Digital Marketing

Trust in Marketing: How to Build Influence with the C-Suite and on the Street with Customers

Marketing Trust Influence

Marketing Trust Influence

80% of CEOs don’t trust marketers.

And yet 91% of CEOs do trust CIOs and CFOs

Ouch!

In addition to the many challenges marketers are currently facing with the COVID-19 pandemic and overall social change, a study by Fournaise Group found that CEOs felt marketing was not meeting expectations, causing a lack of confidence. Whether it was due to too much emphasis on martech or marketing “hype”, the outcome is clear: the credibility of marketing is at risk.

The thing is, those credibility issues are not limited to the C-Suite. Customers have trust issues with marketing as well and for good reasons:

  • Brand vs. Customer Focus
  • Lack of Confidence & Trust
  • Not Delivering Value
  • Not Meeting Expectations
  • Lack of Authenticity

What is the solution to marketing trust issues with the C-Suite and customers?

One way to build trust is to understand and grow influence of marketing both internally and externally. For marketing, trust and influence are an important function of making persuasion possible, easier, effective, successful and scalable.

Our own research has found that influence plays an important role with marketing experiences. In the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, 77% of marketers say their prospects rely on influencers for information and 63% believe they would have better marketing results with an influencer marketing program.

To better understand the role of persuasion and influence in organizations, we don’t have too look further than Robert Cialdini: Influence & The Principles of Persuasion

  • Reciprocity – People feel they should “return the favor”.
  • Scarcity – People want more of what they might lose.
  • Authority – People follow the lead of credible experts.
  • Consistency – People like being consistent with what they have done or said before.
  • Liking – People like to say yes to those they like.
  • Consensus – When uncertain, people look to others’ actions.

Understanding these principles can help marketers better navigate the dynamics of the C-Suite and who influences who and why. They can also help us understand opportunities to influence and persuade with customers.

One of the most important jobs marketers have is to create great experiences for customers as well as for internal stakeholders.  If marketers can deliver marketing experiences that are customer focused, inspire trust, meet expectations, deliver business ROI and eliminate marketing “fluff”, they can win the confidence in both the C-Suite and with customers.

For example, an influencer program for an ITSM software company yielded 22% of the sales pipeline for the entire year, which is an impressive contribution. How did influencers help?

  • Influencers added credibility
  • Influencer shares attracted 50% of all users
  • Influencer shares were the top driver of conversions overall
  • The pilot built confidence for more marketing budget

Working with influencers created more influence for marketing with customers and the performance of that effort built influence internally with stakeholders.

I cannot imagine a time when building trust, credibility and influence is more important than now when many marketing budgets are in flux and the intentions, actions and authenticity of brands are in question.

Of course we are in the business of influence with our longstanding work for brands like LinkedIn, SAP and Dell, so here are 5 things B2B marketers can do to build greater influence and trust in marketing internally and externally:

1. Develop a customer topic profile – Understanding the goals, pain points and topics important to the people involved in business purchase decision making is at the heart of a customer profile. Those topics can be extended through research to identify the questions buyers want answered. Sure, the brand can answer those questions with marketing content, by when 3rd party industry experts provide the information buyers are looking for, it comes with credibility and attention the brand may not have on its own.

2. Identify & Activate Optimizable Influencers – Topics that matter to customers and that best represent the brand solution are the the drivers for finding experts with influence. Marketers need to find out who is influential about topics that matter most to customers? Which of those experts align with brand values, publish and engage on relevant topics and are potential (if not current) brand advocates? Authenticity is key for building trust and finding influencers that need support and opportunity can give them what they need to create value for their audience while also being part of the story the brand is telling.

3. Include Prospects as Influencers – There are many types of influencers and prospective customers can be great partners to co-create content with. Content collaboration can create an experience for prospects that helps showcase their expertise while also opening doors to conversations around the brand solution.

4. Engage Your C-Suite Execs as Influencers – Another growing segment of influencers are executives. More B2B brands are looking to grow the industry visibility and influence of key staff. B2B brands like Oracle and Prophix software have included their own executives along with industry influencers in content marketing programs to create influence by association, which ultimately builds influence for the brand.

5. Create Content Experiences that Inspire – Content is the platform for most B2B influencer activations and when marketers take special care to output content that goes beyond the “boring 2 boring” of traditional format white papers, ebooks and blog posts to more visual, audio and interactive formats, it creates an experience that inspires both influencers and customers.

There are many things marketers need to do on a daily basis to achieve, maintain and grow trust, especially delivering on expectations of the C-Suite and with customers. Influence plays an essential role and marketers need to step off the status quo train and get on board with getting crystal clear about customers’ centers of influence, engaging the C-Suite as influencers themselves and optimizing marketing programs for trust with internal/external experts to add reach, engagement and ROI.