If your organization uses content marketing or you’re considering it, you likely understand that offering high quality audience-focused content is a way to build trust with your audience. And you know that, in this day and age, trust always comes before the sale.

But it isn’t simply about convincing prospects to trust you.

It’s about you trusting those customers.

That’s right – before they’ll trust you, you have to trust them. This is where a lot of organizations get stuck when they first launch a content marketing initiative. You’ve likely heard it – we can’t just give away what we do or what we think! Then our customers won’t need us!

If you’re going to create an effective content marketing program, you must overcome this mindset. Really, content marketing isn’t just an exchange of information and ideas; yes, that’s the currency of the relationship, but a deeper relationship is, at its core, an exchange of trust. You trust the customers, and they will then consider trusting you. This requires you – the brand – to go first.

You have to make the first move because the customer has so many options. They can buy from you, from the business across town or the business halfway around the world. The world is flat, and that means the customer has untold options. More than ever before, you have to earn the relationship with that customer. You have to build preference before they’ll ever choose you. That means you need to give them a reason to do so. You need to show them you’re better than the competition. Giving them content – high quality content that helps them do their job or solve their problems – is the way to do this.

Creating content that’s good enough to make a difference for your customers requires effort. This is where the trust comes in – if your team is going to sweat over content and you’re going to spend resources and then just give it away for free, or maybe for an email address, your organization has to believe that making the effort will matter at some point. There has to be a belief that ultimately you will increase sales.

Could they just take the information you provide, use it, and then never engage with you, maybe never even say thank you? Of course they could. In fact, odds are that many of them will do just that.

However, when you give them content so valuable, so useful, so insightful that they come away impressed, you’ve created an impression. You’ve gotten their attention, and that’s just about the most precious thing they can give you. You’ve started a relationship and increased the chances that they’ll come back to you at some point ready to buy.

So… do you trust your customers?