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Five Ways to Build Trust with B2B Customers

By: Guest | August 9, 2011 | 
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Marianne WorleyToday’s guest post is written by Marianne Worley.

Not long ago, B2B companies thought customers wanted to buy from great companies. Marketers promoted products and services with self-important platitudes, such as:

1. We are the leader in the industry.
2. We were founded by the smartest engineer in the world.
3. Our products are unsurpassed.

Today, a few companies still cling to this old strategy, but the reality is it doesn’t work. Your customers don’t care how great your company and products are. They just want to be able to trust your company can solve their problems.

Business customers aren’t so different from consumers after all. The purchase process may be more complex and the sales cycle may be longer, but what it comes down to is this: People buy from people. You need to engage with your customers and build trusting relationships to win their business.

Give your customers what they want

B2B companies have a great opportunity to openly share content that was once tightly held and carefully rationed only to top business prospects. That information—and more—is now accessible with a few clicks. If your customers want information, they will find it. Let them skip the search entirely by providing it yourself. Otherwise, they might get it from your competitors.

At the beginning of the purchase process, customers assess their problems and look for possible solutions. Then, they match those solutions to potential vendors. B2B companies should take that opportunity, and provide information at every step in the research process. Here are a few types of content your customers will be looking for:

  • Testimonials and case studies, available in a variety of media.
  • Industry trends and analysis from third-party organizations.
  • Company AND competitor news.

To be able to deliver the content your customers need, you must understand their problems and be ready to solve them over the short- and long-term. In addition to the actual expenditure, your customers are often making a long-term commitment to your company. They need to trust that you will have their back once the contract is signed and the money is in the bank.

A business case in building trust

Although I spent most of my career in high-tech and B2B marketing, I did work in B2C for three years. In that position, I was responsible for Internet marketing, including lead generation and Web site management. I oversaw a number of large IT purchases—the biggest was a web analytics solution. Like most B2B buyers, I scoured the Internet for information, narrowed my choices to four vendors, and finally made a selection.

What did the company I chose do differently than the others?

  1. Their first question wasn’t “What is your budget?” It was “Tell me about your problem.”
  2. When I requested a vendor comparison analysis, they provided it even though they weren’t top-rated in every category.
  3. When I asked about their competitors, they didn’t slam them. Instead, they sent me industry analyst reports about competitor products.
  4. When we discussed testing and implementation, they didn’t sugar-coat their responses and tell me it could be completed in two weeks. They provided a variety of timelines based on the experiences of their other customers.
  5. When I asked about training programs, they gave me access to videos in the password-protected area of their website.

In the end, the company I chose didn’t offer the most features or the lowest price. What they offered was entirely different: Trust. They built that trust by providing relevant, valuable, and informative content.

Marianne Worley is a freelance marketer and writer who specializes in online and offline marketing communications projects for B2B and B2C organizations. She writes about marketing, social media, and business on her blog, Marketing Matters.

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101 Comments on "Five Ways to Build Trust with B2B Customers"

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Hajra
4 years 11 months ago

I think trust works many ways. In business and elsewhere too. Besides trust, I think what they offered you was authenticity, something that proves itself rather than just calling yourself the “best”!

If you think you are the “best”, then not because you are offering what is best in the market but because you value your customers and treat them humanely!

Great Post Marianne! 🙂

marianne.worley
4 years 11 months ago

@Hajra It’s so true. You might be able to get one sale without trust, but if a customer is making a commitment to a product and company, trust is critical to the relationship. You gain trust by being honest and, as you said, authentic. Great comment–thanks so much!

marianne.worley
4 years 11 months ago

@Hajra It’s so true. You might be able to get one sale without trust, but if a customer is making a commitment to a product and company, trust is critical to the relationship. You gain trust by being honest and, as you said, authentic. Great comment–thanks so much!

MarianneWorley
MarianneWorley
4 years 11 months ago

@hajraks Thanks Hajra! It’s OK–I’m addicted to Spin Sucks too! 😉

MarianneWorley
MarianneWorley
4 years 11 months ago

@hajraks Thanks Hajra! It’s OK–I’m addicted to Spin Sucks too! 😉

sydcon_mktg
4 years 11 months ago
Trust, what a powerful word. Especially in today’s economy! Sometimes we are asked, you guys are a smaller firm, how did you get client X to go with you and grow with you? Trust! We are not the biggest, nor the cheapest (or most expensive) and we don’t always say what you “want to hear” but what you need to hear to get the results you need. Allowing someone to work with your business in any facet requires respect & trust. Earning a clients trust is just as important as earning the paycheck! This community is a great example of… Read more »
trackback
4 years 11 months ago

[…] Five Ways to Build Trust with B2B Customers […]

marianne.worley
4 years 11 months ago

@sydcon_mktg I totally agree–today’s economy puts so much more pressure on buyers to make the right choices for products and services. That gives businesses that don’t necessarily have the “best” products the opportunity to be courageous and create that long-term trust.

The Spin Sucks community is the bomb, isn’t it? It’s THE place for great information, great conversation, and fun!

marianne.worley
4 years 11 months ago

@sydcon_mktg I totally agree–today’s economy puts so much more pressure on buyers to make the right choices for products and services. That gives businesses that don’t necessarily have the “best” products the opportunity to be courageous and create that long-term trust.

