Last time, I shared with you four key emotions that can help seal the deal of a business to business (B2B) purchase even when there is disagreement among various stakeholders. Those emotions are:

  • Trust
  • Reliability
  • Honesty
  • Safety

Do you have concerns about using emotions in B2B marketing, including wanting to avoid any appearance of manipulation?

In this post I share some practical ways you can ethically nurture the first of these emotions, Trust, in your B2B advertising, marketing materials, and sales collateral.


Contemporary Challenges to Marketing

Dr. Mark Banschick in Psychology Today wrote, “One of the challenges businesses have faced since the beginning of time is how to ethically influence the buyer to purchase their goods and services.”

I can’t speak to the beginning of time, but I’ve no reason to believe today’s challenge is any easier.

Why does society think of you as the evil marketer twirling your handlebar mustache?

Because disappointment, disparaging attitudes, and distrust are rampant.

So how do you change that perception?


In God We Trust. Marketers… Not So Much.

Two weeks ago AdAge reported some of the key findings of the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report:

America is now home to the least-trusting informed public of the 28 countries that the firm surveyed… Distrust is growing most among younger, high-income Americans.

The report found consumers’ trust among brands is down and indicated brand trust as among their top five concerns. According to the report, 81% of survey respondents said, “they ‘must be able to trust the brand to do what is right.’”

Skeptical young man with arms crossed standing in front of a circus attraction with a sign that reads a winner every time.

Marketers need to use emotions in ways that build trust

Why so much distrust? The report doesn’t say but I’ve got an idea.

Think about all the advertising channels available to marketers, including:

  • Print, television, and radio;
  • YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram;
  • Email (B2B email marketing is still very much alive).

You might be surprised to learn that traditional channels like print, TV, and radio are still more trusted than online and social media advertising. Even so, online and social media advertising are out-pacing the more traditional channels.

When you combine the distrust of online and social media with the current social and political climate, and the fury over fake news, it’s apparent marketing and advertising professionals have a problem.

But that same problem also presents opportunity.


Twister is a Game, Not a Marketing Strategy

If trust is a rare commodity, then companies that can best demonstrate trustworthiness will come out on top. And one of the best ways to gain the trust of customers is to commit your entire organization to helping them solve a problem.

A puppeteer's stage showing the puppeteer's finders attached to strings that are connected to a living man the puppeteer can move.

The challenge when using emotions is to avoid the perception of manipulation

NOT a new idea.

What is relatively new is the high-level of sophistication people exhibit when it comes to consuming advertising. Marketers have spent decades pushing, pulling, and twisting our emotions to the point where audiences are almost immune to attempts at new messaging.

But a distinction needs to be made.

There is an important difference between the push, pull, and twist orientation that can be ethically questionable, and the morally responsible businessperson who has a genuine interest in helping their customers.

For the latter, and because of the former, the real challenge when using emotions is to avoid the perception of manipulation.

It’s true that sex still sells, but Chris Paradysz, Founder and CEO of ForwardPMX, believes what people want is authenticity.

[P]eople still crave meaning and connection more than ever… Experiences, like a big product drop or a splashy event, still make an impact, but they are only the delivery mechanism to provide authentic emotional connections. How those experiences make us feel is what we remember. Capturing those real feelings is the key to creating indelible mind spaces for what’s truly special. (Emphasis added.)

“Indelible mind spaces”—too cool for school, Mr. P.

Authenticity is the antithesis of manipulation. It’s also a characteristic that helps to build trust.


Like Rome, Trust Isn’t Built in a Day

When the stakes are high, customers need to experience a consistent, unhurried, and genuine attempt to help them solve a problem.

Trust doesn’t happen overnight.

Perhaps building trust means engaging in a sincere, ongoing effort to give your customers appropriate, useful, high-quality information at the right points in the buying cycle.

Ethical businesses will walk—not push, pull, or twist—a potential customer through the entire buying cycle.

A man holds a woman's hand as she peers over the roof of a skyscraper.

Trust in business, as in life, is built over time

  • Start with providing understandable information and education to cold prospects.
  • Adjust to convincingly overcoming objections in warm customers.
  • Help visualize your product solving the most pressing problems of hot prospects.

And by the way, while Rome wasn’t built in a day, it burned in one.

A marketing message that rides the ethical razor’s edge will instantly dissolve any trust that’s been built.

Something to keep in mind.


How to Communicate Trust

Previously I wrote about the emotional economy among trust, reliability, honesty, and safety. We can add authenticity to that list.

The relationship among these emotions means the effort you put in to building trust with your customers will also nurture the other three (now four) feelings. Buy one, get four free.

