Do you know where your customers hang out and what keeps them awake at night?
One of the phrases I use the most when I’m consulting, training or speaking is “watering hole”.
For me, watering holes are one of the most important, yet frequently overlooked elements of any marketing or content marketing program.
Watering holes are the places online and off-line where our customers, prospects and influencers go to satisfy a number of needs.
It might be where they reside, hangout, go for advice, information, ask questions, seek conversation, engage in dialogue, and look for anything from reassurance, help, support or guidance.
Not just for PR
For the most part, it has been savvy PR consultants and agents looking to carefully place PR in front of the right people that have been the most successful at identifying watering holes. Watering holes have tended to be sector press, business press, industry and member associations, websites, conferences and exhibitions, online groups and forums to name a few.
Good publicity and public relations will, however, only get you so far.
Increasingly, working your way into the watering hole, being accepted by the community there and putting credit in the bank is less about disrupting the conversations already taking place.
Nobody likes the loud, self absorbed person at a party. With conversations and discussions already taking place between people who have given permission and earned the right to do so, arriving and seeking to divert attention is just plain rude.
People, especially Brits, are generally suspicious of companies and their motives in communities. Just think about ‘the rules’ prescribed by Linkedin group owners to prevent spamming. Brand owners need to take the time to study and listen to what is going on before ploughing in.
Lead with your experts
Participating in community discussion and becoming one of the trusted counsellors can be a challenge for companies where sales and marketing professionals represent the company publicly. For this reason I think it is better to use your experts.
Think about it. Every company has them. Positioning on expertise and being able to discuss and solve customer problems is the ethos that underpins the modern explosion in ‘content marketing’. Only experts have the credibility to achieve this, as people (not brands) solve problems.
The best way, I think, to join any watering hole community is to first listen, ask questions, offer advice, offer recommendations across the community and build a facilitator profile.
Don’t ever try to sell straight away. Trust always comes before transaction.
[More on marketing with expertise to follow...]