New Ways to Build Trust in Your B2B Brand
During times of uncertainty, trust matters more than ever. A Forrester Research survey of almost 20,000 respondents across multiple B2B market segments showed trust is the most essential brand attribute to buyers.
However, the gap has never been wider between what B2B companies think audiences’ trust in them is versus what it really is. According to the annual Edelman Trust Barometer survey, levels of actual trust have been in decline for decades and are far lower than firms selling B2B products and services think.
Over the last two years, trust in companies has been steadily declining worldwide. In Germany, the trust rating for businesses dropped 5%, from 69% to 64%. In the U.K., the trust rating fell 9% to 56%, and the U.S. followed the decline with a 6% drop to a 48% trust rating.1
With B2B purchases having such high stakes, how can B2B companies gain trust when overall, it’s declining?
Why trust is so important in B2B
When investing in B2B relationships, buyers have a lot more at stake than they do in B2C. B2B businesses looking for a new supplier often rely on products to serve their customers, and choosing an unknown business partner can involve significant risk.
Worries may include an inability to deliver on time, quality falling short of expectations, or a potential business partner not being financially sound enough to ensure a stable long-term relationship. And since B2B customers are usually looking for long-term partners, the initial research and paperwork that come along with a new business relationship are cumbersome and costly.
Overall, stakes are high when mistakes are made. Therefore, the risk versus reward paradigm is central to B2B purchases: the bigger the risk or potential reward related to a B2B buying decision, the more important trust becomes for the buyer.
“The risk you’re bearing is not for just yourself, but it could be mission-critical,” says Isabel Montesdeoca, VP and Group Director at Forrester Research. “That’s a heavy weight that needs to be factored in. Equally, if you install a particular solution or service that makes you dramatically more competitive, more efficient … that’s an incredibly large prize for making the right choice.”2
It’s not only prospects who prioritise trust. Current customers also value trust as a key attribute, and both prospects and existing customers reward trusted B2B companies with increased loyalty, advocacy, and engagement levels. Referrals and renewals from content brand constituents are also more likely to happen.
And trust isn’t just important externally: sales teams, customer service agents, and employees who trust in their company and its values are more likely to become valuable brand ambassadors with better customer relationships as a direct result.
How methods of gaining trust are changing
The advantages of digital information access through social media platforms, websites, and 24/7 customer service via live chat have increased customer expectations. Customers now expect "always-on" customer support and relationship nurturing.
Successful B2B branding strategies should be radically different from those of the past. There must be more focus on changing sales strategies to cater to customers' specific needs and building relevancy, value proposition, and trust.
According to Forrester, B2B buyers expect that the risk in making buying decisions will affect them personally and professionally, while the rewards will go directly to their company. That's a high risk vs. reward gap that needs to be addressed since it means some B2B buyers are making purely defensive decisions and buying whatever poses the lowest risk—not necessarily the best solution.
Shifting the focus away from purely rational buyer needs like product and feature-level offerings and re-focusing your efforts on buyers' personal and emotional needs is crucial. Your brand’s communications need to reduce your buyers’ perception of risk by building their understanding of your company’s reliability and predictability. Moreover, the benefits you offer need to speak to decision-makers at multiple levels of the organisation.
What buyers really want
When buyers are looking for a new supplier, they want to make informed decisions and seek out proven solutions that can reduce their investment risk. You can nurture their trust by demonstrating how your company meets and exceeds your current customers' expectations, reliability, and predictability.
But not all B2B buyers want the same things, so firms can’t necessarily build trust in the same way with every buyer. Various parameters that contribute to trust may matter more than others in different industries or even in specific situations or market environments. But in all cases, buyers are looking beyond the outdated catchy sales pitches and aggressive sales tactics riddled with unfulfilled promises.
Sales and marketing need to get better at understanding customers' challenges beyond just growth, profitability, and efficiency—your potential buyers may have concerns around their individual career goals, company/organisation structure, satisfying internal politics, or other fears and anxieties that motivate their decisions.
New ways to build trust with customers
It’s key to allocate resources to nurture current B2B relationships by meeting goals and expectations and solving issues as they arise. Your existing customers will become strong brand ambassadors with an impactful influence.
After new customers become current customers, they are still impacted by external influences, but to a lesser degree, as their trust levels change to be affected more by their own experiences of how their needs are handled.
As trust is developed through a positive experience, so is the chance of a continuous flow of orders, less risk of competitor interest, and stronger brand ambassadors to influence new customers' choices.
Trust is built on ethics, consistency, and transparency. Having clearly defined brand ethics is essential so customers can align and feel an emotional connection with the values they share.
Brand consistency is key to providing customers a trusted way to gauge a company's commitment and ability to measure whether they live up to its promises and values. Strong brands are built through their ability to deliver on brand promises consistently.
One study by Lucidpress showed that consistently delivering on promises increased revenue by up to 20 percent. If customers get inconsistent experiences, they are likely to look to competitors for alternatives and, at the same time, become negative brand ambassadors.
Finally, transparency makes it possible for customers to measure if brand promises are kept and helps increase the trust factor.
How to use digital channels for brand building
There are plenty of digital channels to position your brand and develop B2B relationships to reach the target audience, but how they are used makes all the difference.
Not all digital marketing channels will align with your company's business objectives. Audiences are unique and require in-depth analysis, strategy, and planning, preferably with a strong B2B branding partner, to help you understand how tactics like Account-Based Marketing (ABM) can work for you with highly targeted advertising, personalised content, and messaging.
B2B customers use ten or more channels to interact with suppliers, with 35 percent willing to spend $500,000 or more per transaction, making ABM a lucrative investment. A B2B branding partner will be able to advise on the best strategies to get you the most results from your spending.
Regardless of whether we're talking prospects or current customers, the key is to build hypotheses that can be tested, revisit those, and revise them based on your results. Stay aware of how customer behaviour changes and based on that, rework content to be more relevant so you can deliver it in the most effective way for prospects and customers to take the next step.
When handled correctly, the insights gained from your digital strategy will give you data to help you understand customers' nuanced and complex decisions to help you act during crucial moments in their buying process.
As the Edelman Trust Barometer study shows, trust in companies is declining significantly. There has been too much disinformation and superficial sales talk for companies to feel they can trust just any new business partner.
Now companies are looking for business partners they can trust to deliver on all of their promises. To stand out in the age of mistrust in a competitive B2B market, it's necessary to own a strong brand by consistent communication across all digital marketing channels to show that your company is ethical, transparent, and reliable.
If you need more inspiration for planning your B2B marketing and branding activities, reach out to our team for help. Our B2B marketing and social media professionals can help create the roadmap, strategy, and—most importantly—the results you’re looking for. Reach out to Ralph Krøyer at firstname.lastname@example.org or +45 35 25 01 75 to get the conversation going.