You can't make a scientific claim without testing and proving your hypothesis. You can't write a research paper without using and listing sources. So why should marketers expect blind acceptance that the claims they make in marketing content are true?

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They shouldn't, says Melanie Deziel, author of Prove It: Exactly How Modern Marketers Earn Trust, and the featured guest on Marketing Smarts episode 541. Especially because people are more skeptical of marketing than ever.

"It has never been more difficult to win the trust of consumers. Hands down," she says in the episode. "If we look at the historical data of how consumer skepticism has risen, of likelihood of trusting businesses, trust is down, skepticism is way up. I know it sounds bleak, but these folks don't believe anything we say."

Then how? How do marketers prove their statements?

Melanie points out three major ways.

Corroboration: "That means relying on other people's opinions—that's the quotes, the testimonials, the case studies, the expert opinions. Bring in other voices to agree with what you're saying."

Demonstration: "Look for ways to show it. Like in [an] infomercial, show them instead of just telling them. How can you let them see it with their own eyes? Give them the full product walk through, the tutorial, the behind the scenes, the in-depth case study."

Education: "A lot of times, our audience can't believe our claims because they don't understand them. We spend so much time in our area that we understand the jargon, the acronyms, and why these things are important. Especially if your buyer is not your end user, then there's almost certainly an education gap that you need to fill to help them understand those claims and make the most informed decision."

Each of those three things addresses customer doubts. And the more you do them, the less doubt there will be.

Listen to the entire show from the link above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode.

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Full Transcript: Why B2B Marketers Need to 'Prove It' With a Trust-Building Content Strategy

George B. Thomas: Do you have a prove-it mentality? Are you building content, or have a content strategy, that builds trust? You might be thinking yes, you might be thinking maybe, or you might be thinking no. That's exactly what we're going to talk about today in this Marketing Smarts episode, Why B2B Marketers Need to Prove It With a Trust-Building Content Strategy, with my friend Melanie Deziel. We're going to talk about what keeps her up at night pertaining to content strategy and trust and you, the B2B marketer. We're going to talk about what exactly she means by "prove it"—the who, what, why, where; some hurdles, some potholes; what success looks like; and some words of wisdom along the way.

Melanie Deziel is 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. That's what we're talking about today. Melanie is also the co-founder of The Convoy and GroupUps B2B Marketplace that helps small businesses save money so they can invest more in themselves and their communities.

Melanie was the founder of StoryFuel and spent her days giving keynotes and leading workshops that teach marketers, creators, and companies of all sizes how to create better content. Melanie was the first editor of branded content at The New York Times, a founding member of Huffington Post's brand storytelling team, and served as director of creative strategy for Time, Inc. There's some names we all know, probably like, and trust, just like we know, like, and trust Melanie.

I am, of course, excited for today's festivities. I might even say shenanigans. My guest is the first who has the privilege of being the second-time guest while I have been hosting this podcast. Last year, you got a chance to hear from Melanie, and now you're going to hear from her again, because there's some more good stuff that we need to talk about, some things that I think B2B marketers should be adding to the things that you're doing on a daily basis.

Let's start where we usually start. Melanie, what keeps you up at night around the topic of trust-building content strategy and marketers proving or not proving it, whatever for them the "it" is?

Melanie Deziel: That is such a good question. Lots of things. I think I said the same thing last time. There's lots of things that keep me up at night, not least of all my toddler. When it comes to proving it, I think the biggest thing for me is I think there's a lot of marketers that are still operating under this old school mentality that our audience will just believe anything we say because we said it, and that breaks my heart because all of the data shows that the vast majority, 80-90%, don't believe anything they hear because there's just so much trickery out there.

It breaks my heart that there are so many good products, good companies, great marketers, personal brands that are just not aware of the fact that they need to be bringing more evidence to the content that they're creating, that they're missing out because they're not aware that our audience doesn't trust us anymore.

