Just how trustworthy are you really?

A friend and I were watching a football game on TV when a commercial came on for a paint retailer.  At the end of the commercial, my friend said “I don’t trust them for a minute. They don’t look or sound the part at all.” I started thinking about why some companies are trusted and others aren’t.  And so I’ll pose the question to you: in today’s marketplace, with people not wanting to be sold to but rather base their purchase decision on many other factors, is your company better off just selling products and services or selling trust along with your products?

One of the greatest demonstrations of selling trust came about years ago when Chrysler Corporation was being dragged back from the brink of extinction by its then CEO, Lee Iacocca. Chrysler was seen as having a flawed product and not to be trusted to build a good car. Lesser men would have resorted to selling at the cheapest price with giant discounts and 0% interest. They would have also gone down with the ship by making futile arguments about the features/benefits of the cars. Iacocca rejected this thinking and instead sold his personal guarantee…his promise…by saying “If you can find a better car, buy it.”

So then, what are the few key factors that will make your business such a trusted and relied-on presence in your customers’ lives that they will stay with you – and spend with you – for many, many years?

As I write this, virtually every advertiser, marketer and seller struggles in an un-trusting world. The public has very, very, scorched fingers and badly-bruised confidence. The temptation to overcome this mistrust with stronger product pitches, cheaper prices or deeply discounted fees – did I mention, cheaper prices – is enormous.  And dangerous. To do so worsens the fundamental problem of low trust and deprives you of the finances needed to effectively market at all.

Unfortunately, and we all see it in our personal and business lives, there are bunches of companies out there who are “hit and runners.”  They’re more in the business of getting customers to make sales rather than making sales to get customers. The first provides only income. The second provides income and equity. It’s sort of like the difference between dating and a long-term marriage. It’s about being there and having the other person’s back. That the other knows you care about them. That you find ways to stay interesting and relevant over the years. Sad but true, most marketers don’t really think about a long-term marriage with customers. They take it for granted or give it no importance. They’re focused on income not equity. Like you, I buy things from stores or service providers where not even a feeble attempt at creating an ongoing relationship is made. I think the thinking is “We did OK, he’ll be back.” Well, maybe and then again maybe not.

So, what can companies do from a marketing standpoint to start the process of building trust within the minds of their current and prospective customers?  Here are eight thought-starters:

  1. Be transparent in your marketing! Never promise anything you can’t follow through with! Don’t have a great offer but with a string attached that’s a deal breaker for most people.  Make it simple, straightforward and beneficial.
  2. Let customers know of organizations you are members of as well as awards/accomplishments your company has achieved. On your website, you can link to many of these organizations. A little bit of acknowledging someone else never hurts.
  3. Be involved with a worthwhile cause not because it might look good but because it’s important to help others. Find a cause that might be relevant to local needs (i.e collect old coats for the needy), or a cause that’s close to your heart (i.e. Special Olympics).
  4. Follow up with customers to make sure they are happy with your product or service. The worst thing that could happen would be for an unhappy customer to post a negative comment about your business transaction on Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, AngiesList, etc.
  5. Think creatively about what you can guarantee that will make you stand out. For example, tell customers you’ll return every inquiry within 12 hours or that all appointments will be met on-time. State some facts that distinguish you from the competition and fulfill them over and over again.
  6. Watch your language and avoid puffery. Your “state-of-the-art” new widget will not “revolutionize” business or “totally change” life as we know it. Consumers have seen and heard it all. You can also use humor to crack the trust wall so long as it’s on message and makes customers remember you.
  7. Treat employees the way you want them to interact with customers and you’ll be developing brand ambassadors. Everywhere employees go, they will talk up the benefits of your company.
  8. Be sure your marketing materials come across as authentic..not cheesy, cheap or full of clichés. Oh, and make sure that they look and sound better than your competitors’. People take their cues on whether to trust/do business with a company based on what the marketing/advertising looks like and where it’s placed. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish.

So, while we as marketers understand that we’re in the business of helping drive revenue for the company among other challenges, let’s not lose track of the fact that it’s always easier to derive sales from an existing customer versus that of a new customer. And that only happens if they trust you. And they’ll only trust you if you look and act the part. Don’t have your company be a “poser”…you’ll be found out!

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