In my article titled What you should be doing online to attract new business opportunities, one of the points I raise relates to building trust with prospective clients. People ask for advice or make purchasing decisions from trusted advisors, and trust has to be earned and takes time to develop. Once trust is lost, it is exceedingly difficult to regain, if at all.
A good comparison that I will use for the purpose of this article is that of the dating game. I have listed five stages in a human relationship and equated these with B2B online marketing, in order to demonstrate how you gain trust by treating prospective clients as you would your first date, and your ongoing relationship thereafter.
1. The introduction
Introductions are generally facilitated by mutually known friends, colleagues or family members. In most cases, the introducer knows you well. This generally occurs in business too. A client, colleague or business partner who can vouch for your honesty, credibility and trustworthiness will introduce you to prospective clients without prompting or upon your request. If trust has not been earned, there is little or no chance of this happening.
2. The first date
The first date either makes or breaks a potential relationship. There are many determining factors which include similar interests, shared values and the all important “chemistry”. When asked what is important most people do not talk about looks. They want the person to be themselves (i.e. genuine), they should display an interest in the other person and they should make the other person laugh.
When we equate dating with online marketing, you should focus your efforts on “being genuine” with no hidden agenda, display an understanding and interest in the potential client’s industry and the typical business challenges they have to deal with. I suggest that you DO NOT talk about yourself in terms of your company’s products, services and solutions. This information should be available on your website and the prospect will have a look at this information when the time is right.
3. Subsequent dates
If you follow the rules there is a good chance that there will be a second, third and fourth date and your relationship will grow and strengthen. During this process you are getting to know each other more and more which will result in a mutual knowledge of each other’s good points and flaws. Generally compromise and understanding comes into play because no-one is perfect. If at any point trust is broken, this could end the relationship for good.
To get the second (and subsequent) dates, B2B online marketers have to present the potential client with a compelling reason to continue the relationship. This is best achieved by generating value-adding, interesting, compelling business-related content which the prospect will have access to through an email or blog subscription or engagement and interaction on social media.
4. The proposal
If all goes well with your dating, at some point, the question of a more permanent arrangement will be initiated. The process normally involves “going steady” followed by a marriage proposal. This will either be accepted or rejected.
B2B online marketing, if executed properly, is an ideal way to build credibility and trust over time, and in so doing, you will be seen as a trusted advisor who will stay “top of mind” through continuous value-adding online interaction. If the content and interaction with prospective clients resonates with them, there is a good chance they will contact you should they require assistance or advice and request a proposal. If you are using the appropriate tools to monitor online interaction, you will be able to identify individuals who are consuming your content and you can request a meeting.
5. The wedding
The wedding or close may take place online or offline, depending on whether you are selling products, services and solutions online or not. This article is aimed at companies that sell professional services, products and solutions that are not sold online. You can build a certain level of credibility and trust online using B2B online marketing however the relationship needs to be taken offline in order to meet your prospective client face-to-face.
If you use B2B online marketing effectively, this will assist you in initiating offline engagement. The plus factor is that when you have the first offline meeting, credibility and trust has been developed already.
B2B online marketing can be a very effective tool to build credibility, stay top of mind with prospective clients and to initiate offline engagement, if executed correctly. Remember that you are interacting with human beings with whom you need to develop a relationship and an emotional connection. Remember to be genuine, share content regularly that resonates with the prospect, do not talk about yourself and be patient.
This article was written by David Graham, Digital Engagement Leader at Deloitte Digital
David is a thought leader in the Business to Business (B2B) digital marketing, relationship marketing and content marketing space and is the “go-to” person at Deloitte Digital for businesses who wish to connect, interact and influence business decision makers online, in order to initiate offline engagement. David has more than 20 years in sales and marketing roles at leading global software and management consulting organisations, engaging with executive decision makers and providing them with solutions to business challenges.