Bridging the B2B Content Marketing Trust Gap in 2021
Apr 05, 2021 / By Vanessa Horwell
Not too long ago, there was a famous political phrase emanating from the White House. I’m not talking about President Trump’s “build the wall,” rallying cry, or President Obama’s frequent use of the term “optics,” or even his first term, “beer summit.” Remember that?
Nope, I’m talking about Cold Warrior-turned-Peacenik Ronald Reagan and his favorite Russian proverb, “trust, but verify.” Or, for our Russian readers: Doveryai, no proveryai. In the second half of the 1980s, trust, but verify became something of a new Reagan doctrine – a phrase he quoted so often its usage would annoy Mikhail Gorbachev, the eighth and final leader of the Soviet Union. Later, President Clinton would use the phrase too. Today, a quick googling confirms “trust, but verify” is alive and well; it’s used as shorthand in situations well beyond politics.
Trust, but verify. What?
But what does the phrase mean? And what does it mean for B2B marketers in a pandemic-inspired remote work culture? Definitionally, “trust, but verify” means pretty much what it says: to trust someone on good faith. But to verify that trust (through actions) independent of that trust. While the verify part of the sentence seems as healthy as ever – marketing campaigns, social media metrics, Google page rankings, agency ROI, and click-through rates are as easy to track as before Covid-19 – what about trust?
Like many businesses, establishing (or re-establishing) trust is proving a little more complicated. That’s because the ways we trust largely through tangible personal and physical connections have been severely disrupted. Traditional handshakes and in-person onboarding? Gone. Ditto large in-person PR pitches, trade shows and launch events. Even the social cues of a friendly smile or a well-timed laugh are lost in translation. Virtual everything became the pandemic’s first vaccine. It seems increasingly likely that at least some form of work-from-home and, by extension, network and lead generation from home-or wherever-will become the new normal, too.
According to a survey from Enterprise Technology Research, the number of workers permanently working from home is expected to double this year. A recent Gartner CFO survey also found that 74% of companies plan to permanently shift their employees from in-person to remote work once the pandemic ends.
As B2B marketers, how do we grow when attracting, retaining and engaging customers is harder than ever, and we haven’t focused on building trust and loyalty, at least in a traditional sense?
I know our agency isn’t alone in this concern. As if proving the point: data from the Content Marketing Institute reveals that 81% of survey respondents have building trust as a goal in their content marketing strategy this year, up from 66% just two years prior.
Employing olive branch diplomacy with clients
One possible solution is to flip Reagan’s proverb on its head. Instead of “trust, but verify,” why not “verify, but trust.” That means a re-doubled effort to meet our clients where they are. Not in a physical space, per se, but the virtual one, while keeping in mind quality content tailored with pandemic-appropriate messaging. You could call it a form of olive branch diplomacy as clients verify we’re meeting them where they are, building trust one successful campaign after another.
So instead of focusing on whitepapers and eBooks, B2B marketers should focus instead on crafting killer testimonials (with client approval, of course), product tours, and videos – a fact that content experience platform Uberflip uncovered as what’s most important to customers in its recent study. In addition to content that speaks to the moment (and the channel of choice), it’s also important content marketers remember something a little more basic.
Meeting clients where they are means flexing to address the new work-from-home reality, just as companies like ThinkInk have done.
Trust the process
Our clients trust that we’ll make meetings, projects, and touch-bases work, no matter the circumstances, because we’ve established a consistent communication style and are rising to their communication and scheduling expectations.
With that in mind, here are some additional trust-building tips to consider:
Maintain plain, honest copy – Keep the jargon at home. That has long been the ThinkInk mantra, but we continue to share how important it is with our clients and throughout our team.
Embrace the snail mail surge – Did you forget about it? It’s still an effective way to reach out and show appreciation for your prospects or clients. A handwritten note or some swag in the mail lets them know you went that extra step.
Recognize meeting fatigue – We are constantly assessing how to be more efficient for our clients (and ourselves) when it comes to meetings. Can it really just be an email? Can that weekly hour-long touch base be turned into a 15-minute roll call? Connection is important, but we need to find balance in the world of constant connection.
Cameras off – Sometimes, an old-fashioned phone meeting is just what the marketer ordered. It can be refreshing to go for a walk or have the freedom to take a call from literally anywhere. Switch it up to alleviate some pressure for you, your clients, and your staff.
Hours look different – With our global team, it’s nothing new to have emails coming in at all hours. That means we can answer it while we’re squeezing a ride in on our Peloton at 9 p.m. after the kiddos go to bed or 5 a.m. because we wanted to get a fresh start to the day. Be flexible and understand not everyone is immediately available at 10 a.m.
Tear down these walls…
In June 1987, a shockingly long time ago if you’re of a certain age, less so if you’re a baby boomer or a Gen-Xer, President Ronald Reagan, standing before a crowd of about ten thousand in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, issued a challenge to Mr. Gorbachev with the following historic words:
“If you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
In the Covid and soon to be post-Covid world, there are new walls that divide us; they divide us from each other, they divide us from our clients, and they divide us into the types of work we produce. Reagan’s words may have been intended for another time. But there is perhaps no better rallying cry for reaching across the proverbial table and beginning dialogue anew.
In other words, tearing down walls.
Ultimately, “trust, but verify” and “verify, but trust” can be winning partners in the ceaseless effort to win our clients over and for them to gain confidence in our work, helping mold their corporate voice while promoting their brand in non-traditional ways.
In-person beer summits might be less likely in the years ahead. But that doesn’t mean authenticity should go flat. Just maybe, by implementing the above recommendations, we’ll discover that the B2B marketing trust gap isn’t as wide as we think.
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