On this week’s episode of the Performance Delivered Podcast, we chat with Gal Borenstein, CEO and Founder of the Borenstein Group. Gal is a recognized international digital B2B and B2G branding expert and an accomplished strategist in digital branding, marketing, social media, advertising, online reputation management, and public relations matters.

Gal says, “Trust isn’t something that is given, trust is something that has to be earned, especially in the digital arena.”

Today we talk with him about:

  • The evolution of branding
  • The relationship between strategy, connection, and analytics
  • How to reverse engineer the trust-building process
  • Aligning your analytics with your customer
  • And more

Mentioned in this episode:


Voiceover: This is Performance Delivered, Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success with Steffen Horst and Dave Antil.

Steffen Horst: Welcome to the Performance Delivered, Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success Podcast, where we talk with marketing and agency executives and learn how they build successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host, Steffen Horst. And the topic for today’s episode is the role of building digital trust in b2b branding. Here to speak with me is Gal Borenstein, who is the CEO and founder of the Bornstein Group, a company that serves clients locally and globally in the defense, aerospace, supply chain Information Technology, professional services and manufacturing industries. Gal is an international digital b2b and b2g branding expert and accomplished strategist for digital marketing. Gal, welcome to the show.

Gal Borenstein: Thank you for having me today.

Steffen: Now, Gal before we before we dive into today’s topic, let’s find out a little bit more about yourself. Tell our listeners about how did you end up in marketing and what led you to founding the Borenstein Group.

Gal: The short story or the short version of it is really that I was a journalist, and at the age 21, I had all the credentials of having a wonderful career in journalism. And I took a kind of a pause in it to find a job after finishing a MBA program with a focus on technology which was called a techno MBA at the time, at George Mason University in Virginia in Fairfax, Virginia. And I went to work as the marketing director for a midsize telecommunication company that was, of course, ran by engineers, that was 1992. And the experience that I experienced being there, were really kind of laid the foundation for establishing The Borenstein Group in 1995, which was that engineers and technologists and scientists came to me as the in house advertising and marketing department, and wanted to see how we can communicate complex technologies in telecommunications at the time. 

It was computer telephony integration, which was kind of the preamble to what voicemail and voice over IP is today. And what we found very often is that they think in a linear fashion in a very logical fashion. And most importantly, technology is based on the merit, whether it works or not, there’s an on and off switch. And they named their products x, y, z, and C dot five, and all these vernaculars that really meant nothing to the people that were actually buying it. So most of the time that they spend and it was two years on the job was to taking things that were very complex, technology wise, and trying to find a way to correlate them to business buyers, that were non technical in nature. That did not understand what the technology does, and really kind of learning how to explain things in a way that makes the target customer, which were businesses that wanted to buy at that time telecommunication systems for their business, and make it simple for them to understand the benefits and why they should consider this company over another company. 

So when the Bornstein Group was founded, our tagline was making creativity a science. Because I recognize that the way I was thinking was, let’s think creatively out of the box, let’s use metaphors and ways to create persuadable ideas that clients can relate to. But on the other side of it was science, which is what technologists are known for. And technology is the process of explaining something via logic that produce repeatable and predictable outcomes. And creativity is on the other side, where you have a big idea. And then it might be you use it as an experiment that results in either a good result or a failure, but you can’t really scale it to make it a consistent effort. So making creativity a science is really kind of that mantra that we had at the Borenstein Group when they started to really kind of bridge the divide between technology companies, whether they’re in cybersecurity or softwares, or supply chain or management consulting, and really helping them communicate their message to buyers, who are not technologists that are using their software. 

Whether it’s accounting software, or whatever it is to make sure that it’s explainable, that therefore accelerating the trust factor, which means that they’re able to increase their sales. And at the end of the day, that’s really what we end up being true in multiple ways. In one way, it was, I was surprised of how many companies had the same problem with internal marketing communication departments that didn’t really have a good understanding of that problem. I also found that that problem, it does not reside with just technology companies. It resides with a lot of different services and sectors where they’re having problems communicating their brand, and their marketing, whether it’s a product or service. 

