They don’t trust you!

765In a blog post in May (“Overcoming the trust gap”), I wrote about how little people trust corporate America. Well, it turns out that corporate America doesn’t trust itself, either. A new study released by the Chief Marketing Officer Council, “Better Lead Yield in the Content Marketing Field,” found that, for example, 67 percent of business buyers trusted research and white papers from professional organizations, while just 9 percent found white papers from the vendors themselves to be trustworthy.

Just 9 percent! That means that 91 percent of the 400 business buyers surveyed don’t believe a word when (if?) they download the latest white paper you’ve worked so hard on.

So are white papers a waste of time? And if B2B customers don’t buy into your white papers, what does that say about your marketing materials, your website, or even your brand itself?

It probably says that in 2013, it’s too easy to get opinions and feedback from other customers as well as impartial, third-party organizations that review products and services. It also says that there are probably a lot of companies out there putting out bad products, not meeting customer expectations and making promises they can’t keep.

I’ve always felt that companies can sell anything—once. Unless your company meets (and exceeds) expectations, one-time customers won’t turn into repeat buyers. In an economy characterized by the quick buck and free lunches—whether that’s reflected in an overemphasis on stock price, split-second equity trades or outrageous CEO salaries—it’s clear that enough companies are failing to meet expectations that industry as a whole is doubtful about vendor claims.

Producing quality products and services is half the equation. Presenting them in a believable format is the other. Consider this when putting together content:

  • Says who? Who says your product is all that you say it is? Include links to third-party reviews and research that back up your claims.
  • Peer pressure. B2B consumers are still consumers. They trust their peers when it comes to making buying decisions. Look at the success of Amazon.com’s review system for proof. Include testimonials from actual customers whenever possible, and provide a mechanism for B2B buyers to communicate with them.
  • Don’t exaggerate. Speaking of Amazon.com, nearly every product with more than a handful of reviews contains some like this: “I purchased product X because it promised to do A, B and C. It didn’t do any of those things and I returned it. Try product Y instead.” If your product or service can’t deliver certain things, don’t advertise that it can

Lack of trust is perhaps the biggest problem facing business today. Remember, buyers choose your brand because they expect certain things—consistency, reliability and so on. It’s clear that the business world’s marketing departments have gotten way ahead of manufacturing when it comes to backing up what the brand stands for.

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