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When it comes to connecting with potential customers, there are few things more valuable than trust. Trust is an essential factor in every business relationship.

Imagine you’re headed to a jewelry store to purchase a Rolex watch. Maybe you can’t really afford one, but just imagine: On your way to the store, you see a man on the street. He sidles up to you, rolls up his sleeve and shows you his arm, strapped with watches up to his elbow.

“Hey man, want to buy a Rolex?” he mutters.

Unless you’re temporarily insane, you won’t bite. Why? Because you don’t trust the guy. There is no way those Rolexes are real.

This may seem like an odd example, but many digital marketers today are the equivalent of the watch salesman. They connect with a potential prospect through social media or email and immediately begin pushing their products, without taking any time to develop a relationship of trust.

This is a mistake of critical proportions. Today, more than ever, it’s essential for digital marketers to create trust with potential clients. Only after trust has been built can services or products be sold. And one of the best ways to establish trust between you and potential customers is to create amazing content they can’t find anywhere else. Here’s how to do that.

Why you must build trust

In the bygone days of advertising, companies built trust by calling on the “experts.” Tobacco companies would boast of the fact that 9 out of 10 doctors recommended their smokes. Check out the Lucky Strike ad below, for instance. This sounds crazy now, but it was a legitimate advertising strategy that actually worked.

Image Credit: Lucky Strike

No longer. More and more research is showing that trying to push products on customers doesn’t work the way it used to. A recent survey by Hubspot showed that only 3 percent of people surveyed said they considered marketers and salespeople trustworthy. The implication was that marketers are actually at a disadvantage when it comes to selling and must invest extra effort in creating trust with potential customers.

Millennials in particular can be even more challenging to reach. As marketing strategist Matthew Tyson wrote: “Millennials don’t trust advertisements. Only about 1 percent of millennials claim that a compelling ad influences them. The rest are almost naturally skeptical of advertising. They think it’s all spin, so they don’t bother paying attention.”

In short, it’s not enough to just get your product out there. It’s not enough to simply get eyeballs on what you’re selling. Trust, not exposure, is the currency of today. Of course, this raises one critical question: how do you build trust?

Four steps for building content that creates trust

Once you’ve recognized the importance of building trust, you need a specific plan for creating content that creates trust. Here are four steps to help you create amazing content that generates a huge amount of trust.

1. Define your target audience.

Before you create any content, you need to determine whom you’re writing to. Every audience uses specific terms and phrases. Entrepreneurs often speak about growth and ideas. Salespeople are concerned with new leads and increasing their conversion rates. Millennials want to be “on fleek.”

Your audience won’t trust you if you don’t speak their language. If you don’t know your target audience, you need to take the necessary time to define it. If you don’t know how to speak to your target audience, partner with someone who does.

2. Define your niche.

After defining your target audience, you want to specify your niche. Your niche allows you to focus your expertise and time on one specific subject. If you’re passionate about starting a blog, you can carve out that subject as your niche and become known as the expert in that niche.

Additionally, writing valuable content for niche websites is an incredibly productive way to establish your authority. If you’re into tech and electronics, writing on Engadget is a great fit, but if you want to write a detailed post about user-centered design, you might be better off writing on Specky Boy. Find your audience by thinking through where, online, your audience hangs out.

3. Find the content thats already performing well.

Once you define your niche, you can discover what existing content is already performing well for this audience. Tools like BuzzSumo allow you to see which content is getting the most social shares on a particular site.

So, for example, let’s say your target audience is content marketers. You know content marketers like the website ContentMarketingInstitute.com. When you use BuzzSumo to see the most shared pieces in the last year at CMI, here’s what you get:

Image Credit: BuzzSumo

From this quick search, you can see that content marketers care very much about knowing content marketing industry trends. If you create a lengthy and detailed post about the future of content marketing, you will build significant trust with readers, generate social shares and develop deeper relationships with potential customers.

4. Add massive value through your content.

As mentioned, content that is short and fluffy adds little value to readers and likely lacks the ability to build trust. If you really want to create trust-building content, you need to add massive value to your readers.

If you you do the hard work of adding large amounts of value to your readers, you’ll be dramatically rewarded.

Conclusion

Creating content that creates trust isn’t easy. It takes time, research and a commitment to creating something that truly matters. But it’s worth it, both in terms of the trust you build with potential customers and the results for your bottom line online and offline.

It doesn’t work to simply create content and hope someone stumbles upon it. You need to create content that is going to build deep trust with your customers. Once you establish yourself as a trustworthy source, you can then think about selling to them.

This article was originally published on Entrepreneur.