Modern customers are incredibly skeptical. They're not likely to take anything you say at face value. And why should they, if you don't include evidence to back it up?
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Content accomplishes its goals only when the readers trust your brand, explains Melanie Deziel on Episode 513 of Marketing Smarts. "The first thing that our content needs to be doing is earning trust in some way so that we then have the privilege, we have the right, to then ask for whatever that secondary call to action is."
So what creates evidence? A lot of things—videos, tweets, website copy—as long as they're being used in the context of corroboration, demonstration, and education. Experts who can back you up. Behind-the-scenes videos that prove the best-practices you brag about having. How can you show your audience that you're telling the truth?
And you don't have to ditch your current content strategy, either—just infuse it with the proper elements. "Sprinkle evidence on the content that we know is working. Think of it like a topping, but a delicious topping that needs to be on everything," says Deziel.
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George Thomas: It's time for another episode of Marketing Smarts. Today we're talking about build B2B marketing trust with evidence-based content. I'm super excited because we're going to be talking with Melanie Deziel. We're going to talk about the things that keep her up at night, how to get started, hurdles that might get in the way, all of the mindsets that we should be thinking about when we're creating this new type of evidence-based content.
Melanie Deziel is a keynote speaker, award-winning branded content creator, and the author of both The Content Fuel Framework: How to Generate Unlimited Story Ideas and Prove It: Exactly How Modern Marketers Earn Trust. She is also the co-founder and VP of marketing at The Convoy, a B2B marketplace that helps small and independent businesses save money on their everyday expenses so that they can invest more in themselves and their communities.
It's time to dive into this great conversation with Melanie Deziel. Let's get into the good stuff.
I'm super excited today because we're talking about a word that I think is important, especially in digital marketing. I've been able to build around this word the last 10 years. Melanie, I'm so glad that you're here, because you can lead us to the promised land, to the nirvana around this word that is trust. Before we get into the topic, because everybody saw the title Build B2B Marketing Trust with Evidence-Based Content, I really have to know, as a speaker, as an author, as co-founder of The Convoy, pertaining to this conversation, what the heck keeps you up at night?
Melanie Deziel: That's a really tough question in these recent years, but I have something good. As a startup founder, I am constantly thinking about growth. Growth is the number one thing on my mind. How are we growing with the right audience strategically? I would say growth tactics keeps me up at night, but in a good way. I find myself always thinking of new ideas, of coming up with guerilla tactics, and just trying to find ways that we can continue to grow and reach the audience, so keeping me up inspired instead of keeping me up stressed. Hopefully, that still qualifies.
George: It absolutely qualifies. I would say that we are very similar because I'm always thinking about community, growth, and adding value to that world that is now surrounded amongst what we're doing. It's funny that that's where you went because it really does have to deal with trust and people trusting the words that are coming out of your mouth, that you're going to be a good human, that you're going to be marketing to them in a way with core values.
It could probably be a totally different podcast episode, but it leads to me a very important question that we have to ask so the Marketing Smarts listeners can dig into it. Why do you believe that maybe – we'll put the word maybe in there so that people can sleep tonight and not feel bad about themselves – maybe most marketers are not building the trust that they should and could right now in our space?
Melanie: I think it's hard to use content as a trust tool if you haven't intentionally set out to do that. I don't fault anyone for not doing it. I think what I'm trying to do is teach people a new way of thinking about it. We often think of content as a sales tool, a marketing tool, a customer engagement tool, a customer service tool, and I think it's actually a new frame of mind to think of it as a trust tool, as a tool that's helping to build trust with your audience.
I think a lot of people are missing it just because, honestly, we have a lot of goals. Marketers are never short for things we're supposed to be doing, so to be able to take the time to set out and proactively come up with new ways to use your content is not something most of us have the time or bandwidth to do.
George: I love this. What's interesting, too, in my mind, I'm totally down with what we're talking about, and I think if the listeners can embrace what we're about to journey through, the other things will come. That's what's funny is if you can get this content to be a trust builder, the metrics that matter, the things that your boss wants you to do and achieve will come. In your mind, why is trust so important for marketing teams to be building along the way with the people that they're serving?
Melanie: The thing that I realize is that we have a lot of discussions in the content space and in the marketing space to try to come up with the right KPIs. What is it that we're trying to accomplish? How are we going to measure it? All of these different things. Growth, like I was talking about before. We spend a lot of time thinking about that.
