Why credibility determines your cut-through

Sammy Tatla20/05/2018

Using insights from our recent C-suite study, we explore why credibility is one of the most important factors for driving engagement with the C-suite and how to achieve it.

Marketers are increasingly tasked with cutting through the noise to engage disenfranchised audiences. In a world where we often focus on competitive ‘noise’ as the biggest threat to cut‐through, this insight shows that it is the quality of what a brand says, rather than what others are putting out there, which hampers its ability to engage with discerning audiences.

Brands that focus solely on pushing their products or services without adding value fail to win the ear of their prospects. Over a fifth of the C‐suites we surveyed think content published by brands (CPB) is self‐serving and offers little to no professional insight or value. This is not a problem limited to content, but evident across the marketing mix.

A glance at the bigger picture also reveals a reduced appetite for branded interactions. Adblock software penetration has soared to 615 million users worldwide, and is up 20 per cent compared to 2016. Meanwhile, 90 per cent of branded apps receive fewer than 10,000 downloads, lower than the average benchmark of 30,000 downloads in the AppStore. Finally – and perhaps most tellingly – Havas 2017 research shows that three quarters of brands could disappear tomorrow and their users wouldn’t care.

A Harvard Business Review study found that C‐Suite members spend just 2 per cent of their time with vendors or brands, and the window to impress them is small.

Our research shows that a majority of C‐suites will give branded thought leadership a go – but if it doesn’t add value they will not engage with that content again.

Your ability to cut through comes down to credibility. A little more than half of C‐suite executives believe content produced by brands lacks credibility and cite this as one of the biggest reasons they don’t engage with it. When they receive value which goes beyond trying to sell products or services, prospects will accept branded communications. They form the beginning of a relationship and make them receptive to the brand in question.

Given the crucial role content plays in the B2B sales process, here’s how brands can establish the credibility of their content and thought leadership to achieve cut‐through.

Establish your areas of authority

The first step is to understand the areas your brand has the authority to speak about. What does your brand offer through its services, products, people or heritage, that is relevant and interesting to your consumers? Which problems or issues can you help them resolve? Ensure that your brand has licence to comment on the topics you choose to engage with, so that your content is relevant to your audience and your brand.

These areas might be wider than you think. For example, The Creators Project by VICE and Intel showcases international artists that use technology within their work. The collaboration allowed VICE to cement itself as a cultural force, while letting Intel highlight the use of its technology in the creative process.

Penny Wilson, CMO of Hootsuite, explains: “Brands are still missing the main point of content: to engage directly with their audiences. Listen first and invest in customer‐centric, personalised content to build relevancy and credibility with your audiences.”

Once a brand has identified territories that are interesting, relevant and within its remit, it needs to establish its authority with expertise.

Build your expertise

In order to effectively add value, you need substance to your content. For example, 42 per cent of executives look for content based on original, primary research or empirical evidence. Alternatively, you can build expertise is through partnerships, respected influencers or research.

Half of executives are likely to read branded content if it’s produced in partnership with a recognised expert in their industry or profession, while 47 per cent look for content that’s shared or recommended by a respected or influential figure in the industry.

When done right, content distribution and publishing partnerships result in credible content which creates a halo effect for your entire brand. Credibility is essentially your brand’s ability to make prospects trust that its communications will be genuinely useful to them – and this is ultimately what will drive cut‐through.

In summary

  • Define your areas of authority and how these can help solve problems for your target audience.
  • Make your content useful and relevant through investing in research, whether original or proprietary.
  • Drive credibility and earn the trust of your prospects through partnering with experts or trusted influencers.