Let’s discuss some methods you can use at each stage of the buying cycle.

Use them to check your messages not only in your sales presentations and customer service protocols, but also in your email campaigns, content marketing, blog posts, brochures, newsletters… everything you use to communicate with your customers.


Choose Clear Language

Trust is built on the premise that you want to help people succeed. You’ll fail in your attempts to build trust if your language makes someone feel stupid or out of the loop. Reassure them you undertand they know what’s best for them and their customers.

To do that well you need to know what level of knowledge your audience has about your product or service. Only then can you decide how much detail you’ll need to include and what words will effectively convey your intent.

Consider judging your language against these baselines:

Don’t use a $5 word when a 5¢ word will do.

We all have a vocabulary we are comfortable using. Maybe yours is the language of  academics. Do you need to be on guard against using “big” words when more common language or a simpler phrase will do?

Using plain language is not “dumbing down” what you want to say.

It isn’t condescending.

Your goal is to build trust and common ground. $5 words may stretch our brains, but they may also burn our bridges.

Don’t get carried away with acronyms.

Define your acronyms the first time you use them. Even if they are

A collection of hanging traffic lights with contradictory signals.

Confusing words and acronyms are detours on the road to trust

common in your customer’s industry. This is especially important in online communication because you don’t know how much they might know or where within the messaging they might jump in.

When speaking with potential customers, you also want to be attentive to acronyms in your own line of work. They might even mean something completely different to your customer!

Confusion does not build trust.

Eliminate it by taking a moment to consider your audience.

Use industry terms to demonstrate your credibility.

Your customers are going to want to be certain you know what you’re talking about before placing an order. One way to demonstrate credibility and competence is to talk their talk or use a little jargon now and then—both can lead to feelings of trust.


Use Recognizable Organizational Patterns

When a message is difficult to understand or doesn’t seem to make sense (aka is as clear as mud), the cause is often poorly organized ideas.

Clarity may be one of the most important characteristics for building trust in a B2B deal. An unclear message could result in a host of issues, many of them expensive. While recipients of an unclear message have an obligation to ask questions until they understand…

Your goal is to keep misunderstanding out of the entire communication.

Your prospect might interpret a lack of clarity as a sign of a befuddled mind.


Unable to think clearly or concentrate.



And it’s hard to trust someone who’s a scatterbrain.

So far, we’ve decided a clear message has:

  • understandable words;
  • an appropriate and familiar organizational pattern for the audience.

Topical Pattern

When there is no inherent structure implied or imposed by your topic or goal,

A mind map with a central circle connected to four other circles.

Use a topical pattern when there is no imposed order of ideas

you can organize ideas according to what your audience might expect or understand best.

From your audience’s perspective, what categories make sense? If there’s no clear answer, research how your competitors have approached similiar topics.

Let’s imagine your company is in the business of raising, processing, and selling black soldier fly larvae. Black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) have been a staple ingredient in many agricultural foods for years. But now, your company wants to move into a new market… the wild bird food industry.

Producers of seed blends and suet for birds may have no idea what BSFL is. They are cold prospects. The appropriate goal is to educate your audience with useful information.

As you think about your audience, who may never have heard of BSFL, you might decide to open with a description of a BSFL. From there you could decide to talk about any number of ideas, none of them in a predetermined order:

  • What black soldier flies eat
  • The lifecycle of a black soldier fly
  • What animal foods currently contain BSFL
  • The nutritional value of BSFL

Problem and Solution Pattern

This organizational pattern is what it suggests: You talk about a problem first and then you present a solution.

Let’s say a formerly cold prospect, a bird suet manufacturer, has shown enough interest to be considered a warm prospect. They have a lot of questions about BSFL—they have issues and doubts.

Your job is to anticipate their issues and doubts. Frame those questions into problems your BSFL can solve.

  • Problem: Our customers, the retail store owners, don’t know anything about BSF. Solution: We’ll help educate them. We’ve got video, brochures, and store placards. Need something else? Let’s brainstorm the right approach for your customer base.
  • Problem: We’ve got a successful suet recipe and are reluctant to change it. Solution: You can keep the recipe consistent and develop a second product line with the BSF added. You could also sell BSFL as a stand-alone product, much like mealworms.
  • Problem: How do we store BSFL? I’ve got warehouses but only limited cold storage. Solution: BSFL on its own is sold as a dehydrated product and requires no special storage.

You get the idea.

Eliminate your prospect’s objection before it’s even formed.

Chronological and Sequential Patterns

When you use a chronological structure you are arranging ideas or events according to a progression of time. The order may be forward or backward. If you were explaining the history of your company, a chronological pattern would be the appropriate choice.

