Building brand trust in B2B: authenticity is table stakes
Metia Group's Peter Morgan discusses brand authenticity, and why customer trust is critical to success in B2B marketing
Trust in corporations, advertising, and political leaders has diminished rapidly in recent years. Getting to the truth and being truthful has never mattered more to marketers.
In Edelman’s 2017 Trust Barometer report, President and CEO Richard Edelman bemoaned a global ‘implosion of trust’ in business, government, NGOs, and media – partly fuelled by the media circus of fake news – and called for institutions to place the people they serve at the centre of everything they do.
Businesses that fail to do this will struggle to survive in 2018. The days of getting away with extravagant claims that don’t stand up to scrutiny are over. Customers today are savvy and more educated than ever before, and through digital media they have instant access to peers, influencers, and experts.
This extends to the workplace. Recent IDC research found that 84% of CEOs and VPs use social media to inform purchasing decisions, while research by CEB found 57% of B2B buying decisions are made before any engagement with sales.
“To rebuild trust and restore faith in the system, institutions must step outside of their traditional roles and work toward a new, more integrated operating model that puts people — and the addressing of their fears — at the centre of everything they do.” 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer
Rebuilding trust through behaviour
Brands can’t talk or advertise their way back into a customer’s confidence. Actions speak louder than words, so changing the way they behave – and not just the messages they communicate – should be a priority.
Rebuilding trust requires behavioural change throughout an organisation: from thinking differently about data collection and advertising practice, to understanding how every communication truly resonates with customers and prospects.
A common failure of marketers is following an ‘any benefit’ approach to their investments. For example, while re-marketing through display advertising may generate some benefits, the long-term impact could alienate customers and prospects through advertising perceived by many as irrelevant and invasive.
B2B sales cycles are often long and complex. Earning – and maintaining – customer trust requires you to communicate consistently, authentically, and with respect. Chasing incremental gains through questionable marketing tactics can quickly undermine your credibility and permanently damage your brand.
Don’t let technology constrain your marketing
While the maturation of CRM technology and marketing automation has improved marketing efficiency, many brand experiences have become rigidly defined by this technology – and are bland as a result.
Customers are craving diversity, and smart B2B marketers are reacting to this, creating differentiated experiences rather than being constrained by what technology and standard marketing models can deliver.
Successful brands will be those that create and share an authentic truth about who they are, what they do, and how they do it. They will deeply understand their customers and will be in open dialogue with them throughout their relationship.