I’ve been shopping for a new kitchen faucet. My husband thinks this task should be addressed by now, and has brought home multiple options from our local home improvement stores in an attempt to make it so. But given our “open concept” home, I’m convinced that the faucet, which is in the middle of three rooms, really “matters”. Social media has convinced me I’m right, thanks to the time I’m spending on Houzz (www.houzz.com). There’s enough imagery on the site to remind me that I’m not just selecting a conduit for water, I’m selecting hardware….a finishing touch…a designer accent. And my saved images can lead me to vendors, designers, and peers who will help me with my selection, and offer feedback along the way. And they very seriously do…ask me how many “likes” my faucet choices have received without ANY prompting.

Houzz is my current favorite example of where social media can deliver really qualified leads or customers via Inbound Marketing tactics to the vendors able to serve them. Take two minutes to navigate beyond the images of stunning home décor to surf the discussion boards, or the local pros channel, and see where open-ended questions about kitchens become suggestions of paint colors, finishes, recommended surfaces, and even vendors and brands to explore. By living where an active consumer shops, and being ready for the question that’s coming, relationships can be formed and businesses built.

Not every industry is going to have Houzz equivalent, where buyers and sellers can collaborate towards a solution via a focused social network. But that doesn’t mean the core of what’s working here should be lost. The reason Houzz succeeds is the same reason why Inbound Marketing programs are gaining serious traction – they serve the customer’s consideration process by making information findable and discoverable, and offering direction along the way. In the Houzz example, homeowners have put the onus on themselves to investigate their decision and are doing the hard work to learn what’s right. Buyers want assistance and guidance from someone who recognizes their earnest investment in the problem, will understand the context in which the problem exists, and who will advance their decision. Now, consider what you can do in your own space with your own content to make sure that someone who has made the effort to search for your product, discuss it on a forum, or visit your brand’s social media page,  is offered the same assistance and guidance – the same partnership – as this humble faucet shopper.

This recent HBR blog post has numerous quotable lines (my favorite: “the cutesy and clever is rapidly decaying into memebait”), but its message is important. How are you making your customer more confident that they’ve found the right product for their needs? How does your messaging, tools, or content reassure them that they’re going to get good value from the money they spend? Focusing here as part of your marketing programs will pay off in the form of more and better leads. Just ask my new kitchen designer.

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