Where this came up is me kind of taking a step back and thinking, "What do we need in order to get those conversions? What do we need in order to get those clicks?" Not from a tactics standpoint, but from a customer connection standpoint.
It was this realization that we don't talk about it, but trust is really underpinning all of the other KPIs. If they don't trust you, they're not going to read. If they don't trust you, they're not going to watch, they're not going to click, they're not going to buy, they're not going to subscribe. It was this realization that really the first KPI, the first thing that our content needs to be doing is earning trust in some way so that we then have the privilege, we have the right to then ask for whatever that secondary call to action is. I see it as sort of the underpinning of everything else. Without trust, no other KPI is going to come to fruition.
George: I love this so much. If you don't have that, you almost probably will not have anything, or that will work as efficiently. It's almost like the grease to the gears, if you will, to use an analogy for that.
Here's the thing. You went through this journey where you're like epiphany moment, this thing, but most marketers I think will probably be like, "What needs to change?" Let me just ask it in question form. What needs to change for marketers to start to actually build more trust? Is this mindset, is it the content itself, is it both, is it something else? Unpack that for us a little bit.
Melanie: I think it is a little bit of both. Hopefully, mindset before the actions. I think the mindset shift is the one we're talking about right now, which is to say that understanding that without trust, almost anything else that we try to do with our audience, for our audience, it doesn't matter, it's going to be very hard to convert without that trust.
Understanding that we have the unique disadvantage of operating in a world with some of the most skeptical consumers that we've ever had, and they have plenty of reasons to be skeptical. It's making that a priority, understanding all of the things that you're doing need to have some element of earning trust because that's the basis, that's the starting point, that's square one.
That mindset shift is important, but then yes, it does need to translate into some action. If you know you need it and then don't do anything, maybe you sleep at night, but it doesn't help your results. What it ends up being in action, I'm sure we'll talk about some different tactical ways, is kind of putting that lens on it of saying where is the opportunity to earn trust with this content that we're creating, and then sort of reverse engineering and saying what are the things people are likely to be skeptical about or doubt, what are the claims I'm making that I'm not doing a good job of proving out, where is the opportunity for me to prove it, to really show the evidence of what it is that I'm claiming and help them feel like they can trust what I'm saying.
George: With that, let's actually dive into some of the tactical actionable pieces of this with the second phrase, because we said trust and then with evidence-based content. I always like to hit lowest common denominator, foundational piece, bring everybody up to speed. Maybe it's the first time they're hearing this. When you say evidence-based content, what exactly do you mean by that?
Melanie: There's a lot of different ways that you could use it to apply to the specific work that you may be doing, but when I say it what I mean is content that was created with a mind for earning the audience's trust, with an understanding that it is being received by a skeptical audience who needs more information in order to be able to trust it.
It could look like a lot of different things. You could be using copy on your website to create evidence. You could be using a tweet or a TikTok to create evidence, a blog post, a video. It doesn't matter what format it is. It's really the strategy behind it and understanding that this content was created with that consciousness and that effort was put in to back up the claims we're making and to bring that proof so that our audience can trust us right out of the gate.
George: I want to go off the beaten path for just a hot second. When you say that, where my brain goes is are there certain elements that I need to put into that type of copy, into that type of video, into that type of content that I might be forgetting to do? Which by the way, ladies and gentlemen, just so you know, you'll get a deep dive into this topic if you join Melanie at the B2B Forum, so we're giving you a teaser.
Are there some elements that we have to pay attention to or come equipped with? If I'm creating what I'll call normal content (ew) or this new type of content (yay), what do I need to come to the table equipped with?
Melanie: The good thing is that there is a really easy framework. Anyone who is familiar with my work or who has seen me at B2B before knows that I'm a big fan of frameworks, I like to organize, I like to give you a checklist. So, there is a framework for this. It essentially comes down to three different things that you need to be putting into your content.
The first is corroboration. This is where someone else is saying it. That could be experts who are backing you up, it could be witnesses who have experienced whatever it is that you're claiming, but it's corroborating it. It's saying, "Don't take my word for it, here's other folks." You may be ding this in the form of testimonials, customer success stories, reviews. There's probably a lot of spaces you're doing that kind of thing, but you want to look for opportunities to weave that stuff into your other content as well. That's the first one, corroboration.
