In today's highly connected world, most buyers have access to a variety of options that help to solve their problems. As the buyer researches the various products and services available, they begin to form decisions about which option will best service their needs. Recently, a report by Forrester's found that the three most important qualities for B2B supplier/wholesale success—clear full pricing, visible inventory, and content about company processes—are directly related to transparency.
Now that content marketing has become ubiquitous across all industries, the expectations for transparency are rising rapidly. As buyers are inundated with more and more information from their suppliers (and as they fall for less gimmicks), the push on B2B sellers to be open and transparent is ever increasing. B2Bers expect clarity for their highly logical decision-making, so companies with cloudy marketing schemes of the past now need to catch up.
Of course, the challenges faced by B2B companies also impact B2C businesses as well: increased competition within the marketplace, reduced switching costs/barriers, and increased expectations for educational content. All point towards the need for transparency.
B2B companies are expected to work with their customers and clients. They are in a mutualistic relationship that leads to both of the businesses’ growth. Many B2Bers develop very long working relationships, with the lifetime value of each customer sometimes lasting years. B2B buyers are not necessary searching for a one-off solution, they are searching for a partner they can trust to take care of their problem.
In contrast, the pressures for transparency that B2C companies face are much less about thoughtful decision-making and more about matching consumers' shopping values. Today, I'll explore the importance of transparency in inbound marketing by looking at how transparency-seeking content differs between B2B and B2C focuses.
The Value of Communicating Transparency for B2B Marketers
B2B prospects are not only looking for claims about efficiency and statistics on ROI; they are also trying to decide if your business is credible and trustworthy. Remember: they are searching for a partner, someone they can count on to come through when needed. When decision makers are considering a number of different companies to solve their problem, emphasizing transparency can be a powerful inbound marketing tactic, even if you can't provide the cheapest service or the fastest shipments.
Explain statistics (both good and bad)
B2B buyers do expect statistics that they can use to compare companies. However, as a B2B marketer, if you can provide an explanation of your statistics, you'll humanize your company and become "memorable" (which is much better than "cheap").
Acknowledge any shortcomings
Do you have a small team? Slow production time? Higher cost? Recognize these shortcomings directly; any efforts to hide or obscure them will lead to a loss of trust later in your relationship. Be certain to explain or "spin" these shortcomings. If you have a slow production time, explain how your production is superior to your competitors and worth the wait.
Directly communicate throughout the buyer journey
B2B buyers are sick of being "marketed to" but that doesn't mean have you to stop your marketing efforts. All interruptive marketing efforts are avoided by decision makers and even some template inbound approaches can be seen as a waste the time by your prospects. Respect your prospects enough to limit and personalize your communications with them and they'll reciprocate by giving you their attention.
Honesty in Everything
A falsehood, exaggeration, or unmet promise creates friction between your client and your company. Though it can be easier for you to convert a user by making proclamations your competition can't, if your company can't match all your claims, your prospects will certainly lose trust.
What B2B Marketers Can Learn From B2C Transparency
The priority of B2C marketers is (generally-speaking) to both help consumers understand the quality of production for your product/service and also to demonstrate the ethics and humanity of your company. Conscientious consumers that research B2C companies expect their money to be spent for social and environmental good (at least partially).
Consider the marketing by McDonald's Canada Answers. In this video series, McDonald executives give video tours of their production facility to answer production questions raised by hard-hitting films such as Food Inc. Anyone on the fence after their hippy friend gives them an earful about eating Chicken McNuggets will certainly have their fears qualmed after this video.
B2C buyers are not likely to undergo nearly the consideration or analytical processing that many B2B buyers use when making their decision; instead, B2C efforts for transparency focus on making the consumer feel confident that they are supporting a "good" company with their purchase. However, B2B marketers can learn a lot by adopting B2C approaches. For instance, why can't a B2B company start an "answers" video series or a section on their website. Or why not promote the social good that your company helps to create? While, these tactics may not seem directly tied to the B2B decision-maker's consideration process, it's important to remember that B2Bers are people too. They want to make positive choices for the world as well as their company (if they can), so don't neglect humanizing marketing efforts.
As a B2B marketer, focus your transparency on including your prospects on the inner workings of your company. Make them comfortable and knowledgable about your processes and you'll form the type of relationship that creates business year after year. If you can demonstrate in your marketing that your business can be a trusted partner that will make your clients money, that's all the transparency you need.