George: My brain goes in a totally different direction than it once would. They don't just distrust us, but a lot of people are getting to the point where they might not trust anything. Was it a balloon? Was it a UFO? Is the planet flat or round? There's so many shenanigans happening on the internet that they're like, "You want me to believe that you have the best purple widget for XYZ? You better prove it."

I want to level-set, because you wrote a book about Prove It. When we use the term moving forward for the rest of this podcast and we say prove it, what exactly do we mean?

Melanie: Really what this means is you have to do more than just say it. As we were just talking about, historically, you could claim anything you wanted about your brand and, for the most part, people assumed you were telling the truth. When we say prove it, what we're saying is the audience won't believe your words alone, you need to bring more to that. That might be evidence, that might be examples and case studies, and we can talk about all the different things that proof could be. It's basically our way of saying you can't just claim things without backing it up. You really need to not only create that proof, but put it forth.

George: I think there's a lot to think about in just that little statement of this is what we mean. When I ask what is something and we get the definition, hopefully Marketing Smarts listeners go to, "How does what I just heard impact my content creation, my daily life, my workflow? What can I change or tweak along the way?" Stay tuned, because we're going to find all those things out as we move forward.

I said you wrote the book about it, so tell me a little bit more, give me kind of the who, what, why, where of the book. Why was this on your heart, why did you give birth to it, who do you hope gets a hold of it? Give us that whole piece of why this is even in the universe.

Melanie: My first book, which I talked about last time, was all about how to come up with content ideas. What I discovered is that the natural next question for folks was I have these 20, 50, 1,000 ideas, how do I decide which ones are most important, how do I decide which ones I need to start with, which should I prioritize. This is where my first book came from, too. If I know something instinctively, it really bothers me that I don't know how to articulate it.

For me, Prove It was breaking down and saying when I'm choosing what content needs to be prioritized, what are the things that I'm looking at, what are the things that I'm weighing or measuring against each other. It comes down to what does your audience need to believe about you most in order to move down the funnel, in order to continue that relationship, to come back, whatever that goal is, what is it that they need to believe about you. The content we prioritize, that we put out, that we put effort and resources behind needs to be the content that proves that thing. What's that one thing that they need to be understanding?

Usually, there's more, but if we're talking priority, what's the thing they most need to believe? In a lot of cases, it's that you're convenient. Like you said, that you're the best purple widget for XYZ. But a lot of folks I found didn't actually know, they hadn't thought about it in those terms of what does my audience need to believe about me most, what am I claiming that I need to back up.

Prove It was kind of putting together that formula to say when you're trying to make those priorities, when you're trying to build that case with your audience that you're somebody they should do business with, here are the types of claims you might be making, and here are the types of content that work well to back up those types of claims.

George: So much good in there. First of all, belief is a real thing and it's real powerful. The fact that you tie that to the claims that you're going to make and being able to actually back that up is highly important. I also like that you teased out a formula. We might talk a little bit about that as we move forward.

What should B2B marketers consider when using a trust-building content strategy to prove it for their company? Maybe it's a little bit of that formula. Are there fundamentally XYZ, ABC, 123?

Melanie: The first thing to think about before we even get too deep into this is that this prove-it thing we're talking about here is more like a mindset than a certain tactic. Like many things in marketing, doing it one time and hoping that it has lasting change is probably not the way to go. We want to take this prove-it mindset and sprinkle it across all of the things that we're doing. That question to be asking yourself is, "How can we be showing this and not just saying it?"

Because there's lots of things that we say, regardless of the platform, whether it's your sales material, whether it's what is on your website, whether it's your in-store signage, it doesn't matter where it is, we are saying so many things and we are backing up so few of them. That's kind of the mindset that you want to take across the board. Have that question, throw it on a Post-It Note, whatever you have to do to be asking, "How can we show this instead of just saying it?" That's what you want to sprinkle across the board.