The second one is demonstration. With corroboration, we're saying don't take my word for it, listen to someone else. With demonstration, we're saying don't take my word for it, see for yourself, let me show you. That could be behind the scenes content, it could be revealing other documents, it could be showing a process as it's happening. Live video is documentation to say there's no cuts, there's no editing, you're seeing it here for yourself.
I like to think of infomercials, they're almost entirely demonstration content. They're showing you the side by side of the two products, they're like let me do something outrageous and run this product over with a car or throw it out of an airplane to prove that it's durable. You don't have to go to that extreme, although if you can, I think it would be pretty fun. You're looking for opportunities to say I'm telling my audience this, but are there ways I could actually show them through stories, through documentation, ways that I could let them see it with their own eyes.
So, we have corroboration and demonstration, and then that third thing that you want to be looking to put into your content is education. Education is one that it's easy to forget, but the fact of the matter is that sometimes our audience doesn't trust us because they don't have enough information to trust us. If somebody rolled up to my front door and started trying to sell me on smart home devices, I don't know enough about smart home devices to know whether they're telling the truth, to know whether I can trust them, to know whether these claims they make are even realistic, never mind true.
A lot of what we need to do is understand that our audience may not have enough information to trust us, so providing them with information, providing them with coaching, with step by step. If you're familiar with The Content Fuel Framework, my first book, that's the basics and detail focused content, the stuff that's really just trying to give our audience the information they need to be able to make a decision, to be able to trust us.
Those are the three, corroboration, demonstration, and education. That's what you want to be looking for opportunities to put into your content.
George: Marketing smarts listeners, you know what I'm going to say. We've officially hit the rewind spot. I would rewind, I would get my notepad, my iPad, my charcoal, whatever you have, get it out and just jot it down. There was a bunch in that section right there. Also, there's a book behind Melanie that you might want to check out. Just going to throw that out there. I know you can't see it because you're listening to this podcast, but if you want to see the book, you could check us out on our live YouTube that we do. Anyway, not why we're here.
I am anxious, almost sweating to ask the next question. As you were listing those three pieces out, I'm like but I know people and their question is going to be, "How do I get from here to there?" In other words, how can B2B marketing teams start to transition from this historical process of what they've been doing to this new evidence-based content creation?
Melanie: I think there are a couple of easy steps you could take. I don't want you to throw out your entire strategy. Your strategy is working for you. What we want to do is sprinkle evidence on the content that we know is working. Think of it like a topping, but a delicious topping that needs to be on everything. I don't know, what is that? Sriracha? What's the thing that people put on everything. Sriracha. Why not? A little bit of content sriracha.
You're looking for opportunities within the content you already have planned or the content you've already published. If you have content that is doing well, going back and being able to account for potential objections could help that perform even better. The question is to be asking for corroboration is, "Who else could weigh in on this?"
That could be getting a quote from someone outside, from a professor or researcher, from an industry influence, from one of your customers or your employees. Who else could weigh in on this so it's not just me saying it? That's an easy one. You could sprinkle in a quote, quote some research or a study. You can quote that kind of stuff all day long in any type of content. That's a really good, easy way to do it, to bring that corroboration in.
With demonstration, you will see these opportunities now that you're aware of it when you are saying, "This would be so much better if I could show them instead of tell them." That is often when you're talking about a process or you're talking about any sort of comparison. That's where that side by side in an infomercial comes up. When you see those opportunities to say, "I'm telling them something, but I'm not showing them that that's true," those are your opportunities to look for can I add a story, can I add some documentation, can I bring imagery in that would help prove this, is there some way for me to show the audience that this is true beyond just having to trust me.
Then for education, you know this phenomenon of 'explain it like I'm 5,' there's this whole sub-Reddit where people explain things in a super basic way. That's kind of a nice gut check. Maybe not 5, maybe 5 is a little too young for what we're going for, but think of the most junior, newest, least experienced member of your audience. If they were to look at that piece of content, what questions do they have, what do they not understand? Sometimes that could be as simple as hyperlinking to another piece of content so they can continue to learn.
It could be putting an acronym with the definition in parenthesis to make sure. I know we know what KPI and SEO means, but maybe they don't yet. Putting that in parenthesis. It could be explaining a concept you were otherwise just going to gloss over. You were going to say 'optimizing SEO' without actually explaining what optimizing SEO means. Just looking for those opportunities to walk people through some of the stuff that we're taking for granted because we do this every day.
