The concept of “Know – Like – Trust” has been around for a while. It is commonly attributed to author Bob Burg (Endless Referrals and The Go-Giver). Bob is an internationally known sales guru, and I've had the pleasure of interviewing him and getting to know him personally.

Bob is someone who I would call one of the most authentic people you would ever meet. He walks the walk about which he talks.

Another person attributed to the concept is sales trainer Michael Goldstein, who talked about buyers needing to experience “confidence, affinity, and empathy” before making purchases.

No matter who originated it or how you phrase it, it’s undoubtedly a foundational process to making a sale. When I say process, it’s one foot in front of the other sequence. Yet many business people try to hop over the like part and go from know to trust.

Ready, Fire, Aim

First, we need to define what Know, Like, and Trust mean to your business. In the following three chapters, we will dig deeper into what they are, how to achieve them, and why they are, and forever will be, so intertwined.

Know, Like, and Trust are not like ready, aim, or fire, which is a linear sequence to a result. It’s more like an ecosystem where each part is interdependent on the success of the system.

Just because someone trusts you, it does not mean you don’t have to remind them you are there (know = top of mind) or that you align with their values (like = valuable and relevant).

If all you care about is making one sale, then you can ignore that concept and just achieve a transactional goal. If you want to build a customer relationship based on reciprocal value, then it requires you to keep the cycle of know, like, and trust as a principle of your sales and marketing efforts.

Relationship Marketing

Know, Like, and Trust has three distinct phases when it comes to marketing to build relationships.

KNOW

Know is about building awareness. People need to know that you exist. They need to know what you sell, but they don’t need to know specifics in this phase. This is what I call the awareness phase of marketing. It’s short, to the point, and does not have to be overly complicated.

Another factor to consider is that people who already know you exist do not remember at the right time. They could become distracted by the bright shiny object or the new kid in town. Creating awareness can also make and keep you on top of mind.

Generally, Know content is simple graphics, quotes, or short videos. It often has a very subtle call to action, like a link to a piece of content on your website. If it does not generate a ton of click-throughs, that is okay. Its main goal is to say, “Hey… We are here!”

LIKE

Like is about alignment, perception, and the key to relationship building. This is the phase of marketing where you get to control the narrative. Not everyone will like or align with what you have to say, but I will explain in a bit why this does not matter. You are not trying to be all things to everyone. You wish to be the right choice for the right people at the right time.

Like is where you promote long-form ideas, messages, and content. You can show differentiation between you and your competitors. This is where you can show your position as a thought leader and educate your audience about concepts that can help them choose you over your competition.

The main goal of Like is to generate conversations. Just posting content rarely converts people to profits without some one-on-one interaction.

Like content, it requires a commitment from the audience. It’s a longer form and generally takes 1 to 5 minutes to consume if it’s an article or reading piece. It can be from 5 to 60 minutes of commitment if it’s a video, podcast, or webinar.

The goal here is to get an individual back to your website. There, they can fill out a form asking for more information or connect with a salesperson or CSR. The ultimate goal is to create the desire and opportunity to speak with a human.

TRUST

Trust has to be earned. The major problem I see with sales and marketing is that they try to circumvent the Like portion of the equations and simply go from awareness to sale. This can and often does work in the consumer world, but business-to-business is different.

Trust is the phase where people go from consideration to beginning and continuing the process of making a purchase. In the B2b world, it’s rarely just whipping out a credit card or requesting a purchase order.

Trust is solidifying the relationship by knowing you can deliver on your promises. It’s about creating a level of comfort that what you have promised in the Like phase can be met or exceeded. It’s also about defining value and creating an atmosphere and perception of mutual benefit.

The content here is more processed-based and instructional. It can be what to expect before, during, and after a purchase. And it does not end after a purchase is made. It continues to build trust that you are present and willing to help through any additional questions and issues after the purchase.

You Can’t Please Everyone

One of the critical principles that muddies the water when it comes to business-to-business relationship marketing is the concept that your business is trying to appeal to the largest audience possible.

That is one of the main reasons people try to apply consumer marketing techniques to B2b businesses. The perception is that if you cast the widest net, you will catch more. In reality, if you dilute your messages to reach the widest audience, you become less inspiring to those who could align with your Know, Like, and Trust.

This not only affects how and what content you create, but it also affects marketing mindsets and methodologies. This is where driving more traffic to a website, adding more people to the email list, and getting more followers on social media become the driving force behind all sales and marketing elements.