The Spin Sucks community is the bomb, isn’t it? It’s THE place for great information, great conversation, and fun!

Tinu
4 years 11 months ago

The guest posts here are always of such high quality. Loved your break down of why you trusted that company. So much easier to learn when we put ourselves in customer shoes for a spell.

marianne.worley
4 years 11 months ago

@Tinu You just made my day! Thank you so much. I’m glad I used that experience as an example of building trust.

TheJackB
4 years 11 months ago

Relationships are so very important. They help you build trust and lead to opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise receive.

bdorman264
4 years 11 months ago
Hey Marianne, look at you. I like this statement: ‘They just want to be able to trust your company can solve their problems’. This trust builds loyalty and I will take a loyal customer over a satisfied customer every day of the week. At the end of the day you need to be able to perform; the customer has to have the trust in you that you can do so, and you just need to be able to do what you said you can do. Quantifying this always helps as well. So good to see you ma’am. I hope Lisa… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 11 months ago

@hajraks Nothing wrong with being addicted to me!

hajraks
hajraks
4 years 11 months ago

@ginidietrich the next step is stalking… Fine by you? 😉

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 11 months ago

@hajraks TOTALLY fine by me!

hajraks
hajraks
4 years 11 months ago

@ginidietrich lol! Get ready Gin!

hajraks
hajraks
4 years 11 months ago

@ginidietrich lol! Get ready Gin!

NancyD68
4 years 11 months ago

The most important point was that they asked “how can I help you” instead of ‘how much is your budget?” I work with people who want to sound smart instead of being smart. I suggested offering just a few services to start off and gain credibility but they rejected that idea.

Clients lose trust when you over-promise and under-deliver. I can only offer suggestions.

Really great post Marianne. I expect nothing less! 😉

NancyD68
4 years 11 months ago

The most important point was that they asked “how can I help you” instead of ‘how much is your budget?” I work with people who want to sound smart instead of being smart. I suggested offering just a few services to start off and gain credibility but they rejected that idea.

Clients lose trust when you over-promise and under-deliver. I can only offer suggestions.

Really great post Marianne. I expect nothing less! 😉

NancyD68
4 years 11 months ago

The most important point was that they asked “how can I help you” instead of ‘how much is your budget?” I work with people who want to sound smart instead of being smart. I suggested offering just a few services to start off and gain credibility but they rejected that idea.

Clients lose trust when you over-promise and under-deliver. I can only offer suggestions.

Really great post Marianne. I expect nothing less! 😉

Soulati | PR
4 years 11 months ago

Well, this goes hand in hand with authentic engagement, doesn’t it, Marianne?

Lisa Gerber
4 years 11 months ago

@Tinu your comment also made my day, as it turns out. 🙂 AND, I agree – what a great point; thinking like our customers. hmmm. :)@marianne.worley

Lisa Gerber
4 years 11 months ago

Anyone can be good at “selling” you on their service or product. Your example perfectly illustrates the importance of trust and what it will be like to do business with them once you make that purchase decision. I am sure we’ve all learned the hard way, right?

Going with the top-rated, and the most important leader in the industry might feel good during the sales process, but once you’re down the road, being with someone that you can rely on is all that matters. Loved it.

marianne.worley
4 years 11 months ago

@TheJackB So true. In the corporate B2B world, I always built relationships with vendors when others were just looking for the best price. I wanted to be able to trust them to solve my problems. Once that trust was solid, not only did I give them my business, but I also referred others to them. That’s the power of relationships.

Thanks so much for stopping by Jack!

marianne.worley
4 years 11 months ago

@bdorman264 I’m sure you see this a lot in your business Bill. You want to be the ONE company your customer calls when they need you. To get to that point, you have to build that trust, follow through on promises, and deliver consistent service.

Good to see you too Bill. I’m pretty sure Lisa and Gini saved some cupcakes for us!

marianne.worley
4 years 11 months ago

@bdorman264 I’m sure you see this a lot in your business Bill. You want to be the ONE company your customer calls when they need you. To get to that point, you have to build that trust, follow through on promises, and deliver consistent service.

Good to see you too Bill. I’m pretty sure Lisa and Gini saved some cupcakes for us!

marianne.worley
4 years 11 months ago

@bdorman264 I’m sure you see this a lot in your business Bill. You want to be the ONE company your customer calls when they need you. To get to that point, you have to build that trust, follow through on promises, and deliver consistent service.

Good to see you too Bill. I’m pretty sure Lisa and Gini saved some cupcakes for us!

marianne.worley
4 years 11 months ago

@NancyD68 Isn’t it frustrating when you contact a company and they immediately try to weed you out as a potential sale, instead of finding out if they can solve your problem? Smart companies realize that although I don’t have the budget for their product now, I might have it in the future. And I might have lots of friends who need their products too. It makes sense to start the process by building trust, so you never have to over-promise and under-deliver.

