By now, everyone knows content marketing is vital to success. However, many companies are still going about it in the wrong way. Only 30 percent of B2B marketers believe their content marketing is effective, and 55 percent are unclear on what effective content marketing even looks like. They make mistakes like these:

  • They call themselves industry leaders and make big promises, only to fail to meet the lofty expectations they set for themselves.
  • They don't get to know their customers.
  • They use stock photos and shoddy web design to save money, yet still, expect to compete on a big scale.

We like to think of ourselves as nonjudgmental when it comes to appearances, but we don't always have a choice in the matter. Usually, we make up our minds about something before our brains even acknowledge it. These first impressions are so strong that sometimes even facts can't change them

The good news is that because you know this, you can use it to your advantage. You can focus your efforts on winning your customers with your first impression, and this is how:

What makes us trustworthy? What makes our content believable?

Credible people are believable people; Credible information is believable information.
— BJ Fogg

Your terms and conditions, privacy statements, industry seals, memberships and awards, guarantees, and more can help build your credibility. Beyond those basics, there are several design elements you can use to build trust among your users.

Clean designs and uncomplicated layouts with plenty of white space can serve to calm a frantic searcher. Busy websites are overwhelming and might make someone think you have something to hide. (And on that note, I can't think of one reason why you would want to introduce a user to your site with an unexpected blast of sound or video.)

Don't use stock photos. It looks fake because it is. Invest in pictures of real people and situations, preferably of your own products, customers, and employees. Seeing real people helps your audience relate to your team and the situation at hand. Photos also serve as social proof of who you work with, what you do, how your products are made, what your office is like, and so on. 

Use only honest references and testimonials in which your happy customers tell their stories in the way they see fit, not according to a template you asked them to fill out. Use videos, photos, and real quotes. Any bold statements you make must be backed up by data and/or happy customers.

Make it easy for your customers to find prices, products, and company contact information. A well-designed site is intuitive; your users should have no trouble finding anything they went to your site to find.

One more thing!

Show customers how you got your business started. Show them what you did and how you've learned and changed along the way. Total transparency helps people buy your story along with any claims you've made.

Let's wrap it up:

Content is created to help customers, not to make you feel better about yourself. This means keeping things simple; don't use jargon or complicate matters in order to look more professional or "above" your clients or competition. Address your audience by writing YOU more than ME, WE, or US. Become their most trusted companion by offering valuable content that is attractive, factual, and personal.

My last advice (it's a big one): Over-promising and under-delivering will kill your business.