Connection and Expertise: Why People Buy.

May 18, 2018 | Thoughtful Brand Storytelling

Caveat: This post is about why people buy from small creative businesses. You obviously don’t need to connect to your loo paper brand (although the Andrex puppy is very cute!). 
 
Credit where credit is due: This idea came out of a coaching call with Jen Carrington, and I’m not sure I would have figured it out without her!
 
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What makes someone actually press “buy” on a service or product from a small creative business? It’s something that I’ve given a lot of thought to, not least in relation to my own services and business. What makes someone want to buy from someone else online? I’ve always known that it’s not as simple as just wanting what they are offering. There is more to it than that. 
 
The conclusion I’ve come to is that it boils down to a combination of two things: connection and expertise.
 
I purposefully put them in that order as I think that is the process that people go through. I wrote about why I always write for connection not conversion here. I see conversion as a by-product of connection, and by focusing on the connection itself you are building a relationship with your reader that is based on more than just a monetary transaction. Yet there is another piece to the puzzle I think. While you might connect to someone – to their stories, ideas, and values –  you wouldn’t necessarily part with your hard-earned cash unless you trusted in their expertise. And, flipped the other way, I firmly believe people like buying from people they like, and who they connect with. You might think someone is great at what they do, but unless you really connect to them and see yourself and your current difficulties in their words, then you’re not going to part with your money. You need both: connection and expertise.
 
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I came to this conclusion when I thought about why I personally have spent money with two specific people: Jen Carrington and Sara Tasker. And think they, and the process I went through, demonstrate this idea neatly. 
 
Starting with Jen, I literally have no idea how I first found her. I think a friend mentioned her to me but I’m not 100% sure. Anyway, I found her website, read a few blog posts and subscribed to her newsletter. I’ve just checked my inbox, and my first letter from her was in February 2016. I bought her coaching services for the first time in September 2016. So that was over six months of receiving her letters every week, and often reading her weekly blog posts as well, before I hired her. Over those six months I built up a real connection with her, and grew to trust her knowledge and expertise. I liked her focus on creating space for your creative work, and on building an impactful, fulfilling and sustainable business (three things I really wanted, and still want). I liked that she shared parts of herself, and her story with me, and that I felt like I was really getting to know her through her words. I also knew, by the time I came to hire her, that she would give me very good advice and would lead me in the right direction. 
 
Moving on to Sara Tasker from Me & Orla. Again, I can’t remember when and where I first found her online. I remember LOVING her slow, beautiful Instagram feed, and aspiring to create something as coherent and aesthetically pleasing. I also loved her captions, and again how much she shared of herself and her life with her followers. Yet it was a blog post she published in February 2017, that really connected to me. It’s called “10 Things to Do When It Feels Like You’re Failing“:
 
“One of the hardest things about being an ‘online entrepreneur’ or chasing your creative dreams is the fear. The fear that creeps in when your inbox fall quiet for an afternoon; when you’ve not had enough sleep; when someone else gets the big break that you wanted to be yours. It’s the fear that whispers ‘what if you’re not good enough?’ or ‘look how you’re failing!’. It’s the fear that makes most people give up.”
 
I can remember reading this and feeling like YES, this is what I feel like. This is my fear. I felt understood and seen, and I connected to her because of it. I started to pay more attention to her and her work because of it, and realised just how much she knew about Instagram. I saw how much work she puts into her feed, and the opportunities she’s created for herself because of it.  Fast-forward to Summer 2017, and I purchased The Insta Retreat.
 
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There is a phrase which is bandied around quite a lot in online circles: “the know, like, and trust factor”. To me, like is better described as connection, trust as expertise, and perhaps the third strand here is consistency, or know. In the above two examples, I was following them both for at least six months, and they were sharing content regularly in that time, before I hit “buy”. 
 
 And the good news here is that none of these things can be faked. You can’t fake connection. If you say just what you think your audience wants to hear, you won’t connect with them. There needs to be authenticity behind what you are sharing. And expertise, again, you can’t really fake. You either know and are actively learning and engaged with your work, or you’re not. 
 
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So, I guess the next question is how do you go about developing these two things: connection and expertise? 
 
Well, as you probably expected, my answer is brand storytelling (it pretty much always is!).  I really believe it is a way of creating and building these two things (have a read of this blog post if you’re not sure exactly what it is).
 
I also think this is the real value of content. In both of my examples, it was their consistent content – blogs, newsletters, Instagrams, and podcasts – that convinced me, over time, to buy from them. Connection isn’t something that just happens overnight, or the first time you read someone’s website copy, it is something that’s developed. And the same with expertise. As much as I don’t like to say it, expertise in copy can be fudged slightly, but you can’t consistently talk about and share your expertise through content if it’s not there. You won’t have enough to say.
 
I think of evergreen website copy being the central golden nugget of your brand. It is your brand distilled into as few words as possible. It’s condensed and concentrated. It should say what you want to say as clearly and as concisely as possible. Your content on the other hand is the web that surrounds it. It’s your place to really expand on your ideas, values, and processes. It elaborates and explains. It tells stories, and offers insight and value.
 
And, if done well, will connect with your audience and demonstrate your expertise. And, eventually, lead to sales.