The Trust Factor

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The new skills b-to-b marketers will need in 2006 will be influenced by technology in subtle ways. We're not only more wired, the world is also becoming exponentially more interdependent, requiring trust and collaboration. In turn, marketing strategies will reflect these developments, and marketers will have to become more trustworthy.

Why more trust?

One of the biggest changes in the world economy has been to substitute purchase for ownership.

Look at any industry: Everything is outsourced, as companies do alliances and joint ventures, employees shift employers and consumers shift suppliers-all the time, everywhere, in all respects.

In this interconnected world, collaboration trumps competition. The ticket to success in business now is the ability to interact seamlessly with others-particularly customers, but also employees, suppliers and even competitors.

What's that mean for my customers?

Increasingly companies will want to market themselves as friendly, customer-focused, plug-compatible, infinitely flexible and trustworthy. To do so presents a unique challenge to marketers. Think of it this way: Remember the joke line, "I'm very humble-it's my best quality." The challenge to marketers is how to claim that you're truly customer-focused without making it sound like you're tooting your own horn and, as a result, not really customer-focused at all.

There are answers. They include: selling by doing, not selling by telling; and giving people experiences, not concepts. Trust sells by direct experience, not by testimonial or proxy.

What's that mean for my own skills?

First, it means marketers as part of the broader world are not immune from the new way of doing things. As the number of channels proliferates, we are discovering the challenges of creating genuine trust and relationships more rapidly than we did in the past. We will also have multiple constituencies, as well as multiple channels. Marketers will have to get along better with sales; old territorial lines become not just quaint and out of date but positively destructive. Marketers in the future cannot afford to be anything but trustworthy and collaborative in their internal relationships or, in the case of agencies, in their relationships with multiple clients.

Take, for instance, Deidre Bigley, VP-worldwide advertising & interactive at IBM Corp., profiled recently in BtoB, who creates marketing campaigns for IBM's Help Desk and the "on demand" program that are all about how the company morphs into whatever is required to serve the customer better. She came out of IBM sales and Ogilvy & Mather, At one time, those career moves might have looked like job-hopping; now they're strategically critical. Deirdre is the wave of the future: It's interconnected, seamless, and it's built not on competition but on customers, collaboration and trust.

Charles H. Green is author of "Trust-based Selling" and president of Trusted Advisor Associates. He can be reached at [email protected]

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