The Great Crisis of Trust: How to Restore Relationships with B2B Customers

Trust: everyone seems to have less and less of it, even in the B2B world. Messages from companies are received with suspicion. We as marketers are partly the cause of this: too much ‘lead nurturing’, too much advertising talk, too much ‘greenwashing’. Restoring trust starts with making good and honest content freely available.

We are in a crisis of confidence. In B2B marketing, but really just in general. According to Edelman’s trust barometer, trust in politicians and companies is lower than ever. It is clear that people have had enough of companies, institutions and politicians who distort the truth or make it just a little bit prettier than it is. Mainstream media is no longer sacrosanct and more and more people are seeking their own truth on social media and online forums. How did we get here and how can we as B2B marketers improve trust and rebuild the relationship with our customers?

What is real and how can we know?

Before we begin, I would like to emphasize that this article in no way provides an answer to world problems of any kind. Still, we need the bigger picture to understand where the crisis of confidence in B2B is coming from. After all, companies haven’t just lost their customers’ loyalty. There have been shifts in society that have caused people in general to question the sincerity of those in power and those in power. fake news, greenwashing, data breaches and empty promises have made it difficult for all of us to determine what is real and whether we matter to the people and companies with influence. The only thing we know for sure is that we don’t know.

The crisis of confidence has a direct impact on the success of B2B marketing and sales. Because if people no longer trust mainstream news sources, why should our target audience trust our blogs and whitepapers, let alone leave their contact information behind?

Own sake

And let’s be honest: B2B companies have also added fuel to the fire themselves audience compelling content that was low quality and sometimes downright bad. We also have B2B marketers ourselves who have a hand in suffocating people lead. care e-mails. Not to mention all the ads on Google and social media. In Powerful B2B Content, Gay Flashman writes that the B2B buyer’s trust in this type of advertising is now at a record low (25%). “This is because,” she writes, “because of the sheer volume of ads, repetition, intrusiveness and irrelevance.”

No wonder B2B customers no longer trust us. No wonder they don’t want to fill out our forms anymore. No wonder the button ‘unsubscribe‘is so popular. In fact, I think if every marketing email had a button that said “Stop sending this crap”, a lot of people would click it and never come back.

Restore trust

So here we are, in the middle of a crisis, with the difficult task of restoring the trust of the people we so desperately need. But how do you restore trust? The answer for me lies in giving and not asking for anything in return. In the B2B world, it’s about providing knowledge and inspiration that helps our target group solve a business problem – without sales pitch. In practice, this means that B2B companies need to “exclude” (=offer without form) most of their content so that ideal customers can learn at their own pace without enthusiastic salespeople on their backs.

The transition from gated to gateless content is not easy. When you get content behind a form, it needs to be of super high quality. You can entice people to download a low-quality white paper: it’s easy. But you can’t force people to read an irrelevant web page. In addition to high quality, you also need consistency.

That’s why I’m a big fan of content platforms. By ‘content platform’ I don’t mean a blog full of ‘articles’ that end in one sales pitch. I mean editorial-worthy journalism with useful, action-oriented, interesting content. Organizations like Red Bull (Redbulletin) and IBM (IMB Research) understand this: they run a content department that shares daily news articles that have little to do with sales, but everything to do with the interests and needs of their audience.

The benefits of the content platform

Now you might be wondering what a high-quality, editorial-worthy content platform can really do for your B2B business. Giving away free knowledge to restore trust probably sounds good, but so? The (ironic) truth is that a content platform without a sales message is directly related to more sales. In the B2B world, there are so many companies offering similar products and services that it becomes increasingly difficult for buyers to choose a supplier or partner. If your business has existed long before the well-known buyer’s journey starting as a ‘trusted advisor’, the chances are that an ideal client will choose you and not another comparable company.

How to do it: Forrester Research discovered that two-thirds of all B2B buyers want to do their own research online without the intervention of a salesperson. This is especially true for decision makers who read a lot of online content but stay away from filling out forms. Furthermore, 62% of B2B buyers develop selection criteria and shortlists from suppliers solely on the basis of digital content.

Another benefit of a content platform is that you can communicate the value of your organization. This may sound vague, but values ​​are increasingly important in the relationship between companies and buyers. With all the options today’s buyers have, they tend to choose the provider, vendor or partner that shares the same values. Many companies are unaware of the influence that values ​​have on a buyer’s decision, creating a huge opportunity for companies that do.

So you can become a trusted source of information in a world full of product advertising and misinformation. You can do them thought leader be connected with buyers not only as customers but also as long-term ambassadors.

Create content with integrity

When using content to rebuild the relationship with your audience, know that there is no one path to success. Your audience is trained to sales pitch, greenwashing in an opinion on sustainability and marketing in a white paper. No matter what you try, your audience will figure it out anyway.

We are probably all familiar with Einstein’s quote: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” So stop doing the same thing over and over again. Don’t trick people into downloading content without content or buying a bad product. It’s not going to work, not in this crisis of confidence. Therefore, create content with integrity and honesty, repair the relationship and see how your audience responds.

About the author: Inge de Jong is a content strategist at Deeply Digital.

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