Authenticity in Action: Fostering Human Connections to Build Trust & Drive Growth

Greg Linnemanstons
Posted by Greg Linnemanstons on March 14, 2024

If you’re a digital marketer and you’re paying attention, you see it: unprecedented disruption on all fronts — from evolving customer expectations and buying behaviors to the very ways people search for and consume information online. Many businesses are seeing changes in the ways visitors interact with their websites and digital content.

This points to an evolving challenge business-to-business marketers face: If site visitors are less willing to offer contact information in exchange for your helpful content, how do you find and connect with target audiences in the first place? 

How do you meaningfully engage with potential customers in an increasingly fragmented digital landscape that’s constantly being reshaped by AI, evolving customer journeys, and changing buyer behaviors?

One key lies in using thought leadership in digital marketing strategies. For B2B industrial marketers, an effective thought leadership approach is much more than marketing. 

Relevant, effective thought leadership also needs the enthusiastic participation of technical subject matter experts (SMEs) who are willing to engage with your audience, champion your outreach, and lead with authenticity, empathy, and a commitment to fostering genuine community

The path forward demands a strategic shift in how marketing and sales teams trigger and sustain engagement throughout the customer journey.

Video Transcript: Reinventing Marketing Strategy in a New Landscape, Part 1 — Fostering Human Connections

Hi. I’m Greg Linnemanstons, president of Weidert Group. If you’re a growth marketer there’s no doubt you’re seeing disruption in the work you do.

Disruptions are influencing marketing from all sides: buyer behaviors and journeys, customer expectations, search performance and results, and more.  

Preferred social platforms, accepted social behaviors, and content formats are evolving fast, too. It all affects the ways B2B marketers engage with their targets. And the way prospects engage with us.

The challenge isn’t just competing against noise; it starts with finding your audience in the ever-more fragmented online landscape in which we work.

It’s paradoxical, but digital saturation and human isolation are two sides of the same coin: We’re always connected, yet humans have never felt more disconnected and isolated from one another.

So it’s no wonder that trust in brands is at its lowest level since 2016.

It’s not just a business challenge; it’s a human challenge impacting our culture, education, healthcare, politics, and parenting.

AI is disrupting search, but it’s not the only thing chipping away at people’s trust. 

So it’s no surprise to learn that 44% of the marketers we polled see an urgent need to rebuild and strengthen brand trust with a focus on thought leadership and more authentic human connections.

But how do you foster real connections in a world that feels more fragmented than ever? 

It starts with empathy, relevance, and understanding.

Thought leadership isn’t just about industry expertise or your decades of experience; it’s about having the curiosity and confidence to start conversations that matter, and the commitment to really listen to what people have to say. 

That means all the people: prospects, customers, former customers, competitors, end users, employees, and peers.

Connecting with people on a human level is how you start to see and understand them.

And that’s how you begin to build a trusted community of thinkers and problem-solvers within your industry or specialization. 

And while trade shows and events are seeing gains since their lockdown in 2020, connection and community-building extend far beyond the constraints of physical events.

Today, thought leaders are creating spaces where meaningful exchanges happen: virtual roundtables, webinars, user forums, podcasts, LinkedIn groups, and even direct, peer-to-peer conversations, both public and private.

Many, but not all, industries have well-established online communities. Both scenarios present opportunities for more and better human connections.

disruptive trends survey results

But what’s the secret to building real trust for your brand in the hearts of your customers?

Start with authenticity.

People seek connections that feel genuine and personal. Especially if it’s with a subject matter expert in the field where they’re facing a challenge.

Being genuine means more than sharing insights; it’s about understanding the importance of context and applying knowledge to specific situations. And recognizing that human preferences for formats and channels are personal and are constantly evolving. 

AI and other other emerging technologies represent a source of enhanced productivity and capabilities, to free up resources for the human side of engagement.

It’s time to leap forward with how we connect, engage, and build trust with audiences. That demands a strategy informed by an understanding of what’s possible and builds on what your audiences are facing, feeling, and experiencing today.

Navigate disruption with strategies that don’t just reach audiences, but truly connect with people.

If you're ready to explore how your brand can lead with empathy, insight, and genuine connection, reach out. We’re listening. 

Don’t Wait to Build & Engage With Online Communities

The technology-driven challenge of connecting with audiences is compounded by a growing disconnect people are feeling, even in a hyper-connected society. Trust in brands is at its lowest in almost a decade. To succeed in this environment, we need to rethink how we build genuine relationships and credibility with the people behind the businesses we aim to serve.

By actively participating in relevant social media discussions and online industry forums, your organization’s technical SMEs do more than offer advice; they also help humanize your B2B brand while building trust and credibility — the building blocks of authority. And if your sector is so niche that it still lacks that online presence, your brand could embrace the opportunity to create an online community.

Online events and spaces like major social media platforms, industry-specific web forums, and other sources of user-generated content can also introduce collaboration and partnership opportunities for creating comarketing content, building an online community together, event sponsorship, and more.

By sharing insights in different types of online communities through the lens of an industry expert, they open the door for meaningful dialogue with prospects, customers, end users, and the broader public. 

The benefit of social listening goes both ways: target audiences get the information they crave, your team’s SMEs stay attuned to the trends and pain points, and your marketing team learns more about the topics that most resonate with key personas.

Keep a Human Focus in a Digital & AI-Driven World

As AI influences search behaviors and website interactions, authentic human connections can become even more important in the complex B2B buying journey.

SME participation in thought leadership marketing adds relevance and value to online and in-person events and conversations. Trade show breakout sessions, webinars, roundtable discussions, podcast interviews, “Ask Me Anything” livestreams on social media … These are just a few ways online and in-person engagement can help build rapport and spark breakthrough “aha moments” for audiences, SMEs, and marketers.

These exchanges often yield powerful insights for SMEs, as well as for marketing and sales teams. While SMEs can use their learnings to refine product or service offerings, marketing and sales can put insights to work (along with AI and automation technologies) to optimize and personalize content, channel strategies, and the user experience. 

But a sole focus on website content (blogs, pillar pages, ebooks, landing pages, etc.) is no longer enough to establish credibility and authority. To succeed, B2B marketers need to catalyze authentic conversations across multiple touchpoints, with on-demand digital content supporting, rather than solely driving, the evolving buyer’s journey.  

Connect Now So You Can Sell When the Time is Right

By empowering your SMEs to take center stage in building community and credibility with your target audiences, you’ll be better-positioned to cut through the noise, cultivate real connections, and ultimately earn the trust that propels long-term customer relationships.

Moving forward, the strongest B2B brands will be those that master the human side of an increasingly specialized, fragmented, and AI-powered customer journey.

If you’re ready to dive deeper into using thought leadership strategies in digital marketing to drive authentic engagement and growth, you won’t want to miss Experience Inbound. We’re celebrating a decade of Wisconsin’s premier marketing and sales conference with forward-looking keynotes and breakout sessions that deliver insights you can act on right away.

Pick your date and location in Milwaukee or Green Bay and click below to register today. I can’t wait to see you there.

New call-to-action

Topics: Inbound Marketing, [VIDEO]

New call-to-action