Trust, community and better information

Why 2020 might have changed B2B customer relationships forever

September 25, 2020

Trust, community and better information

In the decades to come, historians will be obliged to give this period of time an official name. I’m leaning towards The Years of Oh What Now. Put another way: if 2020 was written as a screenplay, Michael Bay would have turned it down for being over the top.

But chaotic times very often act as a catalyst for change, or at least accelerate the changes that were already underway. This is certainly true when it comes to B2B marketing: If you have not been forced to reassess your customer relationships then you’re in an extremely fortunate minority.

In the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Brands and the Coronavirus, more than eight out of ten respondents said they wanted brands to help them by:

  • Acting as a reliable news source
  • Using social media channels to facilitate a sense of community and offer social support
  • Educating their audience

And despite green shoots beginning to appear for some industries, it’s likely that these expectations will stick around long after the pandemic. This is mainly because these elements lend themselves to a more trusting, collaborative and well-informed relationship between businesses and their customers, which is rarely a bad thing.

But as beneficial as these suggestions may be, they are still rather broad. So let’s break them down into the actual steps you can take.

1. Acting as a reliable news source

While Edelman’s report was focused on consumer reactions to the coronavirus, there are long term benefits to being a trusted source of information for your customers and prospects.

No one’s expecting you to hire a news team (although we did exactly that to make sure our curated information was both accurate and trustworthy).

Nevertheless, providing industry details that add value to your audience is a great way to grow brand awareness and confidence.

Here are four things to keep in mind if you intend to include this in your marketing strategy:

  • Be newsworthy. Just like any media outlet, your news needs to be relevant, timely and useful to your audience. Self-promotion during difficult times is a very fast way to lose credibility. The same applies to old news – if your customers already know what you’re going to say, they will stop listening quickly.
  • Be accessible. Let your customers interact with you. Answer questions quickly, perhaps offer a point of contact if you have experts willing to lend a hand.
  • Be consistent. Keep the quality high and deliver at a regular times. Make sure the information tallies with your existing tone of voice, brand mission and purpose.
  • Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. Guide users to a better source of information if you think they can help more effectively.

2. Using social media channels to facilitate a sense of community and offer support

Communities start with a conversation, and good conversations start by you listening carefully. What are your customers and prospects telling you they need now? How can you help them? How can you help them help each other? If your organic social activity has been about driving enquiries in the past, now it should be focused on driving community engagement:

  • Keep your LinkedIn active, post regularly and respond with both speed and empathy to any queries
  • Post images, videos and pdfs that both compliment your brand’s unique message and chime with the changing needs of your customers
  • Update your audience on changes to opening hours, cancelled events and product availability via your LinkedIn Page, Google My Business profile and any other listings
  • Gauge your audience’s response or use features like LinkedIn Content Suggestions to spot trends that you can use to fuel further content
  • Boost your brand awareness by @ mentioning people that are affiliated with specific content, adding hashtags to join trending conversations and sharing your own best @ mention
  • Invite your community to create content with you. Find ways to facilitate the conversation rather than own it.
  • Remember - people like interacting with people. Content shared by employees has twice the engagement rate of a company and a typical employee base has ten times the social reach of corporate channels.

3. Educating your audience

Gary Vaynerchuk said: “Give value. Give value. Give value. And then ask for business.” Well, in the current climate, you may not be asking for anything. If your customers are still on their knees, then education means offering your expertise in the form of any content that helps to solve their problems:

  • Ask your salesforce about the questions they’re getting at the moment – then answer them in your content.
  • It’s about providing value at every stage of their journey – and not necessarily asking for anything in return. This applies to gated content too: keep your help unconditional.
  • Use multiple touchpoints and formats to educate. This could come in the form of a webinar, blog post, live or pre-recorded video, but the focus is on solutions, not sales.

To learn more about how you can engage customers in the chaos of 2020, download Content Marketing in Times of Uncertainty.