How B2B content can build trust and influence audiences

Emily Taylor Gregory

Alongside logic and reason, trust is one of the factors that influences our decision-making – whether we are buying a car or choosing who to vote for. Brands (and politicians) seek to earn our trust, then use that trust to influence our decisions.

Trust forms and strengthens relationships. Instinctively, we place our trust in those we see as experts and those we believe have our best interests at heart.

The B2B world is no different. B2B content and thought leadership is all about getting the audience to think differently about your brand and/or act differently. That is not easy. It is founded on a relationship of trust between the content producer and the audience, so building and maintaining trust is an essential part of brand marketing.

How marketers can help to build trust

Thought leadership is a formidable weapon in a company’s trust armoury. When it is authentic and credible, thought leadership reinforces clients’, customers’ and employees’ positive perceptions of a company. Done right, it shows that a company is credible and has significant expertise, which reinforces the ‘trusted partner’ image. But get it wrong, and it can do significant damage.

“Once you have a trusted brand, it becomes your doorway to information.”
Shiv Khemka, Vice-Chairman, SUN Group

Our latest ebook, Influence and impact, advocates the three elements of trust introduced by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss in Harvard Business Review. They are:

  1. Authenticity
  2. Logic
  3. Empathy

To create influential content, you need a balance between these three elements. Too much B2B content is heavy on logic and light on empathy. As a result, it can feel remote and abstract because it leans too heavily on research and does not build a connection with the audience.

Logic is important because there has to be reasoning behind the change you want your audience to make – but make sure it is balanced with empathy. And not enough campaigns are authentic – they do not let the distinctive brand personality shine through.

“We know that brands have power. If they’re using that power sensibly and intelligently, why wouldn’t I want to hear from them?”
Melanie Richards, Deputy Chair, KPMG

How to get it right

  1. Apply logic
    If your audience has no confidence or faith in your ideas, why would they trust you? Logic helps with credibility. Primary survey research, desk research and interviews with people outside your organisation, such as business leaders and academics, gives B2B content the gravitas of third-party testimony and allows your company to align itself with trusted partners and advisors.
  2. Be authentic
    This is the one that many of us struggle with, because thought leadership can sometimes, if we are honest, favour hyperbole over authenticity. There is often a gap between aspiration and pragmatic reality in thought leadership, as companies often talk the talk, but fail to walk the walk. Be authentic and down to earth, and ask yourself: will your audience see your company and your brand in your content?
  3. Show empathy
    Think about how you can form an emotional connection with your audience. In the B2B context, this means focusing on factors such as reassurance, optimism, confidence, vision of the future and understanding of your buyer’s business problems.

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About the author: Emily Taylor Gregory

Emily is our marketing director, responsible for the brand, marketing and communications strategies for FT Longitude and the Thought Leadership Network. Emily leads our content and events programmes, our digital marketing channels, as well as our speaking engagements and PR activity, working closely with our editorial and research teams to develop and promote insight and best practice at the cutting edge of thought leadership.

Before joining FT Longitude, Emily spent 14 years working in various marketing roles in the publishing and technology sectors.

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