And number three, I saw a an opportunity to create a niche agency that would really kind of separate itself from the traditional world where you have the creative, being kind of the lead to having strategy being the lead, whereby strategy drives what the creative does, and then making it measurable. And if you connect those three things, strategy, creativity, and measurement, suddenly you find yourself being of support of your clients versus just in your industry, which is advertising industry as we know it.

Steffen: Yeah, yeah. So it sounds like you know, not so much has changed. I still see these days that a lot of companies, startups have the problem that by smart people that come up with a great product, but then to dumb the message down or two to use it in simpler words, to communicate with their target group. That’s where they quite often struggle. Now, obviously, today’s today’s topic is, you know, building digital trust, in b2b branding. Talk about that a little bit. What is the difference between digital trust and just trust in a company in general? Is there one?

Gal: There really isn’t in the kind of existential state of how you define trust, because trust is a construct of psychological interaction between two people or two organizations. What is different is that the world that is, let’s call it the offline world, is really where most communications occur, where you have, for example, a salesperson, or a company makes a presentation at a tradeshow and people get to see the demonstration of the product. Or they are going to have a conversation via phone or via video, and exchange information about the features, the benefits, and whatever is the different differentiator, that allows the brand to be successful, whatever it is, and think about software, or anything that you buy in this environment. Digital trust is really kind of the evolution of the fact that in the past 10 years, we have moved almost all of the marketing, advertising and branding online. 

And with that in mind, we created a new paradigm by which you’re asking somebody to ignore the human factor, whereby there is a person that you get to shake hands with, hear their voice and have an interaction, which typically is kind of how people connect, think about dating. Think about when you go to your family dinner, think about when you’re meeting with a group of your friends, or when going to a trade show. And you’re meeting with other vendors and you’re exchanging information, there is a visual language, there is verbal language there is all these different kinds of cues that create an overall connection. That is human in, in in is based on psychology, right. Now fast forward to 2021 and let’s take COVID 2020 into the picture. Trade shows have disappeared, because nobody could go to a trade show or a conference. So in most industries, everything went online. 

And when we say online, by definition, we have taken our brains to a website, to a directory to a portal, and, essentially, are asking people to not only trust a company or a product or service, but we’re really asking them to do all the things that I just mentioned about processing, why should I trust this company or this product or this service in five seconds or less, because our attention span when we go online is that short? So the process of visual trust. And the reason that it’s an imperative now, for any successful branding, really revolves around the fact that we’ve eliminated human interaction and replace it with robots. And with videos and with content and with pictures, and with analytics. And if you don’t know what you’re doing, you either get a customer or a client in five seconds, or you lose a customer in five seconds. And you don’t know the difference because you haven’t done your homework, which is what building digital trust is all about.

Steffen: Yeah. Now, obviously, the trust part is part of the overall branding of a company. How do you build digital trust? Where do you start with that, when you work with a client?

Gal: I will focus an example on the industry that we can specialize in, which is business to business. And most of the clients that we work with are technology companies. And whether it’s a service or a product, whether they’re a small company that tries to go grow larger, or accent, saturating the benefits of their software solution. They all really start with a proposition that what they have to offer is better than somebody else’s. And we go with that assumption and start to build a branding and advertising campaign, or an advertising campaign and a website. And the question that is rarely asked, which is, what our process that I’ve developed over time starts with is, why should I trust you? 

Trust isn’t something that is given. Trust is something that has to be earned, especially in the digital arena. So when I say that, when we go into a client organization, the first pillar of making that trust building process significant really starts by asking, what do you think is great about your product or service? And then validating that what you think you being the marketing company, or the company that is marketing that product in matching it up. And asking the question, is it believable? Or is it a construct in your mind? So in other words, do we believe that our product is better because it’s our opinion? Or is there a fact to support it? In most cases, there are standards that would all things considered would have four or five product or services that would have the same features, the same technologies, or the same specifications, which would render it like an Excel sheet where you have four answers, and all the answers have a zero sum game. 

