I was getting ready to upgrade some camping gear and started researching one of my favorite retailer’s site, REI.com. I have been a member of this co-op for over a decade and always look forward to learning about how the newest outdoor gear works. If you are not into the outdoor lifestyle, then know that there is a strange dichotomy. While the settings one can find themselves in are rustic and primitive, the gear tends to be high-tech these days. Everything from clothing to shelter and cooking can have highly convenient and technical setups.
The manufacturers of these goods have field tested a lot of their gear in extreme conditions from high altitude mountain trekking adventures to intense rapids on the Colorado river. Whether it is a high-tech sandal designed to withstand rapids and rock climbing settings to stoves that can generate electricity for your iPhone while cooking, there is not a lack of innovation.
A funny thing happens when I start looking at something that I lay big bucks down for. I don’t start with the retailer or manufacturer’s description of its features. I assume they will say good things about their product. If I already understand what their gear is supposed to do, then I look for validation. I read the candid reviews of people that have bought the products and taken them out and used them. I like reading about all the ways the product has worked or broken in real life situations.
The picture perfect photography needs to be there to entice me for sure, but a picture of an amateur shot in the wilderness of gear that is working or broken helps me to understand the real limitations someone experiences or their unexpected delight that the marketing cannot express.
Validation Helps to Validate What I am Supposed to Believe
I don’t just look at what other people say with camping gear. I read the reviews on Yelp and Amazon as well on many things I buy, like many other people that want to try something new but just don’t know whether they will be disappointed or excited. I believe that the manufacturer loves themselves already and I also know that a first person testimony is not validation. I need a third person account of their experience. I want to know if they had problems whether they got delightful service like Zappos or complete negligence and frustation like AT&T provides. I want to find out if there were special surprises in how something performed and believe that the cost I am about to pay is a complete deal.
Ultimately, we look for validation to help us overcome the unknowns and fill that gap of trust we feel when buying something. It’s emotional and it is real. We all do it as buyers. The problem is that we forget how we buy when we are sellers. The buyer wants to believe the claims. They need validation to fill the gap they are feeling emotionally.
The hard job of a seller is to provide the space and platform for customers to share their experiences via content with those that will come after them. Having content in the form of user forums, review systems, blog comments and social media channels becomes part of the research buyers will lean on to get a more complete picture of what you are about as a company and whether you are congruent. Is what you say about yourself what you actually do with customers? That kind of proof is natural for someone who does not know you.
That kind of content augments your claims and thought leadership to help buyers gain confidence and justify their buying. It’s the proof behind the claims you make. It’s content that cannot be controlled, but it has to be presented.
As you are thinking about your content marketing strategies, be sure the content which your audience creates to validate your claims is accessible, candid and rich in depth to benefit those strangers who may become part of your tribe. It takes a lot of work to build this platform and nurture it for utility, but without it, you will have to overcome the natural doubts of buyers who start as skeptics in an overwhelming world.
How are you set up to present validation to your prospects?