Rather than focusing on the pop-up ada, HubSpot created analytics tools for your site so you can see what your visitors actually like and and what they don't.
Though this aversion to interruptive marketing was certainly against industry trends in 2006, it was exactly what customers were looking for. The philosophy of inbound marketing that they invented and built their software company upon has become today's biggest trend in marketing rivaled only social media and has made the founders (and many others) very, very wealthy.
2. Clarify Your Sourcing and Supply Chain
Discussing where and how you obtain the raw materials you build your products and services upon can be a fantastic way to build trust with your prospects, show how much you care about the details of your work, and give your suppliers great publicity. The only reason you would choose to avoid this strategy is when you have something to hide from prospects or customers. In which case, you should consider major changes to your business.
Using interactive maps, both Starbucks and Patagonia have released the exact locations around the world from which they recieve their supplies. Apparently, these companies have nothing to hide and their customers are willing to pay premium for products they can trust in.
3. Regardless of Your Industry, Promote Your Innovative Growth Strategies
You might be thinking: "Why would I ever release my business insights and process? These hard-earned strategies are the key components of my competitive advantage." Of course, that's all well and good but these hard-earned strategies will never grow your business if your prospects don't know you have them. Content marketing provides a fantastic avenue for you to use your industry knowledge to market your business to interested prospects.
Just look at Marcus Sheridan of River Pools who was featured in the New York Times because he stopped spending as much money on advertising and focused on answering his customer's questions directly on his website, which helped save his business, and in turn, he became a content marketing superstar.
4. Using Negative Feedback to Feature Your Customer Service
This is a challenge of many businesses, how to respond to negative reviews in a way that appeases the commenter without admitting too many flaws in your company or your services. I think Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro found the right balance with their response to some negative comments after they were featured on a television program.
Customer service, whether online or in person, is about helping them with their problems and doing everything you can make a good impression and keep a customer. For examples on how to actually address negative comments in public forums, check out our past blog post on Twitter Customer Service best practices.
5. Take an Open Approach to Presenting Financial Data
Financial information is often considered a closely-guarded asset of many companies which make it all the exciting when a company releases your revenue and spending. Around the world, there has been growing pressure on oil companies to unveil their revenue and spending. (No matter that most companies ignored these requests.)
However, one company saw the opportunity to set an example for their industry and displayed not only their full revenue but also their spending with every different government entity to dispell any rumors of misconduct. Shell was applauded by even their loudest political opponents for this transparency, and the move helped built trust among comsumers.
6. Improve Company Recognition by Boldly Promoting HR Policy
This is about as transparent as a company can get. Buffer, a social media management software company, took the bold move to publish the salaries of every employee, even the CEO. It was certainly made waves and probably made some of their employees uncomfortable. But, for their risk, they were flooded with résumés and have received never-ending press praising their bravery. Oh, and did I forget to mention they've seen exponential growth?
Transparent marketing isn't always easy, many even find it scary. However, if you have nothing to hide, having a transparent marketing strategy build's industry respect and recognition, attracts prospects, and creates trust with your customers. Whatever your concerns, if Buffer can publish all their salaries, I'm sure you can offer your prospects some information on your supply chain.