Look around. The economy is up. The stock market is popping. Reports say that consumer confidence is high. That means that our culture is shopping more—both individual consumers and companies. The B2B tech space is growing as companies continue to rely on tech solutions for critical business needs.
Enter the paradox: More interactions give B2B tech companies more opportunities to earn trust, educate and nurture leads, and win business. More interactions also give B2B tech companies more opportunities to blow it. With more and more of the sales process moving into a “self service” mode the difference between winning business and losing business is your ability establish trust.
This article will explore four questions:
- What is trust?
- What factors are making it harder to earn trust?
- How are B2B tech companies winning trust?
- What can you do to earn more trust?
What is customer trust?
Think about a human relationship for a minute. A new neighbor moves in next door. You take a plate of brownies over and introduce yourself. She mentions that she’s new to town and needs a mechanic. You talk about how you tried many mechanics over the years and now have the best one who’s fair and reasonable. You promise to send the mechanic’s contact information when you get home. You and your neighbor exchange phone numbers. You send the information immediately upon walking in your door. Your neighbor has a great experience, gets her car fixed, and now trusts you for future recommendations.
Now imagine, instead of providing the mechanic's number quickly, you became distracted and never sent the text. Your neighbor is left with the impression that you are untrustworthy. She will be less likely to seek your recommendation in the future and will feel awkward around you the next time you run into each other.
Translate that experience to your company and your customers. Trust is either built or torn down with each small, unspoken promise fulfilled or broken. Those unspoken promises could be anything from website load time, to PDF delivery, to the time it takes your team to reply to an email.
Trust is built on the foundation of empathy. In the car repair analogy, you demonstrated empathy because in the past, you had car problems and struggled to find a mechanic. You understood your neighbor’s dilemma. You offered a solution.
When you understand your customers’ most head-scratching questions, feel the strain and stress they experience because of the lack of resolution, and seek to answer them, you are demonstrating empathy. The degree to which you deliver those answers and solutions builds trust.
Empathy toward your customers is built on the bedrock of clearly understanding their needs. Map out what the exact factors are that lead people to search out solutions you offer, understand who those people are, what the shape of their problem set looks like (even if it goes past the scope of your solution), then correlate it to a narrative of how your solution meets their need. We call that structure a buyer matrixSM. It is a living document that keeps you from bogging down your marketing messages in the minutia of technical details and empowers you to focus your customer. We offer step-by-step instructions for developing a buyer matrix here.
When we began our work with 360 View, we walked them through the buyer matrix process. 360 View provides CRM and marketing automation for small and medium-sized banks and credit unions. We identified they did much more than that—they help banks grow. Most of their customers are in small towns and are competing against the national brands.
One of the most acute needs they felt from their customers was how to win and retain millennial customers. We worked with them to write, lay out, and distribute a white paper titled, Growing Local Banks in the Millennial Market. This white paper was widely embraced and shared by their customers and became a trust beacon for them: If they understand this problem, they will understand our other problems.
What keeps B2B tech companies from earning customer trust?
Time and again we see our clients struggle to take their eyes off their technology and place it back on the customer. What’s odd is that they never would have uncovered the need for the solution or been driven to create it if they weren’t passionate about solving a customer’s problem. Somewhere along the way, focus changed.
Perhaps the same challenge has taken your eyes off of solving customer problems through your marketing efforts. Keep honing and refining your website to make the customer experience (CX) richer, deeper, and more problem-solving. For years, B2B website satisfaction surveys have shown lower scores than their B2C cousins. Research firm Forrester reports that 72% of B2B companies have made CX a major initiative. However, other studies show only 23% of B2B companies currently “have a customer-centric organizational structure versus a channel- or product-centric one.” Here are some areas of your customer’s experience you may not be thinking about.
If there’s a question or problem (or even a compliment), how many hoops do your customers have to jump through to get a message to someone? When they do, how long does it take for them to receive a response?
Inclusion of Partners
Forrester points out that many B2B tech companies sell through channels or rely on partners to provide support. “Because these partners own significant portions of the customer journey, B2B CX pros must assess their partners' performance as part of the end-to-end customer experience.” What role do your external partners play in your CX?
Can your customers buy your product or service through eCommerce? BigCommerce reports that 96% of Americans are shopping online. Sapio Research found that 75% of companies surveyed had been asked to open an online sales portal. They wanted the same ease of shopping (72%), ability to browse (52%), and a “self-service” approach to inventory levels and delivery times (42%).
How are B2B tech companies winning trust?
At the end of 2017, Forrester made an ominous prediction: that 2018 would be the year of reckoning for B2B companies and their relationships with customers.
Forbes reporter Blake Morgan observed from the Forrester study:
Brands that own their values, like Apple and Chick-fil-A, will break away from the companies that merely borrow them. Value-driven companies will gain more respect and have larger profits over companies that customers see are just there to earn money, like PepsiCo and Anheuser-Busch. This prediction shows the importance of a strong company culture and of connecting businesses to values that customers can connect with, like family, diversity, respect, and innovation. Brands that are committed to their values often have to make sacrifices, such as Apple only sourcing from renewable sources that tend to be more expensive, but their commitment to their values resonates with customers and leads to big success.
Your corporate values matter in day-to-day life. They are not niceties on your “About Us” page on your website or artwork for the walls of your office. Your values drive how you do business. They are the foundation of the the soul of your brand. Your values will permeate every interaction with your customer and will help you build trust.
For example, our value of “Right Thing, Right Way” drives how we create components of certain projects and empowers each employee to take the time to do it right. For example, sometimes, it’s easy to make a simple change in one area of a website to fix a problem. However, the one who made the change might have to duplicate that effort in additional places and other team members won’t have access to that solution if they need it. By creating a module or other duplicatable solution, we do the “right thing, the right way” and help our entire team. We hear time and time again from clients how grateful they are for the way we live this out in their work, too. The entire value statement says:
Temptations to compromise are ever-present. Shortcuts never work. Every member of our team is empowered to do their best work. We will hold to the time, quality, and integrity commitments we have made to our team members, clients, and vendors and in the event we fall short, we endeavor to make it right, trusting that integrity will ultimately enliven and propel our company.
When we conduct a workshop with a new client, we dig down into the company’s values and gain an understanding of how they play out in everyday life and in interactions with customers and targets. Many times, a company’s values aren’t well-defined or the team at large doesn’t understand them or how to apply them. As we develop a company’s marketing strategy, we look for ways to articulate the real values we hear manifest in the organization. Sometimes we have the chance to reframe their proclaimed values around those organic observations. Then, we look for ways the company can outwardly manifest its values—not by putting them word-for-word on the homepage, but by building them implicitly into the company's messaging and brand voice. We know that this will help our client earn the trust of its customers.
What can you do to earn more trust?
When you understand the full scope of the journey your buyers are on, you earn deep trust and develop long-term relationships, referral business, and more.
Golden Spiral has mapped out the Trust Journey buyers travel on during their interactions with a company.
When you download our resource, you’ll discover the three phases of this journey and how to build a process that leads your buyers through all the stages while building deeper and deeper trust in the process.
Once you pass the first impression and win Initial Trust, you get to make your case. The next milestone is Qualified Trust, in which prospective customers will assess your ability to solve their problems.
The final stage of buyer trust is when the buyer verifies things in person to learn if you really are what you have said you are. Verified Trust represents the moment when the “self-service” portion of the buyer journey comes to a close.
Every potential customer is on the trust journey with your brand and products.
How well are you winning and maintaining their trust?
Do you need help auditing your customers’ trust journey to determine how to make it the best it can possibly be? We can help. Reach out today.