The thing to keep in mind is that question we were just talking about. How do you understand what are the things we actually need to back up? If you are selling with convenience as your main differentiator, those types of claims that it's fast, that it's easy, that it integrates with lots of things, you have to back those up because that's where the stakes are highest for you. If you're selling your competence, your experience, your legacy, then those are the linchpins, those are the things that need to be backed up if you want to build that relationship and have your audience believe you.

It's that combination of taking this mindset and applying it across the board, but putting particular focus on those claims that are most important to building that relationship or trust with your audience.

George: One of the things that I hope marketers listening to this, if there's a thread that you would want to pull and dive deeper into, this idea of selling out of value and legacy instead of selling out of convenience and ease, there's just something there that I think will get marketers and businesses to magic places.

Melanie: Yes.

George: Beautiful. I've found that I make time for what is important, so I like to address that question on the podcast. Why is proving it, a proving strategy even in your content, an important mindset for B2B marketers? Let me ask it again. I need you to embrace what I'm about to ask and what Melanie is about to say. Why is a proving-it strategy in your content an important mindset for B2B marketers and the businesses they work at?

Melanie: Because it has never been more difficult to win the trust of consumers. Hands down. If we look at the historical data of how consumer skepticism has risen, of likelihood of trusting businesses, trust is down, skepticism is way up. I know it sounds bleak, but these folks don't believe anything we say.

If we are relying on this we say we're the best and hope they believe us, that's not going to work. It's certainly not going to work if that's a new strategy you're adopting. We need to absolutely at every point be saying our audience won't believe it if we say this, so how do we show it. You have to go that extra mile. It's just the only way to differentiate yourself.

The example I like to push people to is think of late night infomercials. I know this is cheesy, but bear with me. I'm not recommending late night infomercials. Any time you see a late night infomercial, they never just say it. They never just tell you that it's five times stronger, that it absorbs three times more water, that it cooks eight times faster. They show you. They give you the side-by-side, the split screen showing the two different products, so you can see with your own eyes that one works better, absorbs more, is stronger, whatever the case may be.

That's kind of how you want it to be. If you are asking people to go out on a limb, to spend their money, to engage with you long term, you need to show that you are worth it and not just say it, because anyone can say it, and I guarantee you that they are.

George: I have always wanted to cut a boat in half and use a product to see if I could actually make it float again. That might be one of my favorite late night commercials.

Melanie: Is that Flex Seal?

George: Flexiseal, or something like that. That stuff always amazes the crap out of me. I'm 90% no way, 90% heck yeah, let me try it. Here's the thing. What people should be trying is to prove it and to have trust-building content. That's what we're here for today. Not for these shenanigans that we're pulling off right now.

They're listening to this and they're like, "I would agree. I don't trust people as much. I definitely don't trust businesses as much. I wish that they would actually show me the proof in the pudding." Now the listeners are like, we need to start doing this. How can marketers get started with the shift? The hardest part is getting started, the hardest part is the change. How can they get started with the shift to trust-building content and a prove-it first mentality in their organizations?

Melanie: I would say that the first challenge is probably for many of us getting the rest of our team or the rest of our organization on board with this mindset. The way to do that is to just ask the question that we've been posing here, which is in any situation, someone is proposing a campaign, submitting a piece of content, look for that opportunity to say, "I'm glad we're saying this. Is there a way we can prove it? I'm glad we're saying this. Is there a way we can back it up? I'm glad we're saying this. Is there a case study we could throw in here to really drive this point home?" Start asking that question because it's very difficult to argue with that logic. You're agreeing that this is a good point and you want to help make it stronger.

By asking that question, whether it's a comment when you're editing an article or giving feedback on a piece of content, or it's the brainstorm conversation as you're talking about a new campaign initiative, asking that question, you can start to help other folks think that way, to adopt that mindset of we could say it, but it would be much stronger if we brought some proof to back it up. I think that's a great first step to just start sprinkling that into your strategic conversations, into your editing and feedback process, just to get everybody on board.

