How to Build Trust With Your Buyers—With the Help of LinkedIn
Have you ever made an important purchase from someone you didn’t trust? I don’t mean that faux Rolex on Canal Street, but something that could have a long lasting effect on your future. How about enterprise software, or high-end consulting? You may answer, “Never.” Why? Because you’re human. As author Peg Streep writes in Psychology Today: “Trust is the foundation of all human connections.”
A Gartner survey of technology buyers found that “trust drives the buying process,” says Gartner’s Research Vice President Hank Barnes. Can simple marketing mistakes erode trust?
The Gartner study analyzed three specific areas of trust erosion by asking buyers their level of agreement or disagreement with these statements:
- We don’t trust providers who make bold claims without backing it up with customer stories.
- What a provider says on their website is often contradicted by their sales channels.
- What a provider says on their website is often contradicted by independent third parties.
Each one of these scenarios will increase buyers’ doubt of your company or product. The bottom line is that marketers must provide proof their claims are true. This is best done with case studies; however, testimonials, awards and positive comments on online forums can help too.
Consistency across all communications channels—sales, marketing, executives, customer service, customer consultants—must be achieved. Developing relationships with those who influence your buyers can make a big difference.
How LinkedIn Can Help
For B2B buyers and influencers making complex buying decisions, LinkedIn is a key source of information about your company and your products or services. For suppliers, it also provides an opportunity for reaching otherwise hard-to-reach people.
LinkedIn itself is a trusted medium for communication because of its built-in transparency. If you attempt to “fake it” on LinkedIn, some of its 450+ million members will find out and likely call you out. Members arrive there with minds more open to messaging than they are from a vendor or potential partner’s website, or even their own inboxes. This puts potential buyers in a far more receptive state to receive your messaging and understand your value; it also makes it easier to screw up and make your target audiences doubt you.
LinkedIn Do’s and Don’ts
Members of your important target audiences will be looking at your company page, interacting with your employees, and checking out the profiles of key individuals. They will be doing this before they actually talk to anyone at your company, possibly even before they visit your website.
Most LinkedIn activity is conducted by individual members, which makes it more challenging for messages to be controlled by marketing and corporate communications people. This lack of control, however, makes LinkedIn a more valuable asset for buyers and influencers. Not to worry—it’s easy to ensure your LinkedIn company pages put forth the desired message and even guide individuals to use the platform in a way that’s beneficial to both them and the company.
LinkedIn profiles. Personal profiles are owned by each individual, and they are the most important feature on LinkedIn. It’s worth doing whatever you can to ensure the profiles of key customer-facing employees and executives look professional and are complete with at least a minor bit of company/product branding. While you can’t force people to do this, most individuals are happy to follow suggestions and recommendations, especially if you’re able to offer writing assistance. It’s important to watch that the profiles of your key people do not conflict with the image your company projects elsewhere.
LinkedIn groups. All too often the visibility and trust-building opportunity offered in LinkedIn groups is wasted by marketers who only post blog articles. Instead, to show the expertise of your subject matter experts, encourage them to provide value by posting thoughtful discussions and helpful comments.
Social selling. Get to know relevant influencers. Really read their profiles and articles. Follow them. Understand what they like and don’t like through their comments, likes, and shares. Make yourself known. Get connected and engage. It can be easier to make an initial connection with an influencer on LinkedIn than anywhere else.
LinkedIn company pages. This area is easy to work with since you control it. Make sure the header image and description match what you’re saying on your website and appeal to your full range of target audiences: customers, prospects, employees, potential employees, influencers, investors, and other relevant groups. You can also use your company page and showcase pages to feature proof-providing content such as case studies, testimonials, awards, and third-party research.
Pulse articles. The Pulse content platform is an opportunity for your subject matter experts to provide thought-provoking, high value ideas that support or drive your value proposition. Don’t waste it by posting boring, me-too blog articles.
A few takeaways from Hank Barnes and the Gartner study include:
- Make sure that your sales teams and other customer-facing company representatives understand what you are sharing on LinkedIn and other social media, and make sure they don’t purposefully contradict it. Teach them how to use the information posted on LinkedIn and build on it with additional, situational insights.
- Make working with influencers a priority, not only to convince them that you are great, but to understand their perspective of you. Be aware that, at times, you may need to adjust your own messaging to be more aligned with these people.
- Use customer stories whenever and wherever possible.
Trust is an essential part of succeeding in business, and LinkedIn offers opportunities both to enhance and strengthen trust, or to screw it up.