Credibility! How does it affect B2B marketing?

You used to be able to tell 'hard' news by its source. If the Wall Street Journal said it, it must be right. The National Inquirer, not so much. The Internet changed all that. Credible newspapers and magazines are shrinking, and the online versions haven’t taken up the slack. The same is happening with the industry-specific news and information that B2B buyers rely on to make purchases. How does this affect B2B marketing?

Where do today’s business people go for industry news?  Increasingly, they go to peers, bloggers and social networking sites. Sometimes they go to whatever results their Google search returns, and it returns a lot. It’s wonderful that buyers now have direct access to so much information. The problem is that they can’t always gauge the credibility of these 'unofficial' sources. Unlike journalists of old, new media authors don’t report to anyone. They don’t have to fact-find. They don’t even have to reveal their sources. In short, they don’t have to get it right.

The new media editorial model makes the content suspect. Without a firm editorial vision, the result is typically a mish-mash of shallow opinion and punditry, with the occasional gem slipping through. I don’t take such an extreme view, but I do believe that buyers can no longer rely on others to validate sources.

I believe that in the near future we will see some shift back to mainstream media because fact-finding is a lot of work, and many will tire of it. Also, the 'armchair journalists' themselves will have to raise the quality bar if they want to be taken seriously. They will have to prove their expertise, be specific with their information sources and be transparent with their affiliations. I believe those organizations that want to have their content taken seriously will continue to rely on professional writers – either on staff or in agencies – to craft their “stories.”

I also believe that business people will continue looking outside of traditional news sources, but they will form a hierarchy of information and place more stock in its source. They have to. The buying process is long, and making the right decision can impact their career. Today’s glut of information temporarily blinds us, but credibility matters more than ever in the B2B buying cycle. Just because technology lets anyone write and distribute content in minutes doesn’t mean that doing so is in anyone’s best interest.