The word trust written on blueprint or drafting paper

Establishing credibility is one of the biggest challenges for B2B brands entering new markets. The stakes are much higher than your B2C counterparts face when trying to convince someone to try a new candy bar or detergent. Sales cycles are longer, offerings are considerably more expensive, and nobody wants to be blamed for buying a solution that, well, isn’t. 

Building trust with new customers isn’t just an issue for startups. Even large and successful companies that dominate their home regions can struggle to establish a foothold in unfamiliar territory. 

So how do you break in? Here are some of the strategies that are working for our “upstart” clients.

Think (and Look, and Talk, and …) Differently

Making your offering memorable is critical, whether you’re entering a crowded field or going up against a tight group of established players. Set your offering up for success by making strategic branding choices with the goal of standing out.

  •  Do all your competitors use blue or green color schemes? Embrace a warm palette that sets your offering or campaign apart. 
  • Pick a memorable name (or have your agency create one). You’re more likely to take the world by storm with the Widget-O-Matic than the XP8-4300B. 
  • Does everyone else’s marketing copy read like it was written by engineers? Consider a brand voice that’s snarky or appeals to emotion. (Yes, people who buy B2B have emotions too. Really.)

At first, it may feel a little uncomfortable if you don’t resemble the rest of the movers and shakers in your industry. Although blending in with the big gorillas may feel safer, it’s risky business when you’re the new kid in town. At best, you’re more likely to be commoditized. At worst, you won’t get noticed at all.

Not sure if you’re distinctive enough yet? Try taking the Sameness Test.

Leverage What You’ve Got

Even if you’re not yet known in the market you want to break into, you may have assets that can help make your case. For example, you may have had success with the same offering in another country or region. This can be particularly helpful if you’ve worked with a multinational company that’s well-known in your new market.

Proven success with a past product can be advantageous if you’re introducing something similar or related. You may also be able to leverage your company’s established relationships, brands or reputation. If clients already trust the Widget-O-Matic, they might be more willing to try the Widgetometer or Worldwide Widget Integration Solution (now powered by AI).

Do you have any respected industry experts on your team? Give them a bit of media training and get them out of the lab to chat with your customer base. Showcase them at trade shows, in online videos and other high-visibility opportunities.

Whatever existing advantages you choose to build on, always remember that if your product is changing, your audience may be too. Be alert to new realities among your buyers and adjust accordingly.

Improve the Experience

B2B buyers are often reluctant to change, especially when they’ve invested in a solution they’ll need to replace. If you’re challenging entrenched competitors, your clients will need strong and compelling reasons to switch.

The solution is simple: give them d@mn good reasons.

Forget about your offering’s features. What makes it relevant to your target audience? Don’t settle for asking why they should care. Why should they care passionately

Many years ago, I wrote for a niche magazine that covered the toy industry. I vividly remember attending Toy Fair in New York in 1994. That was the year Canadian comic book artist Todd McFarlane displayed the prototypes for his new action figure line alongside the finished products — and they looked the same

Until that time, the toy business had sold retail buyers the idea that it wasn’t possible to match the quality and detail of prototypes when action figures went into production. The buyers may not have liked the situation, but had to put up with it. McFarlane started his own company because he wasn’t satisfied with the status quo. He sent the entire industry into an uproar — and changed it forever — with that single display. 

Are there similar frustrations that everyone in your industry is resigned to taking for granted? Can you overcome or eliminate them? 

What do your customers want most? Try asking them (amazingly, some B2B companies simply assume that they know). Better yet, embrace their values

Don’t overlook the values of great design and user experience (UX). These may seem “nice to have” rather than essential, but creating offerings that are attractive and intuitive to use is a strategy that’s worked well for a few little companies like Apple, Amazon and Capital One. Perhaps you’ve heard of them?

Now That I Have Your Attention…

Once you start attracting some interest, you can’t afford to make vague claims — especially if you’re going up against competitors who “everyone knows”. You need to show real numbers and other quantifiable results that make the case for your offering. 

If you’ve got good data from your R&D efforts, pilot tests or early sales, use it. If your first few customers don’t want to reveal that they’re using your offering, present their success stories in a generic way. Even if you haven’t sold your solution to anyone yet, you can still create a hypothetical use case to show its potential benefits. However you manage it, the details matter. It’s not enough to say, “We’re the best”.

Howdy, Partner!

Scrappy startups and even corporate behemoths can benefit from strategic partnership opportunities when building a fledgling customer base. Look for win-win scenarios where your offering dovetails with a product or service that’s already established in your new market. Your partner gets to promote something innovative (i.e., your offering) without spending resources to develop it themselves. In return, they can open doors and help you get accepted faster. 

Why Should We Trust You?

By now, you’ve probably noticed a common theme that runs through all these strategies: trust. 

Trust isn’t something you create, buy or achieve when enough time passes; it must be earned. The best strategy is to know your customers and align your message with what they care about most. Strive to demonstrate that you understand and respect them when you unveil your “better mousetrap”. They’ll be far more likely to beat a path to your door.