So you can’t really differentiate anything. So when we ask a client in the beginning of a brand engagement, what makes you unique and what makes you best, and they say it’s A, B, or C. We’re the fastest. We’re operating in a, you know, scalable environment. It’s our software is easier to use than somebody else’s. It’s more secure, whatever the feature or the capability may be. The first question to ask is, is it so? Is it true? So we challenge our clients to prove it by asking them to articulate number one, what are those things that would prove that their product is better than somebody else’s, and when that proof is very universal and sounds like everybody else’s product or service, we would go to what we call braiding a voice of a customer review. We will ask our client, the permission to interview their customers that are using their product or service. And ask them the same questions that we asked the internal management team of the client. 

And then compare the answers that we got to the questions that we asked and the answers that we received from the internal staff of our client. So imagine that you are marketing a product or service. Let’s say a cybersecurity software online, through a website that solves insider threat. Just to give you an example. And you’re marketing it to Fortune 500 companies, and the internal management team is building a brand around the idea that they have the fastest response time to hacking, that happens through insider threats. So when something gets hacked, their software is the fastest to to identify, which means they can prevent major breaches and cyber security. 

Now, imagine that that’s the proposition and you build a whole campaign, from advertising, to trade shows to your website, especially. And you basically create taglines, you create campaigns around it, the only to find out that there are other companies that their target audience thinks about as much faster than they can provide. Which means that there is a disparity between what the customer’s optics are in what our client is thinking is the benefit. So the result of not having that alignment is simply a disconnect. And then you have the disconnect, you have to make sure to go back to the drawing board and ask the question. Is it trusted?

Steffen: Yeah. So what you’re basically doing just to to, to bring it together in short sentences, you’re basically test driving, you know, what they communicate out as their USPs? If that A is perceived by the customer that way, and if if if their messaging also holds true, so if they say they’ve reacted the quickest to cybersecurity threats or breaches, you go on the other side, do a focus group and see basically, hey, you know, what, is that is that reality, because if that’s not the reality, and you’re going out there with that message, as you said, there’s a disconnect at the end of the day.

Gal: Absolutely. And the third kind of leg of the trip, if you will, to make sure that we have a an authentic and believable story to tell, which is what a brand narrative would be when you build it is, we don’t exist in a vacuum. And when we don’t really look at the competitive environment, in its messaging. So the three other competitors that you’re competing against, if you basically say I am the best in something, or I’m the fastest, and you haven’t really matched up against your competitors, in any market environment, you haven’t done your homework. So the result could be that people really don’t see the differentiation, because you haven’t done it. 

So it’s all about reverse engineering the process from saying what we’re best at to making sure that we start by asking, what universe are we operating in? What are customers interested in? What are they perceiving as their problems and then parlaying it back into a brand narrative that is compelling, and most importantly, believable, not only to the outside, which is what traditional advertising is done, which is to make a promise that something works better or faster or cheaper. But the brand ambassadors, which are the salespeople of an organization, the customer service, representatives of the organization of our client, believe that what they’re saying is true, because if they don’t believe it, again, it comes across really quickly. And the whole operation fails.

Steffen: Yeah. So when you work with companies, and you go through that exercise, and you identify that parts, maybe even worst case, all of their past communication didn’t really resonate with the target group because just didn’t hold through, what is your process in kind of working with them to find messaging, that actually is true. And that actually hits home with their audience.

Gal: What we do is using the idea that we know what the competition is setting allows us to have a safety net, where now creative thinking that traditionally, advertising and marketing agencies are able to do to create concepts, and then test them online and see what potential customers prospects that are what we call non believers are likely to respond to and able to accelerate that trust building factor as quickly as possible. What we find very often is that what works the best is when you’re able to take something that isn’t necessarily the most attractive feature of a product or service, but actually focuses on a listening component that was articulated by a customer of what they need, and then communicating it and packaging it along with the differentiation into what you’re offering, and then presenting it in a way that says, we’re not necessarily the best in what the product does. 

But our overall customer experience, for example, is much better than the other company. As a result, if the customer believes that customer service is more important than a feature that another product is offering, for example, that could make the difference between trusting something or not trusting something. And if you think back to the days where in the consumer world, they used to be the commercials for the Maytag repairman. And Maytag was the brand that sold the idea that, you know, the repairman was always unemployed, because he didn’t have anything to do because their brand was about reliability. They didn’t say they’re the best laundry machine, they said were the most reliable one. Volvo built their own brand around being safer, not necessarily having the best technology with the best Bluetooth, in fact, their Bluetooth came five years after everybody else’s. 

