It takes an average of eight touches just to get to the first meeting with a business-to-business (B2B) prospect. In the process of lead nurturing, just one breakdown in trust can sever the relationship. Trust and credibility are not just “nice to have” flourishes that garnish the core proposition.
Increasingly, trust and transparency are foundational for building a relationship. That applies to both B2B and B2C buyers. It’s something we’ve covered in more detail in The Hawke Method, by Hawke founder Erik Huberman, which identifies the three principles that make brands soar.
Establishing trust is not as simple as a rousing mission statement or a responsive social media team. A brand must build trust in every step of the customer journey, from following up on a potential lead to product delivery. Find out here how to build trust and credibility through the B2B lead-nurturing process, establish ethical selling at your company’s core, and stand out in your sector as a beacon of B2B trust.
What Does Trust Mean in B2B?
There’s a temptation to see B2C marketing as empathetic and personal while B2B is corporate and cold. However, that’s often not the case. Brands are increasingly showing their personal, empathetic qualities and taking a lead on issues that matter to both their business buyers and extended community. On the B2C side, 75% of consumers won’t buy from brands they don’t trust, and 72% of customers are more likely to buy from a brand that supports social causes. B2B relationships are just as human and personal as B2C ones, typically because they take longer to establish and endure far beyond the life span of a customer relationship.
How Trust Is Changing
An emerging challenge for both B2B and B2C brands is that trust is at an all-time low. One study found that just 47% of brands are seen as trustworthy, and there’s a general downward spiral in consumer trust for brands, institutions, government, and media. The pandemic has accelerated the rise of the skeptical, empowered customer, with 75% of U.S. consumers letting go of loyalty and exploring alternative brands during the pandemic. In some cases, consumers questioned their incumbent brands’ stance during COVID-19, reacting negatively to irresponsible or pessimistic messages. In others, they no longer saw their favored brands as a good fit for their lifestyle, which had fundamentally changed.
Trust in B2B Marketing
B2B customers have done the majority of their research before ever speaking to salespeople. With all the internal sign-off and accounting processes to accommodate, there is no such thing as a B2B impulse buy. In fact, 77% of buyers will research the supplier’s sustainability, ethical practices, green credentials, and more. They check testimonials too. B2B buyers consult roughly seven sources (internal and external) before making a purchase. That’s an invitation for B2B brands to own their content and engineer their Net Promoter Score toward a more positive rating with credible, peer-reviewed content. In that respect, among the most-trusted sources of content for B2B buyers are third-party content (64%) and peer-reviewed user-generated content (also 64%).
Data is a recurring concern too, in both the B2C and B2B spaces. The implicit understanding is that consumers will share their data willingly if they see a fair value exchange in terms of personalization and benefits. In the B2B world, however, there’s a problem. Some 20% of B2B suppliers say buyers don’t trust them to securely manage their data. Consequently, we can add compliance and reputation management to the list of factors that potential buyers will research before doing business with a company.
How B2B Lead Nurturing Can Build Trust
B2B companies know they may have to work hard to earn the trust of prospects. These strategies can ease buyer concerns:
- Engage with the community online and in person. B2B brands need to broadcast less and listen more, creating conversations and engaging with their consumers.
- Take the lead on key issues and act. Google and Apple read the room on customer concerns about data privacy and announced plans (and rationals) to block third-party cookies (Google) and protect user privacy from advertising (Apple). Bear in mind that earned media has more cut-through in terms of credibility than brand advertising, too.
- Provide better-quality content. B2B buyers are not looking to sales teams for objective truth, but 84% of consumers do want brands to be a reliable source of news. B2B brands need to invest more heavily in well-researched, verified, longer-form content for their audiences.
- Open up on an emotional level. It might not come easily, but even big B2B brands need to show more of their human side, not least because 83% of consumers want a compassionate connection with their brands. B2B lead nurturing is all about relationship building, and that doesn’t have to be impersonal and rigid.
- Offer “try before you buy.” We’re steadily moving away from an ownership model to an “as a service” model, which means there are no longer the same barriers to sharing proprietary information or technology with buyers before purchase. Letting the buyer test and play with a product or service shows that you have nothing to hide, and establishes trust in the process.
Amid the excitement and speculation over cryptocurrency, mobile wallets, and NFTs, it’s important to remember that the one currency whose value never crashes is trust. But it’s not an abstract idea. It’s a feature that can be made concrete and actionable in B2B with the right leadership.
Get expert insight on what your brand can do to build awareness, nurturing, and trust in The Hawke Method, with authentic examples of how we helped more than 3,000 brands find success.