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  • Writer's pictureNatalie Nathanson

Today's Top B2B Marketing Imperative: Be Authentic

Updated: Mar 5, 2021

In the B2C world, consider Southwest Airlines or Ben & Jerry’s. You know what you’re getting from them, and it’s not just the fun flight crew or pint of Chunky Monkey. Their values are clear and reflected in virtually every experience. People trust them. Then, consider Facebook, which touts core values of "integrity" and "respect for others," yet is now under fire for how it collects and uses data.

Authenticity and its positive impact on a company’s health has been widely studied for the B2C market. For B2B companies, being deemed trustworthy is just as critical to driving positive outcomes. The wealth of information available to customers even before they directly interact means authenticity must be communicated consistently, both via content and in all personal interactions. Marketing is a cornerstone of building brand authenticity — while we have full control over how we communicate before, during and after the sale, we can also help drive the "people" aspect of authenticity by infusing the values that the company will demonstrate (hopefully consistently) throughout all interactions.

Authenticity should move seamlessly from perception to reality.

Marketing leader Philip Kotler wrote, "Authentic marketing is not the art of selling what you make but knowing what to make." It builds trust by being customer-centric, not purely sales-driven. It’s about deeply understanding the market’s challenges and unique pain points people feel before talking about solutions. It’s clear, cohesive and consistent so that every interaction — via emails, conversations, websites, social media and at events — reflects the firm’s values and reinforces the brand. In B2B, for example, being known as a genuine partner (and not just another vendor) often catches people’s attention and can help in developing prospect and client relationships that deepen over time.

Embrace these six best practices to help convey your company’s authenticity:

1. Let company values lead the way.

Start with a compelling vision and values that guide you. These statements represent who you are, and marketing’s job is to help create, translate and make them come alive. Use them as a North Star when developing strategies, keeping them front and center as you execute. Remember, while marketing creates the message, your people are the ultimate messengers. Strive to embed these values in the hearts and minds of everyone on your team so they don’t just say it; they live it.

2. Become genuinely customer-centric.

Develop a deep understanding of what your customers and prospects care about, how they think and where their biggest challenges lie. There are many ways to gain this knowledge — for example, through conversations, interviews, surveys, research, competitive analysis, salespeople and customer support. Interacting directly with customers and prospects regularly and watching people at work are often the best ways to put yourself in their shoes. Embed and spread this knowledge across the organization so it informs every interaction.

3. Speak their language.

People can easily spot marketing jargon. Arm your marketing pros with industry knowledge and the words, acronyms and common phrases that will resonate with your audience. When needed, engage an experienced subject matter expert to work with the marketing team. For example, we brought in a developer to work with our writers as they created content to market a software product for development teams. His industry experience and insights ensured the information was credible and trustworthy (and avoided the jargon developers hate).

4. Develop wholehearted positioning and messaging.

Well-crafted positioning and messaging statements let people know you understand who they are, what they need and how your solutions can help them, but they need to be about more than just products and features. Make these statements value-driven, empathetic and personal.

Start by crafting "I" statements, stepping into the mindset of the customer and stating problems in their voice and from their viewpoint. Avoid general statements like "improves efficiency," and instead drill down to the real pain point.

For example, one of our clients provides a technology that centralizes diverse sets of information from many locations. After interviewing their customers, who talked about the time involved in trying to search for information (the real pain point), we developed the messaging: "Answers. Anywhere." This provided a very clear picture of the result of utilizing the technology.

5. Create content that resonates.

According to research from the Economist Group, "three-quarters of business executives seek out content in order to research a business idea ('substance'), while 93% of marketers focus their content to some extent on connecting directly to a product/service their organization offers ('marketing')." This approach doesn’t help the B2B buyer research new ideas. There is so much information available today; make sure your content is relevant and actually helpful.

Marketing content can engage people or quickly turn them off. Don’t rely on marketing-speak. Create meaningful content that addresses pain points with actionable advice. Keep it simple but compelling. Use it to reflect your market knowledge as well as reveal your company’s character. Great content carries your brand voice consistently. Don’t be afraid to change up your approach: Use some humor or draw interesting analogies — anything that will make people with short attention spans stop and want to learn more.

6. Make every online and offline touch point cohesive and consistent.

With so many ways to connect with people, an authentic brand can be reinforced, but it can also be diluted. For example, when employees give people mixed messages, online content doesn’t match what people have been told or solutions don’t deliver on their promise, the brand suffers. Keep everyone in the organization up to date on personas, positioning and messaging. Help them understand the value of authenticity in building trust. Keep in mind that with the internet and social media, the people you want to establish relationships with can gain behind-the-scenes insights into your business and its employees with a few clicks.

With so many businesses competing for attention, buyers have many choices, and authenticity can be a key differentiator. Seek to create it with wholehearted marketing strategies to make emotional connections that can ultimately drive real business results.


Natalie is Founder & President of Magnetude Consulting, a full service marketing agency working with small and mid-sized B2B tech firms. Natalie is a Forbes Agency Council member where this article was originally posted.

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