It’s no surprise to marketers – especially those who frequent Wide Angle – that the power of relationship-based selling strategies is waning. To build consensus across customer decision makers, Marketing needs to shift resources into producing valuable content rather than building relationships with advocates.
A necessary function of content that can convert the buying center is establishing the supplier’s credibility. This is key since decision influencers must feel comfortable sharing content with their peers. Previously a close supplier-customer relationship might have built the needed credibility – now, marketers achieve it through content.
One approach is using social proof. This concept in organizational theory suggests that when we are uncertain about a decision, we are strongly influenced by choices we see peers make. A supplier can tap into social proof by showing prospective customers peers who are in similar situations and choosing the supplier’s services. This could be done with tactics like online communities, case studies or word-of-mouth initiatives.
One of my favorite examples comes from Qwest Communications. Qwest shares interview videos of current customers with prospects. To keep the customer interviewees easy to relate to, Qwest stays away from the slick commercial-like style you’ll find in a lot of testimonials. Interview videos are unscripted, minimally edited, and include responses to questions like “What could Qwest do better?”.
Another approach to establishing credibility is providing customized content – that demonstrates your understanding of the customer’s business and the value you can create for them. A custom implementation plan, benchmarked diagnostic or value calculator might fall into this category.
A good example here comes from the FedEx ValuePoint calculator. This tool allows customers to create custom savings predictions for multiple scenarios, and suggests case studies from companies with similar profiles. The fact that the tool uses a company’s own data builds some initial credibility, but a lot also depends on the way FedEx created the tool itself. There are plenty of value calculators simply based on convenient supplier assumptions, but FedEx used empirical data to inform weightings used in the calculator. These weightings are completely visible to the prospect and can be adjusted. With this tool prospects are able to run multiple scenarios using a variety of assumptions, which builds confidence in the value.