Gaining your clients’ trust is huge. If your clients trust you,

They’ll believe your recommendations on other ways you can help them.
They’ll leave you some breathing room if you’re overworked – because you’ve shown them you’ll deliver.
If you make a mistake, they’re confident you’ll make it right, because that’s what you’ve done in the past.
When one of your competitors calls, they’ll just say, “Thanks, we’re happy with our current supplier.” 

Most business professionals can earn that level of trust only through doing really good work

But what if there were a way to earn trust from prospective clients, even before you start working with them? Wouldn’t this make them more likely to reach out to you, to accept your approach warmly if you contact them, and to prefer you in a competitive bid situation?

There is -- through showing that you face the same issues that they do, you have the same values – in short, that you’re like them. It’s an old saying in business that people will do business if they know, like and trust you.

Do this through “review” content. I’ll first describe what it is, and then how you can use it to build trust.

How “review” articles can build your “know, like and trust” factor

First of all, what’s a “review?” It’s an expressed opinion – a blog post, an article in a client-read magazine, a YouTube video or other content. It describes a product, service or other item for sale, and discusses its good and bad points.

Reviews have long been a mainstay of book publishing, movies, muffler shops, software and anything else that’s for sale. Newspapers, magazines, radio and other media have for years been offering reviews by professional journalists. Now, everyone’s a critic, and the results are found all over YouTube, the blogosphere, and the “comments” section below many news articles online.

What’s great about them, from a trust-building and business-growing point of view? They:

Can be short, and easy to write - and this means they can be a good way to get started in thought leadership content
Can be amazingly useful, so that your prospective clients are truly grateful
Help you target your content at people in market niches that are most valuable to you
Can show you to be like the people you want to reach, in that you use the same products and face the same issues.
They can display your values – accuracy, helpfulness and resourcefulness

Review content is best at building trust in your readers or viewers if it meets the four criteria I’ll set out below.

As an example of “review” content that works, I’m going to imagine a product – a tablet similar to an iPad, but which has been designed to work in the field. Many business professionals gather data and samples far from the office, and even far from the cab of their pickup truck. They can’t be bothered with paper and notepad. Laptop computers are useless in those places. A tablet suitable for office use wouldn’t last a day without being scratched, broken, or maybe frozen to death.

So I’m going to make up a hand-held tablet that has been made extra-durable, or ruggedized, for use in the field. We’ll call this hypothetical newly-introduced tablet the “Pingo 2.” Many of my environmental science and engineering clients use such devices in their work.

Base your review content on an accurate picture of your clients

As I discussed in Post #5, it always helps to develop an “avatar” or person who represents those you want to serve as clients.

So, visualize one of my clients, a wildlife biologist I’ll call Fatima, who spends her days stomping through tundra, forest and field in northern Canada. She’s bitten by bugs, gets sunburned, and always has a can of bear spray ready.

Fatima catalogues aquatic species, birds, plants, soil contamination and other factors. Her reports go into environmental reviews for her resource-sector clients.

To do her work, she relies on her tablet for inputting her measurements, images and other data, and then uploading these to the project database.

In so doing, she develops a powerful love-hate relationship with hand-held tablets. She has strong opinions, some of them involving very colorful language, on the best and worst tablets for gathering field data. She loves tablets that go on working after they’ve fallen onto the road after she left them on the roof of her pickup, and she hates it when they stop working at -30 degrees Celsius.

Previously, she was using a hand-held device we’ll call the “Pingo 1,” but for a week now has been using its successor, the Pingo 2.

Would preparing a text or video review of the Pingo 2 be good for Fatima’s career? Let’s apply the four tests and see.

Test #1: Relevant – would be used by the people you want as clients

Personally, I don’t deal much with ruggedized tablets. I do my work in civilized places such as a high-end coffee bar or my office, and not sitting on a pickup truck’s tailgate. So I would likely scroll right past a review of ruggedized tablets.

But Fatima’s clients do use these things. They, too, do fieldwork. They need to enter data on a device that has a battery that won’t die on them, that will survive a drop onto a rock, shrug off rain or snow, and work in the winter. So yes, they will be googling reviews on the latest field-friendly tablet.

So, a review of the Pingo 2 tablet meets Test #1 – the content would be of great interest to the people Fatima wants as clients.

Test #2: Something you’ve used yourself

As I said earlier, Fatima has loved and hated many tablets. She’s known the joy of getting her report uploaded with no problems, and the horror of going back to a paper notepad when her battery dies on a cold day.

So yes, she’s used her Pingo 2 extensively, long enough to find out its quirks, limitations and strengths.

As a “review” subject for Fatima, the Pingo 2 meets Test #2 – she has knowledge that comes through use.

