The Four Ps Of B2B Brand Trust

“Am I going to lose my job for buying this?” That’s the question business-to business brands need to answer every day.

In the last 10 years I’ve spoken with about 500 senior buying decision-makers of business products and services in technology, healthcare, financial services, telecom, media and utilities. They’re a tough bunch, and they have to be because they live on the hot seat every day. They’ve got to trust someone to support their business, and they’re on the hook for that decision. Literally.

Selling products and services to this target is a daunting, complicated, time-consuming task. The more you understand the customer mindset, and how you — your offering and your brand — help them succeed — and avoid harm — the better your chances of breaking through.

As a start to understanding the B2B buyer, I have developed two foundational beliefs:

1. Business-people are people (too). They make decisions rationally and emotionally. Functionality and value are important, but the products and services they bring into their company also say things about who they are, how they think and feel and how they feel about their job, career and company.

2. B2B buying is usually a considered purchase. The more expensive and long-term the purchase, the complex the process and the longer the buying cycle. The decision has far-reaching personal implications, not unlike buying a house or choosing a mate.

If you buy into these beliefs, you can see that “trust is key”. The Four Ps model for business-to-business brands drives strategies to build trust with buyers, employees and the ecosystem.

(To download the slides for this presentation from slideshare click here)

The Four Ps of Brand Trust

1. Persistence: Do you have what it takes to go all the way?

2. Performance: Is your thing different or better? Can you help big companies get bigger or small companies disrupt their categories?

3. Percussion: Have you, or can you make an impact on the business?

4. Perception: Do you envision a better world for your customers, employees, everyone?

When you overlay the Four Ps on brands that are startups, growing, or mature you can see how they are different in terms of strengths and weaknesses. And yet trust can be built for all three types of companies.

As examples, think about IBM. The old adage “no one ever got fired for buying IBM” says it all. IBM has tremendous Persistence and Percussion. Their Perception of the future is well thought out and accessible. The Performance of their product is good enough. They don’t promise bleeding edge and their buyers, for the most part, are not looking for it. IBM can absolutely be trusted.

Pure Storage is a growth company. Their Persistence is based on a combination of the quality of the management team, customer list and investors. Their Percussion is driving operating efficiencies and improved customer experience. The all-flash storage solution has a number of proven advantages and the Pure solution delivers. Pure doesn’t have a strong vision for the difference they make in the world, but they may not need one. For buyers looking for a competitive advantage with relatively low risk, Pure can be trusted.

Quisk is a start-up in the mobile banking category. Their real strength is their Perception of the future. They truly believe that they can make an economic difference by providing “banking for the unbanked.” Quisk has well-known bank partners and investors and a different approach to mobile banking that may or may not be the best solution in a crowded field. For banks who want to tap into the cash economies in third-world countries Quisk is a partner that can be trusted to deliver a solution that will open up new markets.

In all three of these cases, these brands generate trust because they leverage the “Ps” where they can compete most effectively. Using this approach, any brand can target buyers more effectively and be trustworthy and compete for business, employees and influence in the ecosystem.

Assessing Brands On The Four Ps

Brand assessment on the Four Ps is a speed/time/distance exercise. In today’s market the majority of marketers are looking for an agile approach to getting answers so they can go to market quickly and confidently. I recommend a combination of internal workshops, customer/prospects/partner interviews and an employee study — either qualitative or quantitative to get to insights quickly (and affordably).

A regular (annual or semi-annual) checkup is a requirement to inform how brand trust is developing. The Four P model doesn’t value one P over another. Leveraging each P based on its particular strength creates customer appeal and brand value.

The Bottomline

Creating and building brand trust is a journey. As brands transit from startup to maturity, active management of the Four Ps with absolute transparency and honesty is a requirement. When a brand is trusted then people will put themselves on the line for it, and that’s a very big deal.

About Greg Sieck

Greg Sieck is founder of SieckGrowth Branding and Design. His work for brands such as Intel, Taco Bell, AT&T, Mazda and Dolby, as well as myriad startups focusses on how brand strategy can drive growth. For an informal conversation about The 4 Ps of Trust, or any other brand strategy topic please contact Greg at or call (415) 717–4460.