I think that's probably step one to start the shift internally.

George: I love this so much. Part of my brain, as I listen to professionals like you, thought leaders in their space, the advocates of change, I start to listen to these little nuggets of information. You started to rattle off show it, case studies, this and the other thing. Part of what I like to do is connect the dots.

As soon as you said case studies, my brain went to somehow make it collaborative content, either showing another piece of content, getting a quote from somebody else. Which then shot my brain to an episode that we did with Andy Crestodina about collaborative content. Marketing Smarts listeners, if you have not checked out that episode, right after this one, go listen to that and think how you can pair what was said there with what we're talking about here today.

What's funny about a lot of these episodes that we do is we get some feedback from people, "Well, that's not for me," or, "That was great, I'm down with it." Who is this for? Is this an all businesses and all marketers conversation, or is this something else? We have to draw the line in the sand, we have to let the people know. Let's let them know.

Melanie: This is going to sound probably like a copout answer, but bear with me. I think this is for everyone and for everything. If you have kids, you know that you can't just give a rule and expect them to listen, you have to show why that rule is important, what is it doing to keep them safe, why is it the responsible thing to do. If you have a partner and you're trying to convince them to go on a vacation that they may not be so psyched about, you have to talk about the benefits, you have to sell them on why this is something worth doing.

It's not just a business and marketing and sales conversation. This prove-it mentality, we're up against that skepticism everywhere in our lives. We're up against that doubt of who can I trust, who can I believe, in every part of our day-to-day experience. If you want to get really meta, you can take it anywhere. But if we're strictly sticking to marketing and B2B world, I think this is a marketing-led initiative, but I also think that this is integral to sales. Any sales professional will tell you that if you can't get them to trust you, they're not going to buy, they're not going to subscribe, they're not going to download, they're not going to whatever else.

Anyone who is working toward a conversion of any kind, you are integral to this conversation around prove it. The content we create as marketers, the foundation we set, feeds right into that sales conversation, that relationship building that we see on the sales side.

George: I love that so much. I love that you tied it to conversion. By the way, let me go ahead and just take all doubt from anybody that is listening to this. Your marketing team impacts conversion. Your sales team impacts conversion. Your service team impacts conversion. This is an org-wide initiative that people should be paying attention to.

Let's get into the nitty-gritty, the really good stuff, the yummy center of the sandwich for a minute. What are two or three tips to creating trust-building content that you can share with the audience?

Melanie: If you're all-in and you want to do this, the book has all of the information, much more than we could get into right now, but I'll give you three things you can focus on at least for the time being.

My recommendation is when you're looking to create proof, you're looking to create evidence of these claims that you're making, there are three types that work super well. Corroborate the claims that you're making. That means relying on other people's opinions, that's the quotes, the testimonials, the case studies, the expert opinions. Bring in other voices to agree with what you're saying.

The second type is to demonstrate. Look for ways to show it. Like in the infomercial, show them instead of just telling them. How can you let them see it with their own eyes? Give them the full product walk through, the tutorial, the behind the scenes, the in-depth case study.

Corroborate, demonstrate, and then educate. I think that's a really forgotten one. A lot of times, our audience can't believe our claims because they don't understand them. We spend so much time in our area that we understand the jargon, the acronyms, and why these things are important. Especially if your buyer is not your end user, then there's almost certainly an education gap that you need to fill to help them understand those claims and make the most informed decision.

So, corroborate with other people's opinions, demonstrate by showing the truth behind your claims, and then educate to make sure that they understand what they need to trust you.

George: Ladies and gentlemen, I hope that you had your notepad and pencil or whatever you need to write that down. If not, it's the rewind point. Hit the rewind and write those three things down. If you start to implement those along with whatever else is in the book, even those three things, you're going to start building better content that garnishes more trust because you're just fundamentally changing the actions that you're taking as you're doing this.

