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Lessons from Lochte: What B2B Marketers Can Learn from Ryan Lochte’s Exploits

by David Yockelson  |  August 22, 2016  |  Submit a Comment

After reading that title, I’m sure your minds are swimming with questions about how there could possibly B2B takeaways from the Ryan Lochte soap opera that has just unfolded. Well, in a stroke of brilliance (and possibly too much coffee and clearly too much Olympic coverage), I’ve pooled together several parallels that will allow you to keep your heads above water when marketing tech products and services. Ready? Let’s dive right in (oh, and that was the last of the swimming puns – promise).

If you’ve watched the Olympic coverage or been tuned to ANY media over the last couple weeks, you’re well aware of the implosion that once was Ryan Lochte’s image. But just in case, to summarize, he (1) was out with other swimmers and had a few too many, (2) he did some damage and defacing to a gas station in Rio, (3) he and the other swimmers (though mostly Lochte since he’s a primary face/voice of swimming) lied about what happened, (4) Lochte bolted (unintentional Olympic pun) back to the US, (5) videos surfaced exposing his lies, (6) the other swimmers recanted/admitted what happened, (7) Lochte still didn’t come clean, (8) Lochte’s sponsors have abandoned ship. What does all this have to do with B2B tech provider marketing and sales? In a word, it’s all about trust.

We know through a variety of studies that we’ve done with technology buyers that building trust through the buying process and ultimately throughout the customer lifecycle is a key to success for providers. We know that buyers attempt to build trust with providers they don’t know (somewhat surprisingly) rather early in the buying cycle. We also know that trust won’t be gained if providers don’t offer interactions and information from sources that buyers already trust (e.g., influencers, peers, technical sales and implementation resources), and we know that trust can be lost if implementations fail to provide value (through product failure or other issues).

Ryan Lochte had built trust with the public over years of swimming performance, and despite a feeble attempt at a reality TV show, had maintained it. He worked hard, he presented a good image and his times and medals spoke for themselves (though he unfortunately competes simultaneously with the greatest swimmer the sport has known). Third parties (influencers) – other athletes, commentators, magazines, USA Swimming – also backed Lochte up and were happy to recognize him as a senior statesman for swimming. Sponsors were attracted to this as well and supported (and paid) Lochte, seeking to woo consumers through the trust they had in Lochte. But after we bought into his image as an elder and presumably wiser statesman for swimming and athletics (notwithstanding the poor hair bleach/chlorine combination), he betrayed our trust not only through his deeds but by lying about them well after the fact.

Trust is a very difficult commodity to regain once it’s lost. Michael Phelps demonstrated that it’s possible even after his DUI and marijuana-smoking setbacks. Lochte’s lost our trust, and it’s hard to say if he’ll ever be able to get it back. B2B providers, note well this escapade — even if you aren’t swimming in trust issues (whoops).

Category: digital-business  go-to-market  gtm  

David Yockelson
Research VP
1 years at Gartner
30 years IT Industry

David Yockelson is a Research Vice President on the Tech Go-to-Market and Sales Strategies team in the Technology and Service Provider Research organization.. Read Full Bio

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