Thanks so much for stopping by Nancy. I appreciate it.

marianne.worley
4 years 11 months ago

@Soulati | PR Of course Jayme! Didn’t I tell you I had psychic powers…I knew what your post would be about before you wrote it! 😉

marianne.worley
4 years 11 months ago

@Lisa Gerber Thanks so much Lisa. I’ve learned most of my lessons the hard way! When I was an event manager, I was responsible for buying apparel and giveaways. I had a trusted vendor and I stayed with him even after I changed companies. My colleagues would often tell me that huge vendor ABC was selling the same t-shirt I bought for $1 less. I always gave the business to my vendor because the trust was worth so much more than that $1.

HowardLewinter
HowardLewinter
4 years 11 months ago

@ericamallison We are doing business in a “trust economy” now.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 11 months ago

@hajraks I’m ready! I already started stalking you.

hajraks
hajraks
4 years 11 months ago

@ginidietrich considering the fact that i get this tweet at 1:20 a.m… U definitely are! Good night!

hajraks
hajraks
4 years 11 months ago

@ginidietrich considering the fact that i get this tweet at 1:20 a.m… U definitely are! Good night!

hajraks
hajraks
4 years 11 months ago

@ginidietrich considering the fact that i get this tweet at 1:20 a.m… U definitely are! Good night!

KDillabough
KDillabough
4 years 11 months ago

@gingerconsult @ginidietrich Thanks Jen: hope you’re Tuesday is totally terrific!

KDillabough
KDillabough
4 years 11 months ago

@gingerconsult @ginidietrich Thanks Jen: hope you’re Tuesday is totally terrific!

ericamallison
ericamallison
4 years 11 months ago

@HowardLewinter It is indeed, Howard! It is indeed!

ericamallison
ericamallison
4 years 11 months ago

@HowardLewinter It is indeed, Howard! It is indeed!

michaelwhite1
michaelwhite1
4 years 11 months ago

Now this is one of those blog posts which I will save. B2B has certainly evolved into a human business, yet the fact remains it is still business – money is to be made both sides of the deal. In my experience I have noticed it is including details about competitors which can cause companies to worry but personally I have found being open about your company’s service/product usually wins as an approach.

marianne.worley
4 years 11 months ago

@michaelwhite1 Thank you so much Michael! You’re right about the evolution of B2B. When I started in marketing, it was verboten to mention a competitor–even in neutral, news-style content. Today, customers have access to all the information they want, so it doesn’t make sense to pretend that competitors don’t exist. Companies that focus on helping their customers instead of beating the competition will earn more trust.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 11 months ago

@hajraks Good night!

AdrienneSmith
4 years 11 months ago
Great article Marianne, When I was in the corporate world, I was responsible for all vendor accounts and hiring which companies did what. I also looked at the same things you mentioned. It was all about trust because I learned early on that just because they have a great product doesn’t mean they’re going to have great service. It’s opening the doors to me and letting me know that I can trust them that got me every time. Glad to hear that now companies are understanding that the consumers will no longer stand for how great your product is or… Read more »
marianne.worley
4 years 11 months ago

@AdrienneSmith Your first visit to Spin Sucks? Awesome! Not only will you always find interesting content here, but also great conversation.

Sounds like we had very similar experiences with vendors–we learned firsthand that we want to do business with people we trust. And that same lesson applies to the relationships we create with our clients. Today, the communication lines are wide open, so it’s critical to build good relationships that last long past that first sale.

Thanks so much for stopping by Adrienne! I really appreciate it.

mcloycqukqk8
mcloycqukqk8
4 years 11 months ago

@ginidietrich http://xrl.us/bk7a6r

mcloycqukqk8
mcloycqukqk8
4 years 11 months ago

@ginidietrich http://xrl.us/bk7a6r

KimDavies
KimDavies
4 years 11 months ago

Hi, Marianne.

I don’t deal with customers personally, but I have been one myself many times and you are right, it takes trust for people to buy from people. And, this takes building relationships, showing authenticity as Hajra said and making sure that reliable, consistent service is delivered.

Thanks for offering an understandable look into marketing, Marianne. You make it so easy for us newbies to learn what would otherwise have sent our eyes swimming back in our heads. 😀

Hope you are doing well. 🙂

girlygrizzly
girlygrizzly
4 years 11 months ago
Marianne… I almost didn’t comment, I thought, well shoot, they’ve said it! You know what, though? I didn’t tell you. I love when I read something of yours. I always understand. I “get it”. So, thank you. What I have noticed here online is a powerful force, strengthened by each voice, in its own way.. the force is Right. Other than the details, and I am SO not discounting them (!), the basic rules of the game, the business, Social Media, all of it- is do it right. The more right (and I am talking moral, honest, trust-worthy humans doing… Read more »
marianne.worley
4 years 11 months ago

@KimDavies Thank you so much Kim. As customers, we’re all familiar with that sinking feeling that we cannot trust the person we’re dealing with. Think of that salesperson who presses you to select the most expensive item instead of helping you find the right product for your needs. As marketers, we know we don’t want our customers to feel that way. So we listen, we give honest advice, and we build trust that lasts. If you’ve been a customer, you already know how to turn around and be a good marketer!

So glad you stopped by Kim. 🙂

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