Closely related to the chronological pattern is the sequential pattern. All cooking recipes, for example, are written in a sequential order: Cream the butter and sugar together before adding the flour. The same goes for procedures, assembly instructions, and the like.

If we go back to describing the life cycle of

Three tabs in a recipe box, each representing a different recipe card. One is labelled soups, salads and vegetables; the second is labelled breads and rolls, and the third is labelled this and that.

Recipes are perfect examples of ideas written in sequential order

the black soldier fly, you would put its life events in a chronological order.

  • Black solder flies first live as eggs.
  • Next comes the larva stage.
  • After the larva stage comes the pupa stage.
  • The final stage is adulthood.

Notice the italicized words. Words like before, first, next, after, and final clearly refer to an ordered sequence.

Using a chronological or sequenced organizational pattern adds another layer of trust. It demonstrates your company’s in-depth knowledge of the end-to-end process.

Narrative Form (Case Study)

Good work! Your warm prospect is now hot. You’ve educated, explained, and overcome objections. Now you need to bring it all home… they need to see proof that your product or service will solve their specific problem.

There’s nothing better to help someone visualize a solution working for them than a narrative.

Narratives, or stories, are ancient forms of communication; they’re humanity’s most recognizable genre. A good story will have a tantalizing quest, heroes and villains, trials to be overcome, and riches to be won.

In our world of business, case studies are our stories.

Kristen McCabe  offers an excellent definition of a business case study:

A case study is a written account of a real customer’s experience with your business. They describe the customer’s success thanks to your product or service. They typically include the problem the customer was facing before they used your product or service, and how you helped overcome that problem.

A story, or in this instance a case study, has a beginning, middle, and end.

The beginning of your case study introduces a satisfied customer whose trials and tribulations over trying to sell their inferior bird suet seem a lot like the ones your current prospect is experiencing.

No matter what we did, we couldn’t move the suet. We tried promotions, giveaways, and sales. Nothing worked. Cases of the inferior product were going rancid. We lost money and customers.

Then the hero of the story, your company, comes on the scene. The middle is announced with a herald’s trumpet [cue hero]:

When ACME approached me with their product, they assured me it would make my customers  happy and me lots of money! And they promised they’d get rid of that rotting suet too! Their suet made with black soldier fly larvae!

At first, the satisfied customer recounts being skeptical. But then, she talks about the many emails, conversations, presentations, and meetings she had with your company. She read the brochures and your website. She subscribed to your newsletter.

ACME’s materials included answers to all my questions. When I did call or email, I got a quick response with the information I needed. It was all easy to understand and seemed reliable.

They were upfront about the public’s unfamiliarity with BSFL and that the product might not take off right away. They said there was a bit of risk, and I would need to be patient, but they were willing to help.

I appreciated their honesty.

There was no doubt they knew their product and their market. By the time I made my decision, I trusted that BSFL was the way to go.

Six months later my customers were so happy they were referring new business my way!

The next scene shows your satisfied customer, her customers ringing the phones, and BSFL being loaded into delivery trucks. Our hero rides into the sunset, pulling rancid suet behind his horse to feed the next generation of BSFL.

But that’s not the end of our customer relationship.

You continue to call on your customer, answer questions, solve problems, and support her in ways that will make her business successful.

You become a reliable source of information and assistance. The next time you approach her with a new product, she immediately schedules a meeting.

Additional Organizational Patterns

There are additional organizational patterns you might consider using. Remember to select the pattern most suitable to your audience, goal, and topic.

  • Cause and Effect Pattern
  • Compare and Contrast Pattern
  • Spatial Pattern
  • Order of Importance Pattern


A marketer’s problem isn’t using emotions. It’s knowing how to use emotions in a way that prevents any sense of manipulation.

To avoid accusations of manipulating customers, marketers should make genuine efforts to build feelings of trust.

We’ll go deeper into reliability, honesty, and safety another time.

To recap, three of the best ways to do build trust is to ensure every member of the organization is dedicated to:

  • Solving your customers’ problems
  • Writing all communications in clear language, and
  • Organizing all messages in recognizable and appropriate patterns.


Photo credits

• Featured image: Alexas Fotos from Pixabay

• Skeptical man: Stephen Marc from Pixabay

• Puppeteer: Kai Kalhh from Pixabay

• Woman overlooking city: Yuri Catalano from Pixabay

• Traffic lights: Greg Montani from Pixabay

• Mind map: Sandra Schon from Pixabay

• Recipe cards: Roy Guisinger from Pixabay