What Makes Marketing Persuasive in the Post-Truth Era?
I recently co-wrote a short list of trends influencing B2B marketers in 2017 with my good pal Peg Miller. In classic writer’s style, the short piece came from a longer one. Here’s a bit more on the first prediction–that it’s time to get grounded and creative in the post-truth era.
One Big, Shared Goal
The key, unifying thread among all the ideas we kicked around for 2017 is this: we all want to be relevant and keep up momentum once we build it. And that’s getting harder every year.
There’s so much noise on tactics and technologies, it’s hard to figure out what to adapt to and with. Yet some trends loom large.
B2B marketers must work 2x harder to earn credibility in the post-truth era
Ralph Keyes called it in 2004. We’re living in a post-truth era. People are reluctant to see or say what’s true and what’s not. The truth of facts matters less than how information fits the way we feel. This phenomenon is quite simply a worldwide wake up call to the role of emotions in the choices we make.
Don’t kid yourself–it’s not just a pop culture thing. It impacts our B2B world in 2017. Witness the international dialogue underway about fake news. This twisted trend has a potential to tarnish good marketers along with the puppeteers behind this unscrupulous manipulation of the populace.
How To Tell Fake News From Real News In ‘Post-Truth’ Era : A Finder’s Guide To Facts ~ Steve Inskeep | @NPR
Facebook Details Its New Plan To Combat Fake News Stories ~ Bill Chappell | @NPR
How to Defend Your Brain Against Fake News ~ Art Markman | @FastCompany
And, as a scary honor to the concept, post-truth is the 2016 word of the year according to Oxford Dictionaries.
Even the inspirational quotes shared regularly on social media can be of dubious origin. Mis-cited quotes pop up in Google search and are easily shared in perpetuity. I’ve been duped. My favorite Mark Twain quote turns out to be nothing of the sort:
“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”
Who can you trust?
In addition to fake news, people are skeptical about institutions. Only Congress is less trusted than big business according to Gallup’s 2016 poll Confidence in Institutions.
Even when you’re scrupulous about building authenticity, B2B brands are heavily reliant on sales teams. We all work to best to hire the best talent and undoubtedly have great people. Yet it’s the sales profession itself that’s not trusted. It’s that old image of the used car salesman. A mere 3% of people consider salespeople to be trustworthy, according to Hubspot Research.
Fake news x distrust of institutions x distrust of salespeople x emotions = a heavy lift to build trust.
Modern B2B brand building in a post-truth era
In post-truth era, polished corporate statements simply scroll past readers on bloated digital information feeds stuffed with half-truths and copycats. So let’s get real on how to build trust when the same ‘ol stuff doesn’t work.
Remember…people rely less on less on what you say and more on how they feel when they interact with you. So, own it. We’re good people who work for other good people and strive to do good things every day. Isn’t it time that we applied personalization to ourselves?
Personalization isn’t just a technology that we can apply to customer marketing programs. Personalization is a strategy to stay real in the age of MarTech and fancy marketing trends that can obscure the goal of building actual relationships. How can we do adopt this in practice?
1. Focus on customers and buyers first
Know your buyer. Know the facts about what they need, how they search, and who they are. Also, know the emotions they experience when discovering how to solve business challenges. Bring this to life one conversation, one interaction at a time.
To do this well means that you need good prospect and customer insights. Also, your integrated marketing machine must work like a dream. It’s simply time to create a playbook for buyer confidence, and free your teams to rise to it. How?
- Embrace the truth that gut feel no longer works. All good marketing starts with knowing who your buyers are. You’ve got to have more than tribal knowledge to keep pace with change in a digital era. Yes – that’s even true when the people with gut instincts run the place or are the squeaky wheels. Even if you’re on a shoestring budget, find a way to listen to customers systematically.
- Map Content to Your Buyers’ Journey. With insights ready, map your current content and programs to the different ways that customers discover solutions.
- Design your integrated marketing around trust-building. When you know the pathways by which your buyers make decisions, you’ll design compelling marketing plans with authentic content.
- Make Testing a Cultural Norm. Do more than fail fast. Work with your leadership team to make tests of messaging, campaigns and content a safe experience. Trials and closed-loop feedback should be the norm in your culture, not just a hopeful motto.
2. Focus on your own people next
People like to understand your motives. So, work harder to be transparent. You create your cool stuff for a reason. Make that a feature of your marketing. Showcase how your people make hard challenges easier for customers. Explain why you build things the way you do. Discuss the ways you listen to your customers for new ideas and what you do about it.
B2B brands have a major advantage in that we have fewer, larger customers. Our service, sales, product, and marketing teams are in closer relationships to customers than consumer businesses. That’s a good thing. We have more opportunities to build trust.
So, however you do it, tell your story.
- Feature your people in your brand story
- Train your sales, marketing and service people to tell your story in human terms
- Bring your brand story to life in how you design and deliver customer and employee experience
3. Remember this critical don’t
Don’t mistake transparency and authenticity as a reason to openly make excuses for poor customer experience or immature products. Don’t confuse your own inner demons such as complex processes and insider baseball stuff as valuable to customers. They don’t care why you have difficulties doing something. That’s your problem. They care that you effectively make their problems easier, and are accountable to fix things when they don’t work. If you make them feel like your act isn’t together, that’s what they’ll remember.
Keep Your Eyes on This Prize
Do this well, and you’ll benefit from the best of all referral sources: your own customers.
“When it comes to revenue impact, though, there’s a clear leader: word-of-mouth (W-O-M). Asked to choose the activity or channel with the biggest positive impact on revenue, more than one-fifth (22%) of respondents pointed to referrals and W-O-M,” The State of Pipeline Marketing Report 2016 | @Bizible via @MarketingReports.