Companies will spend tens of hundreds of thousands of dollars on online ads, SEO, and lead farms to feed that philosophy.

Let’s dig into why that is so common and why I believe you can do so much more with less expense and effort.

Sales Driven Marketing

In business, sales are the KPI that drive everything from employee compensation, innovation budgets, and, in some cases, investor and shareholder enthusiasm.

That tends to set expectations that sales teams lead and define what marketing does. The primary goal and activity is to generate more leads for the sales team to turn into sales. This also drives what the company tends to spend its sales and marketing dollars on.

Salesforce is the industry-leading software for sales teams. It tracks, manages, and promotes lead generation and sales activities. It costs $330 to $500 per person per month. A sales and marketing team of 20 people can easily spend over $100,000 per year.

Hubspot, which started as a marketing platform, is now a Salesforce competitor with marketing to the built-in CRM and lead generation tools. The current base price is $30,000 per year, with additional services leading to over $100,000.

Zoominfo is currently one of the largest lead-generation software companies in the industry. The current base price is $25,000 per year, with additional services leading to almost $100,000 per year.

You can easily see how buying into one (or all three) can get very expensive. The question you have to ask yourself is, What does that buy you, and will it provide a return on investment?

Marketing to Leads

It generally costs more to feed a Great Dane than a Chihuahua. If you are spending $100,000 to $500,000 a year on systems to manage leads, your marketing team will be focused on feeding that big dog.

That is where the concept of driving more traffic to a website through ads and SEO becomes the primary focus of marketing activities.

Marketing success is not measured in dollars or ROI but measured in leads given to sales. The sales success is measured in the lead-to-sale conversion. Then, marketing is measured by lead quality to sale conversion, and it becomes an endless cycle of trying to generate more and better leads.

Leads Are Not Sales

You indeed need leads to close sales. The definition of a lead is a prospective customer who has shown some level of interest in a company’s products or services. Often, businesses look at people who are breathing and have a wallet as a lead. They overlook the “some level of interest” part.

In marketing and advertising, if your ad has a 1-2% conversion rate, that is considered a success.

Say you do a Google ad, and you can track that someone clicked on the ad and ended up on your website. That’s a lead. Then, you have to identify that person and then make contact with them.

Companies like Zoominfo will sell you people who search for a specific topic (hopefully one that says they want to buy from you) and give you their LinkedIn and email contact info. That makes it easier for you to contact them.

Now, you can use Salesforce to capture that data and assign it to a salesperson. You can use Hubspot to add them to a drip email sequence to build that know, like, and trust.

The only problem with that scenario is that the lead was just some random person researching something for their kid's term paper and has no interest or potential to purchase from you or your company.

How will you know until you go through all of that time and expense? You won’t!

Marketing Aligned Sales

Marketing and sales are two teams that are often separated by philosophies and sometimes by physical space. When I worked at AT&T corporate, marketing was located in Building 2, and sales were in Building 5. It was a big campus and a long walk. There was little to no collaboration on a department level, but I am sure there was on a management level.

Marketing works best when a sales team is sharing what trends are on the customer's minds and what objections they are having to overcome. That way, marketing can speak to the audience as if they know what they are thinking and guide them to the sales team to ask questions and start conversations.

Sales are most accessible when your prospect already knows, likes, and trusts you. It also helps conversions when your prospects reach out to you first before you start to barrage them with sales and marketing activities.

It's About Know, Like, & Trust

The concepts of Know, Like, & Trust are intertwined, yet each has its own purpose, process, and performance metrics. One last key thing to remember is that marketing people are part of your sales team, and salespeople are part of your marketing team.

That does not mean that salespeople have any interest in capturing and entering data. They are trained, rewarded, and driven by sales.

Marketing people and automation can capture, enter, and provide data for salespeople, but they cannot manage the sales relationship.

Each team has its strengths and weaknesses, and your mission is to optimize your customer relationships by giving each team the tools to maximize their strengths while minimizing their weaknesses. The real success comes when they work together to help make each other successful!

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Comment below and share your thoughts, ideas, or questions about business-to-business sales and marketing today! Do you have a sales or marketing communications strategy that works for you? What tips or techniques can you share that work for you and your business?

To learn more about this and other topics on B2b Sales & Marketing, visit our podcast website at The Bacon Podcast.

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