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Riding the Credibility Coattails

By Whitney Satin

Whether or not you’re a political policy wonk, it’s hard to avoid the barrage of news stories detailing candidate maneuverings with just a week left before the U.S. midterm elections.  Both Republicans and Democrats are calling in the big guns to hit the campaign trail and lend some clout to the lesser-known names on the ballot.  After all, sometimes all it takes for a candidate to get his or her foot in the door is a ride on the coattails of those who already have the trust and support of the voting public.

The same logic applies in the world of B2B marketing.  The economy is showing early signs of recovery, and we’re seeing customers beginning to loosen the coffers and increasingly explore purchase options with suppliers.   To take advantage of this sunnier outlook, marketers are eagerly looking for ways to expand their company’s footprint, which can mean entering a space beyond the traditional areas of expertise.  This may include launching a new product, going after a new set of target customers, or even just positioning existing products and services as capable of addressing a broader set of customer needs.

The problem?  Suppliers don’t always have the credibility to play in these adjacent areas.  While prospects may have familiarity with a particular brand, they rarely view the supplier as a legitimate solutions provider from the get go.  To overcome this perception barrier, marketers can do a little politicking of their own and build credibility by tapping those who already have it:

  • Partner with influentials. Seek out established thought leaders and coauthor content to demonstrate that you have a legitimate voice to add to the conversation.  You’ll benefit from the “halo effect” we all see when we work with someone known and trusted by our customers—only this time, you’ll be working with someone known and trusted in the adjacent space.
  • Spark exploration among the masses. Pose questions about new ways to think about solving a particular business challenge (that ultimately leads to your solution) in order to instigate conversations in the existing market dialogue.  Questions act as trigger points for customer exploration rather than coming off as a commercial pitch about your products and services.
  • Activate your advocates. Film customer enthusiasts and virally circulate that positive imagery back to the marketplace.  Marketers and sales reps can talk about company benefits until they’re blue in the face, but nothing is as convincing as authentic customer voice.

MLC members: check out our case studies from Cisco and Qwest to see how they combined these tactics to build credibility from the ground up.

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