This week’s blog explains why you should strategically build trust in the right places to maximise impact, brand reach and market sway.
Building a trusted brand is critical in a digital age, but why should you have a strategy and laser-sharp focus of where and how you do so?
Firstly, we live in a ‘trust economy, where reputational capital is crucial. To illustrate, look no further than the airline industry and its recent impact on share price and reputation. Trust and reputation are particularly relevant when affecting millions of dollars in company worth.
The impact of trust is scalable to small and medium-sized businesses too. One poor ‘Google My Business’ review or tweet can have a significant negative spill-on effect.
The old marketing maxim that ‘a happy customer will tell one person about you, but an unhappy customer will tell five’ now vastly understates the case. If you’ve upset a customer who happens to have fifty thousand Twitter followers…well, you have a serious problem on your hands.
Why the baseline standard is not enough
The traditional way to build reputation and trust is delivering on your promises and providing great customer service - but that’s not enough. These are baseline expectations in today’s transparent, competitive marketplace which if not met, will lead your customers to leave and tell everyone why.
Beyond the basics
But while it’s always critical to meet the basic expectations, why should you take it further and actively build trust within your market? It creates customer delight, which really makes a brand stand out.
A colleague of mine recently shared a story that brings this to life. He and his wife went to dinner with another couple on the spur of the moment. When they suggested one of Sydney’s best restaurants, my colleague didn’t think they’d get a table at such short notice. What he hadn’t realised was that his friend’s partner was one of Australia’s leading food bloggers. Every major restauranteur in Sydney knows her, and she can get a table anywhere, at a moment’s notice. Restauranteurs understand the impact that one of her reviews can have: a poor one can seriously impact business while a positive review is gold.
The principle of trust is why so many large corporations focus on Net Promoter Score (NPS) as their key non-financial metric. NPS is a figure calculated by asking just one crucial question: ‘How likely is it you would recommend us to a friend?’ Every major bank, airline and telco tracks this figure relentlessly, which speaks to the value of trust and reputation in today’s economy.
So if great customer service only gives you the right to be in the game, how else can you build trust? There are two ideal situations to do so:
1. When customers really need you; and
2. When they don’t
Never waste a crisis
Churchill famously said “Never let a crisis go to waste.” If a customer is in real difficulty and you can help, you should. It’s the right thing to do and an exceptional opportunity to earn trust. Think like a customer and what you would expect and appreciate.
But sometimes systems can work against you
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos writes passionately about ‘distrusting proxies’. What he means is that companies often put processes in place originally intended to improve customer service or business results. However, over time, staff start focusing more on the process and lose track of the actual outcome it was put in place to achieve. To remedy this, smart companies are starting to throw away long detailed policies and replacing them with simple statements of intent. Here is Netflix’s entire staff travel policy:
'Act in Netflix’s best interests.'
That’s it. No forty-two page document with exceptions and sub-clauses. Just a simple statement to do whatever it takes. There are exceptions when you should override the rules to get the customer out of a bind, and these are golden moments to build authentic trust.
Add value and expertise to build credibility and trust, even when they don’t need you – yet.
To draw water from a well, you must first fill it. The same principle applies to trusted relationships. Rather than focusing on what customers and prospects can do for your business, think about what value you can give them. Then, when there comes a time they do require your services, they will turn to your brand first before looking to others.
There are many, many ways to do this. Just a few examples are:
- Include free case studies on your website that focus on addressing common customer problems. Make sure it’s written in a way that focuses on the customer and their business, not on your products and services. This can be harder to do than it seems: a good marketing agency can really help.
- Write articles and blogs on relevant third party websites covering topics of interest to your customers and prospects. When doing this, remember to follow the golden rule of content marketing: to never talk about yourself, rather focusing on the customer and their issues. Again, this is challenging to get right, so consider getting professional help.
- Help people to connect. If you’re speaking with a prospect or customer who has an issue that is unrelated to your business, and you know someone who can help them, make the introduction (and don’t ask for anything in return). It’s an incredibly powerful way to build goodwill, and it will feel pretty good too.
Step outside your office
Volunteer, connect, meet and engage. All of this will build your network. Complexity theory tells us that the more active we are in a system, the more likely that opportunities will present themselves. Sometimes it can be hard to predict what positives will flow from a particular activity, but show up and things are more likely to happen.
Finally, trust is built on relationships. So don’t just get to know customers and prospects from a business perspective. Get to know them as people. Find common ground to remove walls and build trust. If you focus just on the transaction, your relationships will be transactional. Instead, build richer connections with your customers and focus on building collaborative partnerships that bring greater value. If you haven’t yet, take the time to read Dale Carnegie’s classic 'How to Win Friends and Influence People'. Written in 1936, its key tenets still hold true today.
Trust is the crucial currency in today’s business world. Technology and social media are powerful platforms to reach your market, so combine these and the fundamentals of building effective relationships and you’ll be positioning your business for sustained success.
Revel Gordon is a Sydney-based executive coach and facilitator with clients including Google and Atlassian. He is also a director of the International Coach Federation Australasia.
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