Ideas Beat Influence in the Business of Trust
Posted on 4th March 2016 by Alexandra Kent
"B2B buyers purchasing complex, long-term products and services are more interested in what you know. "
In his presentation at last week’s B2B Marketing InProf conference, Lee Odden, CEO of TopRank Marketing, set up three significant challenges faced by B2B marketers:
- Increasingly complex, matrix buying processes.
- Content saturation.
- Pervasive suspicion of corporate content – even editorial.
We’re producing content that’s never seen or shared, is mapped onto an obsolete linear decision-making funnel, and when target audiences do engage with content they don’t trust it.
This trifecta of marketing misery is all too familiar to our clients – under pressure to produce more and more stuff in order to market and sell. Customers want on-tap insight, they’re told, and so follows an endless stream of reports, viewpoints, fact files and newsletters. But little cuts through.
Odden argued the virtues of influencer marketing as a way to reach and convince sceptical, jaded customers. The theory goes: buyers trust personal referrals above all, so, to cut through, tap their online and offline networks. By partnering with influencers, advisors or friends in these communities, companies can create, curate and share content that piggybacks the reputation of other experts.
Authority by association isn’t a new idea. Teaming up with industry bodies and academic institutions has been knocking around in the B2B marketing toolbox for years. Yes, it expands reach. Yes, it bolsters credibility. But as business buyers have become increasingly savvy, paying to put the company logo on a generic white paper does little to persuade.
That’s not to say that I don’t believe in the power of influence. Working with other experts to co-create content is a proven strategy to enhance authority – positioning you at the heart of the issue, leading other leaders in thought. It demonstrates peerhood and extends your own network.
But, as Odden himself says, effective content marketing is about a value exchange between business and buyer. B2B buyers purchasing complex, long-term products and services are more interested in what you know.
The real reason that so much content fails to deliver is because it lacks a compelling concept from the get-go. Whether content has a central thought that is relevant to your audience, taps into the market-moving issues of the moment and creates a call to action for your business is the acid test for success. Influencers are powerful, but prioritising influence over idea will render you powerless.