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Content Marketing and the Marketing Hierarchy of Trust

by Randall Craig on September 21, 2012

Filed in: Blog, Blogging, Branding, Business Development, Strategy

Tagged as: , ,

“I am great!  Really.  Truly great!  Really!”

How many people (or organizations) have marketing strategies that boil down to self-serving claims of greatness?  (Too many.)  How effective are these LinkedIn profiles, ads, websites, TV commercials, or billboards?  (Not effective at all.)

There is a trust hierarchy of marketing strategies: the higher the trust, the more likely they will transact.  From lowest to highest:

  • Unsubstantiated claims of greatness.
  • Benefit statements with proof points.
  • History:  Education and past credentials
  • Third party testimonials.
  • Corroborated third party research
  • Number (and brand strength) of current clients
  • Number of Facebook and LinkedIn Social Likes/Shares
  • Media endorsement of expertise
  • Content marketing

While most of these should be familiar, the final one – content marketing – is one that is new to many marketers.  While a particular marketing strategy might move up or down based on how it is implemented or the strength of effort put into it, the order suggests a priority of investment.  Content marketing rests on four key assumptions:

1) that the content holds value in the eye of the reader.  If not, it can have the opposite effect.

2) that demonstrating expertise is more powerful than claiming it.

3) that making it available for free – and particularly by encouraging propagation on the social web – will reach more prospects.

4) that trust will increase as more content is consumed, eventually leading to a transaction or a referral.

The most obvious examples of content marketing include certain types of blog posts, white papers, how-to videos, and books.  An important benefit of content marketing is that each piece of content, once created, lasts forever.  The cumulative impact grows exponentially over time, and can become a strategic differentiator.

This week’s action plan: Where is the center of gravity in your marketing plan, and specifically where does content marketing fit in?  This week, explore one way to add it to your marketing mix.  If you want people to think that you (or your organization) are great, then show it.

Content Marketing Postscript:  Content marketing is an important plank of my firm’s marketing strategy.  Consider how the quantum of information that we have written demonstrates our expertise by example.  And how hard it might be for others to catch up:

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Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)


Randall has been advising on Web and Social Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of seven books, including the recently released "Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business", and speaks across North America on Social Media and Web Strategy. More at and

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