Looking for quotes, looking for ways to show the audience something, and then making sure you're being as educational as possible, little steps to improve the content you already have and make it work better for earning audience trust.
George: Paying attention to the curse of knowledge and then being able to lean into simplifying the complex is the one-two punch to knock out content. If you've been wondering why your content has been lackluster as far as strategy, just paying attention to those two things might actually be worth the price of admission for this podcast, which is free.
It does lead me into the next question. Sure, that's definitely two things you should keep in mind. Are there some other things that marketers should be keeping in mind when, maybe it's creating, maybe it's publishing, maybe it's promoting, are there other things marketers, especially B2B marketers, should be paying attention to as they move forward with this content?
Melanie: Absolutely. The first thing you want to do is a claims audit. When I say a claims audit, I mean you need to look at all of the stuff you're already putting out there and see what claims you're making. Honestly, we're probably making a lot of claims that we don't even think about. If we're not coming in with this trust-first mindset, you're probably saying things all the time, you're talking about how reliable, durable, etcetera.
Superlatives are a great thing to look for, best, fastest, greenest, easiest, simpler than the rest. Those are all things that you're going to want to provide evidence for. You can't just say you're the best. Who said you're the best? How do I know? You can't say that it's simple. Simple as what? How simple? Simple compared to what? There's going to be follow up questions.
I would say you want to take some very intentional time to go through all of those brand touchpoints and look for those claims that need to be proven. That could be things in your website copy, it could be in-store signage, or direct mail, anything out there that is printed. It could be as simple as packaging or name tags for your employees. Anywhere you are having a touchpoint with a customer, you may be making a claim that you have not provided enough evidence for.
Doing that claims audit and looking through all of those touchpoints and finding those is going to be the best source of inspiration for here's that checklist, here's everything we need to prove, and how can we use our content to prove it.
George: This is so good. Here's the one thing that keeps slamming into the back of my brain as we're going through this, because it is about content. I swear, if you had a room of a thousand people, and you asked the question, "Is content difficult," a thousand and one people would be like, "Yes, it is." There would be one person that would sneak in just so they could answer the question.
If regular content creation has this perception of being difficult, and now we're saying that we should create this type of content, this content that is actually evidence-based, that is paying attention to this framework that we're learning about today, there's going to be some hurdles along the way. To help the Marketing Smarts listeners, what are some hurdles that we should be paying attention to that we should maybe bob or weave at certain times, certain things, so that the content creation process can be a little bit easier-ish?
Melanie: Easier-ish, I like that. Easier-ish is good. There's a couple of things. First, I think you may get some pushback about trying to involve outside experts. Whether that's experts, influencers, your own customers, sometimes internally, or even for yourself, the idea of asking those people to weigh in can be kind of uncomfortable, especially if you're not used to it.
This is the time where I like to point out that working with former journalists or freelancers who have a journalism background is super helpful because we have no qualms about calling up a stranger and asking them to tell us specific things. That can give you a little bit of hope. If it's you, just know journalists do this all day long, they call people up and say, "Hey. I'm writing this thing, I'm creating this thing, and we're looking for an expert to weigh in on the following topic. What do you think? Do you agree? What does your experience tell you?" That is probably the easiest place to start if you're looking for it, because you probably already have some folks in your network.
I would recommend making a list, even if it's your own list for personal use. You don't have to show anybody. Who are the people that you know, like, and trust on this topic? Who are the folks that have authority on this topic? Who are the folks internally who do a good job explaining these things, so I might use them for educational content? Make a list of allies and the people you can call on. I think that's going to go a long way toward helping you not only feel confident, like "wow, I have all of these resources at my disposal," but also keep you from feeling stuck or blank where you're like, "I need a quote, but who the heck should I call, who can I ask about this?" Having that list up front would probably be a huge help.
George: Yes. Marketing Smarts listeners, if you're listening to this episode and you haven't checked out the collaborative content episode with Andy Crestodina, that episode after what Melanie just said would be a great one to go listen to and actually help unpack and go a little bit further.
Speaking of which, unpacking and going a little bit further, I want to go off the beaten path one more time. If people want to dig deeper into this type of content and this topic, are there books, podcasts, blogs, where could people that are listening to this go and learn more and have a roadmap to almost follow, if you will?
Melanie: For sure. Like you mentioned, there is a book that's coming out in October. It's my book co-written with sales expert Phil Jones, and it's called Prove It: Exactly How Modern Marketers Earn Trust. It walks through everything we're talking about here today in great depth with lots of examples, lots of questions to ask, and things to consider. So, definitely recommend getting your hands on a pre-order or a copy of that when the time comes.