You, too, need to focus your reviews on items you’ve used before – and more importantly, can be seen as having credibility to discuss. For example, I could write a credible review of a backpacker’s cooking stove, because I’ve used many of them. I’d be a lot less credible than my hypothetical Fatima, in discussing field-friendly tablets.

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Test #3: Something on which your opinion has weight

Fatima, as observed, is an experienced field biologist. She’s measured more fish, taken more water samples, and backed carefully away from more bears than she cares to think of. She’s used many different tablets.

As well, Fatima has compared experiences with many of her colleagues, who also have their professional lives wrapped around their tablets. So, does she have credibility in what she says? Yes, her opinion would be seen by her mining-company clients as having weight.

So, the Pingo 2 survives Test #3. Fatima’s opinion would have credibility.

Test #4: Something with very few other reviews

Every time Apple comes out with a new iWhatever, there’s a sudden flurry of reviews of the device. It’s a form of newsjacking, which I discussed in Post #64. But there are several problems with choosing too-common products for your review. One is that there will be a lot of competition for what you have to say, and many of those posts will be on sites that have high traffic volume.

Fatima’s career would not be helped by adding her voice to the chorus, one of thousands of hits on Google. Louder voices, with more Web traffic, would dominate any search results.

But she can be a clear and distinct voice on the Pingo 2, which is a niche device that sells in the thousands, not in the millions. While not a mass market device, the key thing to remember is Test #1 above – it’s a device that is used by Fatima’s clients and people she wants as clients, within the mining sector. Her review of the Pingo 2 has a good chance of coming up in search results by mining sector leaders – bringing Fatima to the attention of highly qualified prospects who didn’t know about her before.

The scarcity of reviews on our ruggedized hand-held device also means that those mining executives will be grateful to Fatima for helping guide their decision on which device to buy.

A “Pingo 2” review meets Test #4 – there won’t be much competition, and the review will be appreciated by Fatima’s intended clients.

Why the right review content helps you build trust

If you do review content that meets those four tests – it’s relevant to the needs of the people you want to serve, it’s something you’ve used yourself, it’s a topic on which you can show credibility, and reviews of it are scarce – you’re well on your way to building trust with prospective and current clients. Why?

Remember that people do business with you if they “know, like and trust” you. Let’s dig into that.

“Know” – prospective clients will, first of all, come to know you through your review content. That’s if the information is located where they’ll find it. That could be because you’ve used the right search terms and concepts so that your review will come up in Google searches by your prospects.

But it works better if your content is located where they’ll already be looking – in many cases, in niche media for their industry or profession, as I’ve discussed in post #64. This is strong trust-building strategy, because your prospective clients already probably have a high degree of trust in the editors of these niche publications. If Fatima can get her reviews published in media for the mining sector, or for environmental scientists, there is a greater chance her prospects will see it, and will trust what she says.

“Like” – Going back to Fatima: if she shows her character in her writing, it will go a long way to making her readers or viewers like her. For example, if she is clear that her frustrations with cold-weather device performance are because a blank screen means she can’t meet a delivery promised to a client, they’ll trust her determination to meet her commitments.

“Trust” – Prospective clients will also come to trust Fatima more if they find her information accurate. If she talks about features in the Pingo 2 that actually turn out to be there, or if she describes a work-around that actually works. Promising something and then delivering is a good way to build trust, and so is saying something that turns out to be true.

Implementing “review” content

1. Find areas of intersection with your clients: First, consider the ways in which your life intersects those of your clients. Field-gathering of data is just one example. Do you and your clients both do computer-aided design, navigate off-road, travel by small boat, or work in remote parts of the world?

2. Think of products and services you both use. Sharing work in computer-aided design might mean you’re using the same software tools. How about 3-D modeling devices, scheduling interfaces or project-management software?

I think that there’s a great chance for women in consulting to bond with female clients through shared frustrations with “women-specific” products ranging from safety boots to hand tools. Such products need to go well beyond the “pink it and shrink it” transformations used by many manufacturers.

3. Winnow down those options to products and services for which credible reviews will be scarce, so that they’ll appreciate your understanding of their world better.

4. Present your ideas effectively. This can include using a medium that's effective. Text is a good medium for some products. Others can benefit from pictures, maybe a screen grab of a software program. In other cases, however, video is about the only way to go. You don’t need professional-level video (but it helps, as I’ve pointed out in Post #37). Fatima could easily set up her smartphone with a tripod on her pickup’s tailgate, or have a friend shoot a video in the field, in which she gives the good and bad points about the Pingo 2.

Using the keywords that her prospective clients will use if they’re searching for information, and having her content published in their news media, just give it that much more of a lift.