Picture this: You’re a content marketer at a fast-growing technology services firm. Your desk is littered with studies, notes from your last few marketing campaigns, and a cold cup of coffee. You’ve been staring at your screen for too long. The blinking cursor mocks you. You’re in the thick of writing a consideration-stage ebook to inspire and educate buyers on a new vertical you’re targeting. Your goal? To position your company as an authority and build trust with prospective customers.
The topic is complex, and the publication deadline is drawing near. Although you’re not a subject matter expert (SME), you took on the project with confidence. After all, you’re a great researcher and writer. And you have a roster of in-house SMEs and satisfied customers who can lend their insights.
Silent Slack, sales, and SMEs: Where are the experts?
You pop into various Slack channels, looking for experts, prospects, and customers to speak with. You especially want to talk to people who’ve actually felt the pains your company aims to resolve. But the silent response is disheartening. There seems to be no one to talk to other than the sales reps, most of whom are as lost as you.
You ask to sit in on demos and sales calls so you can learn the language of prospects. Sorry: No can do. Even your company’s lead SME, who’s always generous with his time, says his boss doesn’t want him to meet with you anymore due to “cost factors.”
Sound familiar? As a writer, this lack of access is maddening. How are you supposed to write with expertise and authority when you’re in what I call the “marketing cage,” a stifling enclosure that separates you from the people and insights that could add depth to your work? You’re literally left to your own devices, scraping together the same tired, old information from secondary sources and filling in gaps with educated guesses.
I call this sad state of affairs “writing by the MSU approach”—the Making Shit Up approach.
A wake-up call: The 2023 Trust in Marketing Index
I suspect that the scenario I just described—an amalgam of work experiences over the years—is why Informa Tech’s 2023 Trust in Marketing Index survey found that 71% of B2B technology buyers are disappointed with the value of gated content. (I bet they’re equally disappointed with ungated content, likely even thinner and weaker than most gated pieces.)
Marketing’s grade? D-minus
The Trust in Marketing Index measures the state of the relationship between B2B technology decision-makers and marketers. This year’s inaugural score was a measly 61 out of 100. That’s a “D minus” on the “A to F” letter-grade scale. I cried when a college professor gave me a “C” on a paper. A grade of “D minus” would have crushed me.
What’s worse is that the stakes are huge. Without trust, everything we content marketers work for—lead generation, customer retention, and business growth—starts to crumble. Our target accounts? They’re looking elsewhere, at our competitors, where content marketers have broken free from the cage and are producing content that delights rather than disappoints.
5 trust busters in B2B marketing content
Imagine a decision-maker, let’s call her Sarah, who reads a piece of your content and finds it riddled with outdated statistics and a thinly veiled sales pitch. She abandons the asset and begins questioning your brand’s authority and expertise. Her skepticism grows when she runs across similarly disappointing content from your brand on social media. And when your targeted ad appears in her LinkedIn feed or a sales email lands in her inbox, she’s already predisposed to dismiss it. You’ve lost a potential lead and an advocate who could have amplified your content within her network.
As you can see, a lack of trust doesn’t just jeopardize a single touchpoint. It eats away at the foundational relationship you need to drive sales, loyalty, and advocacy. Lack of trust is a corrosive force that undermines your marketing goals at every stage—from awareness and consideration to decision and retention.
The Trust Index survey pointed to five issues that—alone or together—create disconnects and lead your audience to question your content and your brand’s credibility and expertise.
1. The generic content conundrum—speaking to no one
Content that speaks to everyone speaks to no one, a sentiment echoed by 42% of survey decision-makers who said most B2B marketing content is too general. It’s a pitfall content marketers—especially those confined to the marketing cage—know all too well. When cut off from SMEs and happy customers, you must resort to generic industry jargon and broad strokes that add little value. After all, you have to get something into market.
Consider a hypothetical software company that specializes in supply chain management solutions. Its content writer, isolated from customers’ real-world challenges, produces a blog post titled “5 Ways to Improve Your Supply Chain.” The post is filled with vague advice like “optimize your logistics” and “streamline your procurement process” but fails to dive into the specifics of how to actually achieve those goals. While the post may technically cover the topic promised by the title, it lacks depth and actionable insights.
Now, imagine you’re a supply chain manager looking to reduce supplier lead times. You stumble upon a social media post promoting the article. The title looks appealing, so you click in—and are immediately disappointed. The article is a fluff piece that doesn’t address your pain points; it offers nothing more than what you already know. The result? You close the browser tab, probably never to return, taking your potential business to the company’s competitors.
Sadly, the software company missed an opportunity to engage because of generic content. Worse, the generic content also risks damaging the company’s reputation for thought leadership—a double whammy no brand can afford, especially when trust is the currency of B2B sales today.
2. The same-old-content syndrome—recycling but not reinventing
Although the internet is a treasure trove for information seekers, it’s also a landfill of repetitiveness. Even before generative AI quadrupled the size of the landfill, a shocking number of articles and whitepapers read as though they were cut from the same cloth. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve held my head in my hands and groaned in frustration while conducting research for a piece of content. If you’re relying on the same recycled stats and arguments everyone else is using, you’re actively contributing to the sea of generic content that alienates decision-makers.
