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.