So authenticity in listening to the target audience of the prospect, and then parlaying it back to saying, if all things are equal, this is what really matters to the marketplace with your solution, whether it’s a service or a product, you’re able to create an engagement and an authenticity that is second to none. And it allows you to create a story in the narrative where everything can be proven. And all the messaging that you create in content marketing, in case studies and videos reflect that. And that is what the end of the day makes the difference between success and failure. 

Steffen: Yeah, yeah. I mean, from my perspective, you don’t always have to be faster, shiny or sexier or whatever, you know, the word is you want to use here to outsell your competitor. I mean, there are enough people out there that let’s let’s take Volvo, for example, that the light to safety feature, you know, and they don’t need all the gadgets in the car. They just like what the brand stands for. And I think that’s what what it comes down to, you know, find what, what really makes you unique, and push that forward as your as your selling point for measurement perspective, because everything obviously, we as marketers do, at the end of the day, should have an impact positively, hopefully, on the bottom line. How do you go about to measure the impact of potentially changing, you know that that digital trust that messaging for a cleint. 

Gal: The greatest gift that the digital age has given us is what we know as today as analytics, or in the old days, statistics. Everything that we do in digital marketing and branding is measurable. As Albert Einstein once said, not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. So you do have to take the analytics that are being offered to you whether it’s Google Analytics, or visitor intelligence, or any type of measurement of for example, how many times a case study or content marketing piece has been downloaded or video has been viewed in really kind of shape it in the context of the business development objectives to the customer, and to our customer has, or a company has in relations to the branding process. So think about it as before and after, before we were articulating things in a certain way. 

So on in the digital marketing world, you would look at the website and ask, are we getting more people that are spending more time on the site now that we’ve changed the message? Or are they’re less engaged, and they’re moving on to a different site? What are their interests are visually. Where is their eye going with a heat map or with new visual analytics that allow you to really kind of follow the their buyers journey through it. And what we can do, most importantly, is take the company client culture of selling, and make sure that the analytics that we’re picking are aligned with what they need to see, and not what the market has typically been using. 

And I want to emphasize that because when you get a great software, like Salesforce, for example, which is a standard by most Fortune companies, they have all the analytics in the world, but not all those analytics are pertinent to your company. So we customize the process to make sure that for example, if you’re interested in getting existing customers to buy more often, then they do now that’s a strategy that has to be measured specifically, in not just mingle it with how many visits we had on our site, and then ultimately connecting the benchmarks of what was the business development objective and the sales objective, and how we’ve been able ultimately to accelerate the selling process by giving the customers the proof points that they needed. 

So at the end of the day, the ultimate measurement in our mind is that we’re we’re able to show a customer especially in business to business that with the new approach, new customers and new sales are coming faster, because you eliminated the psychological objections that the customers had, by giving them the proof points that they needed and articulated in a way that allows the engagement to go from I don’t trust you to I trust you. Give me proof points, and then I will buy from you.

Steffen: Gal we’ve we’ve come to the end of today’s podcast episode. Thank you so much for joining the Performance Delivered Podcast and sharing your thoughts on how to build digital trust in b2b brands. If people want to find out more about you and your company, how can they get in touch?

Gal: We’re online wherever our audience needs to be. So we would like to invite anyone to visit Bornsteingroup.com or connect with us via LinkedIn, which we find to be very engaging through the Borenstien Group landing page or directly through communicating with me, Gal Bornstein. That’s my profile on LinkedIn. 

Steffen: Wonderful. Well, thanks everyone for listening. If you liked the Performance Delivered Podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. If you want to find out more about Symphonic Digital, you can visit us at symphonicdigital.com or follow us on Twitter @symphonicHQ. Thanks again and see you next time.

Voiceover: Performance Delivered is sponsored by Symphonic Digital. Discover audience focused and data driven digital marketing solutions for small and medium businesses at symphonicdigital.com