Masks, martech and matching up to the big guys: How trust has changed in a pandemic world
As a B2B marketer, how do you build trust with your prospects and clients when you can no longer see them face-to-face?
When your sales teams are all but forbidden from knocking on doors or having those all-important in-person meetings? When our normal human instincts of rapport and connection are being replaced by what behavioural scientists are calling a ‘disgust response’? And when the crucial facial cues that humanise the little business contact we can have with others are hidden by a mask?
The short answer is that trust must now be attained – and sustained – in a virtual world, and that poses some significant challenges. The question that inevitably follows is: can martech solve them?
Sell me what I want, what I really, really want…
To answer this, it’s worth giving a quick recap on the true nature of B2B decision-making. This will help to explain how trust, translated into a virtual context, can transform interest into action.
Firstly, decision-making in B2B environments is crowded. Studies have shown that, on average, you must convince seven people within any B2B decision-making unit (DMU). This can be a tough and time-consuming task – if indeed it succeeds at all.
Secondly, B2B buyers, far from exhibiting exclusively rational, ordered decision tendencies across the DMU, individually base around 95% of their decision process on a significant emotional bias.
So, it’s often about tapping into several different decision makers’ wants, not one homogenous group’s needs. And this is where trust comes in.
Trust isn’t just about truth and integrity and confidence in someone or something – indeed, that’s merely trust on a rational level.
But on the (arguably much more important) emotional level, trust is about unquestioning belief. It banishes gut feelings of unease, overrides scepticism, and prevents individuals from dwelling on their decisions. Each of these removes a potential barrier to a favourable decision outcome from the B2B marketer’s point of view.
And instilling this trust early on in the B2B decision-making process is absolutely critical, as behavioural neuroscientists have found that trust takes root much more slowly than distrust can!
Delivering real trust in a virtual world
So, without a face-to-face relationship and building rapport the traditional way – and given the importance of emotional bias in B2B decision-making – what builds the trust that will make your audience want you?
Spoiler alert: it’s not martech alone. In fact, whilst in the early days of martech, just ‘having the gear (and no idea)’ was enough to bluff B2B marketing engagement, it’s not anymore.
Decision-makers are now bombarded with information, and, without the right underlying strategy, martech can risk becoming just another annoyance in their already busy and frustrating lives.
No, the key to building virtual trust is by better understanding your audience in order to better engage with them. Only this way can you build a genuine connection and empathy with the individuals you’re seeking a dialogue with.
The minute a prospect doesn’t trust that you know who they are, what they want or how you can overcome their challenges and pain-points in a better way than any other suppliers out there, you’ve lost them.
So, in practical terms, what does this mean B2B marketers actually have to do?
Essentially, it boils down to treating the virtual B2B engagement process with exactly the same rigour as you would the face-to-face variant.
You wouldn’t go out to meet a prospect in their office for the first time without doing research on them and their likely challenges and wants, so you need to do the very same homework well before you send B2B decision-makers an email, social message, sponsored advert, and so on.
And, as a martech stack may well be what sits behind these marketing channels in your organisation, it follows that, if its implementation strategy isn’t based on insight of this kind, you’ve invested in a tool that won’t deliver trust and therefore won’t deliver much!
Martech: Levelling up the playing field
What martech can achieve when properly deployed and implemented, however, is also to ‘level up’ the ‘playing field of trust’ between smaller and larger marketing agencies.
As marketing has gone digital, no longer do the biggest budgets have the monopoly on gaining brand awareness – a vital precursor to gaining trust. Digital offers the B2B market access to all sizes, shapes and types of business, and the winners will no longer be determined by their stature, but by how readily they master the rules of the B2B digital conversation.
Segmentation, targeting, positioning; strategy and insight; true customer knowledge and understanding – this is the lexicon of virtual trust that defines diligent martech and enables it to convey why the buying decision should go your way and nobody else’s.
And this – together with your continued focus on productivity and agility – will yield results.
Trust me – I’m a marketer.