Over the last couple of columns, we’ve been exploring some marketing ideas for delighting your team and your current customers as we wrap up 2021 and start planning for 2022.

In this final column of the series, we’re going to finally turn our attention to the group that most organizations start with: their prospects. Now that we’ve taken care of the employees who help us earn and re-earn our clients’ business and the people who are already giving us money, we can focus on new customers.

When it comes to marketing to prospects, the rules have changed. Instead of pitching our wares, now we earn trust and make promises based on our ability to be helpful and align with the potential customer’s current and future needs.

As I’ve said in many previous columns, we’re not driving the buying decision or timetable anymore. Even if you’re in an industry that is driven by discount offers or sales, the game has changed.

So what can we be doing in the last few months of 2021 to woo new clients?  

Double down on being genuinely helpful: There’s a difference between actually trying to be helpful versus feigning helpfulness as a marketing ploy.  

The difference? The depth in which you give. A blog post with some superficial information is a marketing ploy. A detailed white paper or YouTube video series that teaches everything you’ve got is genuine helpfulness.

Your audience will know the difference. Given how much anyone can find online these days, superficial doesn’t cut it anymore. If you don’t dig deep to truly be helpful, they simply keep moving.

Identify the three to five biggest pain points or blind spots that your customers have and address those with meaningful, practical information that your audience can put to use immediately without buying anything from you. You’ll not only earn their trust and confidence, but you’ll also have impact before you’ve even made a sale.

Show them the results: After the last 18 months, everyone is a little unsure. About just about everything. We’ve had the wind knocked out of our sails more than once since the pandemic started. If what you sell is a considered purchase, buckle in because your audience is skeptical about pretty much everything right now.

One of the most reassuring things you can offer them is proof that what you do works. Introducing them to current customers who look a lot like them and are struggling with the same issues is a smart way to earn their trust. Both the 2020 and 2021 editions of the Edelman Trust Barometer, which surveys over 30,000 consumers every year, make it clear that consumers trust people who look and sound like them.

Let your current clients provide testimony to the work you do, the products and services you offer, and what it’s like to work with you. Ideally, they’ll speak candidly about what they like and don’t like about working with you.  

Resist the urge to edit out the less than ideal comments. That just makes their commentary even more believable. Think about your own experience with brands. Even when it comes to the brands we love, we typically don’t think they’re perfect. Odds are the customers who love you most might still have a tweak or two to suggest. Airing your own foibles is a smart way to earn a prospect’s interest and confidence.

Both of these tactics are all about brand and trust building. By focusing on the prospect’s needs and struggles as opposed to pushing or pitching what you have to sell, you can demonstrate how you approach working with a new customer. You are making it clear that your attention will be right where it belongs: serving your clients’ most pressing needs.