When my boyfriend asked me out for the first time, I replied, “Dinner? Why not find a minister and get married instead?” But he explained that I should get to know him first, learn more about him and grow to trust him. He used that approach successfully in sales, he said, so we should give it a try.

No, I did not try to drag my boyfriend to a chapel on our first date, but there’s sound advice in that silly story. I’ve been thinking about how we grow to trust and invest in a person, for example, a presidential candidate, or a cause, organization or business.

In the next few months the presidential campaigns will take over our papers, computers and TV sets. We’ll soon learn more about each candidate’s stance on issues and plans to solve problems. We’ll find out about their experience and get a feel for their character. We’ll get to know them better. We’ll grow to trust some of them. And we may even take out our credit card and make a donation.

Why do presidential campaigns attract donations from people who never give money to any other political candidates or causes? It always confounded me that our PAC had such trouble raising money from most of our members. The members who were regularly involved in the association were staunch PAC supporters, but the average member usually wasn’t. Yet those average members often gave liberally to presidential candidates. What were Obama and Bush doing that the PAC wasn’t?

Two reasons jump out at me:

  • The candidates practice content marketing. They educate their market through constant exposure on the news, in publications, online and in person. We absorb their stories and messaging. We have time to get to know them — their personality, background, opinions, beliefs and plans. They establish credibility. We grow to trust them. When they ask for a donation, we’re ready to give.
  • They communicate effectively. If they’re not a good communicator, they will be gone by Super Tuesday. They hire professional writers to craft their speeches, website content and campaign materials. They provide enough data to appeal to the logical part of our brains, but they focus on appealing to our emotions. They empathize. They instill hope or fear. They promise solutions to our problems. They paint a picture of a better life. Sounds like a good copywriter, doesn’t it?

If a candidate, cause or business doesn’t give us the opportunity to get to know them and trust them, we won’t make that big donation or purchase.

When’s the last time you answered a cold call from a roofer and said, “Yes, come on over, I’ll have a check waiting for you.” We don’t buy from cold calls. We research first to determine if we can trust the roofer. We ask around. We check out his website to get a feel for the company. What can we learn there? What messages do we get from the site’s content?

The next time you want to ask someone for a donation or a sale, imagine you’re dating them. How well do they really know you? What kind of life stories have you told? Have you been listening to them? Do you understand where they’re coming from? How will you improve their life? Can they trust you?

If you’re not ready to pop the question, think about ways your prospects can get to know you better. Take a hard look at your website’s content and your marketing collateral. Make your website more robust and Google-friendly by adding a regularly updated blog where you share content that helps you establish credibility, authority and trust with your market. Make it easy for your prospect to say, “I do.”

raleigh freelance writer content marketing

photo by Phil Hawksworth