A couple of years ago, Google introduced the concept of the “micro-moment,” the little bits of focused attention customers apply when researching a purchase or a service relationship. Their documentation of the trend is worth a read and positioning your business and location within the data stream that delivers you into moments is critical to success. Once that’s in place, however, nurturing a relationship requires nuance, something great content can provide 24/7.

In their book, “The Trusted Advisor,” David H. Maiser, Charles H. Green, and Robert M. Halford list five stages to building trust with clients. Here’s my take on how to apply them to crafting a content plan that builds your business by focusing on a customer need before they may even know they have it.

Engage

The first step is to take the initiative to actively work on understanding the situation people are in and uncover the topics they want to discuss. Instead of jumping into discussing auto loans, for example, talk first about managing the costs of owning a car to make them feel more secure in what may be their first major purchase.

Listen

Before you can join a discussion, you’ve got to earn the right to be included by listening. Good listeners ask for more detail, empathize, and are encouraging. They don’t jump to conclusions or pass judgement. Social media provides a great opportunity to listen in a channel where your community is actively engaged.

Frame

As an outside expert, you often have a fresh perspective on a customer’s situation. But sometimes that means having an uncomfortable conversation by addressing the elephant in the room nobody wants to confront. That means you can take some of the personal responsibility by wading in first. Try phrases like: “It’s probably just me, but…” “It’s probably inappropriate to bring this up, but…” “I know you prefer X, but…”

Envision

By now, you should have a clear picture of the kinds of solutions to offer. But before jumping in, take time for a little imagination. Ask questions like “What are we really aiming for?” “How will we know when we’re successful?” “What will that success look like?” It’s fun to imagine what’s possible and is an important step to align everyone’s expectations, particularly among people with little experience.

Commit

At this stage, commitment is more than closing a sale. It’s about outlining what’s expected from each party and proving that there’s more to the relationship than a transfer of money. Commit to a customer’s success and you’ll stand out from the crowd. After all, isn’t that what customer service is all about?

Becoming a trusted partner to a whole new range of customers isn’t about creating content that panders to them. It’s about establishing a reliable presence and offering the guidance and information they need.

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