Imagine John, a CTO at a growing tech startup. He’s after a cybersecurity solution that can scale with his company. As he sifts through articles, white papers, and blog posts on the space, he notices a theme: Most of the pieces parrot the same “Top 5 Cybersecurity Threats” or offer the same “7 Best Practices for Cybersecurity.” John wants insights to help him make informed decisions, but instead, he gets an echo chamber of recycled ideas. Feeling frustrated and a bit cynical, John starts to think that if these companies can’t offer unique insights in their content, how innovative could their solutions be? He becomes skeptical, not just of the content he’s reading but also of the brands producing it. The ultimate casualty is trust—John is no longer sure whom to trust and, by extension, where to take his business.
The same-old-content syndrome is a trust buster of the highest order. It diminishes your brand’s perceived expertise and fuels skepticism that can spill over into how prospects view your products and services. And in an environment where it’s hard to differentiate, publishing same-old content is doubly detrimental.
3. The gated content problem—high stakes beyond the gate
When it comes to gated content, the stakes are even higher. When potential customers fill out a form or sign up for a newsletter, they expect the content behind the gate to offer substantial value, something worth exchanging personal information for. Yet according to the Trust Index survey, 71% of decision-makers are often or sometimes disappointed with the quality of B2B gated content. If that’s the case for gated material, it’s unnerving to think about how ungated content—often more generic and less detailed—might fare in the same survey.
Imagine that Emily, a procurement manager, is actively researching enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions. She comes across an ebook called “Unlocking the Future of ERP” on your website. Intrigued, she fills out a form to download the content. What she finds, however, is a skimpy 10-page document rife with buzzwords like “scalability” and “efficiency” but lacking concrete examples, case studies, or actionable insights. She feels cheated. “I gave away my contact details for this?” she thinks, shaking her head.
The problem isn’t over when Emily trashes the ebook. She’s now wary of your brand, questioning the value of engaging further. The next time she comes across any of your content—gated or not—she’s likely to pass. Even worse, Emily may share her negative experience within her professional network, further eroding your brand’s trust and reputation.
The gated content problem isn’t just about a single ebook, whitepaper, or webinar. It’s about how buyers perceive your brand’s ability to deliver value. Unequal value exchanges—like filling out a lengthy form in exchange for a thin ebook—cast a shadow of doubt that can extend to every interaction a potential customer has with your brand, making it much harder to rebuild lost trust.
4. The stale information dilemma—Outdated insights lead nowhere
In the Trust Index survey, 33% of decision-makers said that encountering outdated information reduces or completely eliminates their trust in a B2B brand. Completely eliminates—that’s harsh! Although being in the marketing cage limits access to fresh insights and expertise, it’s no excuse for delivering stale content.
Consider Shauna, a healthcare manager looking for a new electronic health record (EHR) system for her medical facility. She stumbles upon your company’s whitepaper that promises to reveal the “Latest Trends in EHR Technology.” Eager to inform her decision-making process, Shauna downloads the document, only to discover that the “latest trends” are from two years ago and have been widely covered elsewhere.
In an industry like healthcare, where compliance changes and tech advancements happen fast, the lapse is more than a minor inconvenience; it’s a red flag. Shauna wonders: “If their content is outdated, what will their EHR solutions be like?” The question lingers, affecting her view of your content and perception of your products and services.
Presenting outdated content is like a self-inflicted wound. Buyers who encounter the issue may not stop by ignoring future content from your brand; they might also share their negative experiences with peers, further amplifying the trust deficit. It’s a downward spiral that starts with outdated content and, in a fast-paced market, can lead to broader questions about your brand’s credibility and relevance.
5. The sales pitch turn-off—undermining trust with disguised agendas
Buyers are bombarded with marketing messages at every turn, so the last thing they want is a hard sell masquerading as valuable content. For 29% of decision-makers taking the Trust Index survey, encountering content that leads with a sales pitch is a deal-breaker that can instantly sever the trust bridge.
Imagine Lisa, a director of operations at a manufacturing company. She’s grappling with efficiency issues on the production floor and is actively seeking solutions. Hoping for valuable insights, she clicks on an article titled “How to Boost Manufacturing Efficiency.” Instead, she gets a pitch for your company’s efficiency software within the first few paragraphs.
Her initial interest turns to immediate disillusionment. What could have been an educational experience now feels like an ambush. Lisa feels deceived, and that sense of betrayal extends beyond the article. The next time she encounters your brand—in a sponsored post, a webinar invite, or a product demo—she brings that skepticism. She’s hesitant to click, hesitant to engage, and unlikely to buy.
When you disguise sales pitches as genuine content, you tell your audience that you’re more interested in ringing the sales gong than solving real-world challenges and enriching lives. Because trust is precarious, the sales pitch turn-off can be the final straw that moves a potential customer from consideration to outright dismissal.
What’s next? It’s not all doom and gloom…
Those five trust busters highlighted in the Trust Index survey show how shaky trust is today. But it’s not all doom and gloom. There is light at the end of the tunnel. The survey also revealed trust boosters and steps your brand can take to build or rebuild trust. I’ll share those findings with you in my next article.