I love that you said at the beginning of that you're all-in. When somebody is all-in, usually they're full sprint after it, they're passionate, they're getting it. Sometimes we run a little fast, we actually hit the hurdle and don't jump over it. If we're driving too fast, we hit the pothole, we can't swerve around it. What are some of the hurdles or potholes that you've seen marketers face along the way that you would be like, this might be where you want to slow down, watch out, or pay attention to this thing? What hurdle or pothole would you want to warn them of.

Melanie: There's two that I think are major. One is looking at that list of things we talked about, corroborating, demonstrating, educating, and thinking we have that covered, we're already doing that, and not really looking at it with a critical eye to see is it doing a good job of backing up those claims, are we making it easily available. Just writing it off as we've got that covered is probably the first one.

The second one is to have that short-term excitement, think of it like a sprint and not a marathon, keeping with your metaphor there. This is not something that you need to blow up your whole strategy and do differently. This is not something that you need to go all-in on and burn out really quick. This is a mindset to adopt and slowly start to work in through time.

It's going to take time. You want to shift that mindset, so don't think of it as everything we need to do for the next month is just evidence of everything. I like the sprinkle analogy, we're seasoning our strategy with proof, we're just sprinkling it throughout a lot of the stuff we're doing to try to bring that proof more to the surface.

George: So good. We've helped them swerve away from the pothole and jump the hurdles. In your mind, so that everybody can unpack this for themselves, what does prove-it success look like in content, in business, in growth? Really what I'm trying to get to is, what is the positive impact that happens when you have this prove-it success engine running?

Melanie: Anecdotally, looking at the clients that I've worked with when we've built out this kind of stuff, it looks like a couple of things. Obviously, the specifics will depend on your particular industry and your particular sales flow, but it looks like fewer objections. It sometimes looks like fewer not showing up to your call, not responding to your follow ups, because we're addressing those objections, we're addressing the doubts, we're filling the gaps in the knowledge. It looks like a better sell through rate when you're able to have these conversations where you're bringing the proof in, you're not leaving as many doubts in their mind.

Sometimes it looks like even broader things. We might see greater followership, greater subscribers, greater web traffic. Again, if you're giving folks the answer behind the question, then there's less opportunity for them to say this looks like it's exaggeration, they're saying I don't believe it, I'm going to go do something else. We start to see that deeper engagement, which has the follow on effects. If folks are staying longer, they're converting more, you start to see the trailing effects in terms of loyalty, average customer lifetime value, all those things follow suit.

The real thing we're trying to do is not give them a chance to break up with us before we've solidified the relationship.

George: So good. I love it so much. Marketing Smarts listeners, I'd be remiss if I didn't give you a couple of action items after this episode. Before I ask the final question that I always love to ask, you should probably check out the other episode where Melanie seasoned the episode with some content strategies and ideas. You should also check out the book Prove It and see what else you can learn to get closer to this trust-building content strategy moving forward. Don't forget to check out the Andy Crestodina episode on collaborative content.

With that out of the way, one of my favorite questions. I always love to see how people answer this. What are some words of wisdom that you would like to share with the Marketing Smarts audience around this topic or just life in general?

Melanie: I wish I could remember my genius words of wisdom from last time. I hope I'm not repeating. I think the biggest thing here is to trust your gut. I think that content in marketing we do a lot of measuring, we talk about metrics, but there's something to be said for the instinct that you feel deep in your bones, deep in your gut, when you think something isn't up to snuff or it's not cutting it, or it's just not sitting right with you from an ethical standpoint. Trust your gut. Your gut knows. Listen to your gut. If we follow our gut, I think we'll all end up with slightly better marketing.

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 episode? 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 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 Christoph Trappe about how B2B marketers can know if they've chosen the right career and is marketing even a good career, 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 marketing human. We'll see you in the next episode of the Marketing Smarts Podcast.

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