The other thing I'd say is I'm trying actively right now to make lots of resources to continue to help folks with this. If there are things that you would like, if you come to me and say, "I have a hard time with asking questions of experts. I want to use experts, but I don't know what to ask," tell me that. I'll make a guide on how to get good information from experts. I think I probably have to make that one now. Let me know what those resources are, because the truth is there hasn't been a lot of conversation about this.
There hasn't been a lot of conversation about using trust as your primary driver and metric for the content that you're creating, so I'm actively trying to create more resources for that beyond the Prove It book. Let me know what questions you have. Find me on Twitter, @MDeziel. I would love to make plenty of resources to help support you through this process. We're all kind of going through this transition together.
George: I love that. A true heart of community and of servanthood and of being there to show up for the folks who are trying to actually make a positive change in the world. That is amazing. I'll have to definitely get my hands on a copy of that book. Might I say, hopefully an audio version of it when it comes out, for when I'm traveling.
I want to ask you one last question as we close this down. We have a ton of value, a ton of notes that people should be taking, and a way that they can actually start to change the content where it's more effective, they get a larger ROI (return on investment) as they move forward. This is another fun one that I like to ask, and it opens it up pretty broad to whatever you want to talk about. You have Marketing Smarts listeners, they're paying attention. What are some words of wisdom that you've learned along the way that you would want to share with the community?
Melanie: My first instinct is not going to sound like words of wisdom. It's going to sound sad, but bear with me.
Your audience doesn't trust you. I know that sounds really sad, but it's the reality that all of us are up against. I think if you can understand that instead of presuming the audience is on your side already, it goes a really long way toward helping you improve the quality of your content, improve the quality of the evidence that you're creating, so that you can get an audience that comes to you and already knows, loves, and trusts you.
I like to keep that in my mind. It sounds depressing, but before I put a piece of content out, saying, "My audience doesn't trust me. How can I fix that?" That is such a great place to operate from, and I think it can inspire you to create all kinds of content that you hadn't thought of before. So, I would go with that.
The other thing I always like to say for any broad based advice, and I think this is true for marketers more than any other group, except perhaps moms, and especially mom marketers, there is so much pressure to do everything, there is so much pressure to be everywhere, there is so much pressure to be optimizing all of the time. Please know that you are a human, you have 24 hours in a day, and it is okay to prioritize this accordingly.
I'm not expecting anybody to drop their strategy and re-do it based on trust. We're all on a moving vehicle right now. We can't just hit the brake, pull the e-brake, and start over. Be kind with yourself, be realistic, and look for small ways to start to integrate this into what you're doing going forward. It's perfectly okay to take a small and measured approach to trying to weave this in. don't put pressure on yourself to start all over. It's just too much to expect from yourself. Give yourself some grace and look for ways to sprinkle that trust sriracha on all of your delicious content.
George: Marketing Smarts listeners, did you take lots of notes? I have to ask, what is your one thing, your number one execution opportunity after this podcast? Make sure you reach out and let us know in my inbox or on Twitter using the hashtag #MPB2B.
I also have to ask are you a free member of the MarketingProfs community yet? If not, head over to Mprofs.com/mptoday. You won't regret the additional B2B marketing education that you'll be adding to your life.
We'd like it if you could leave us a rating or review on your favorite podcast app, but we'd love it if you would share this episode with a coworker or friend. Until we meet in the next episode of the Marketing Smarts Podcast where we talk with Michael Barber about email tips, tricks, hacks, and other things B2B marketers like you and I need to know, I hope you do just a couple of things. One, reach out and let us know what conversation you'd like to listen in on next. Two, focus on getting 1% better at your craft each and every day. Finally, remember to be a happy, helpful, humble B2B human. We'll see you in the next episode of the Marketing Smarts Podcast.
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Published on September 15, 2022
Melanie Deziel, a keynote speaker, award-winning branded-content creator, and the author of The Content Fuel Framework: How to Generate Unlimited Story Ideas and Prove It: Exactly How Modern Marketers Earn Trust. She is also a co-founder and the VP of marketing at The Convoy, a B2B marketplace that helps small and independent businesses save money on their everyday expenses so they can invest more in themselves and their communities.
LinkedIn: Melanie Deziel
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