The primary goal of marketing is to create and maintain a deep connection between the brand and the customer. This is achieved by understanding the customer, communicating to their needs and challenges, demonstrating expertise, and building trust in the brand as a reliable entity that will deliver as promise. The trust element of this equation has gained visibility in recent years, but often people overlook what it truly means to develop and deliver the trust factor in marketing. Often it is because they focus on only one element of building trust, or they don’t really understand what builds trust in the first place.
Trust in marketing is a function of 5 key elements: listening, authenticity, accountability, time, and integrity. Understanding and cultivating each of these elements will help you build trust and deepen that connection with your customer.
Building the Trust Factor in Marketing
When people feel heard and seen, they trust that the brand and its people not only care, but really understand who they are and what they need. Listening requires creating channels and opportunities for customers to provide feedback, checking with the customers directly to verify that you actually understand what they are saying, and using that information to make concrete and visible changes in how you operate and what you provide. The more you give customers a voice, hear what customers are really saying, and apply that feedback into your business, the more customers will remain loyal and supportive of your business.
From a marketing perspective, listening entails customer feedback surveys and interviews, social listening, and customer focus groups, then taking that information and distilling it into actionable insights. It also means starting your marketing message by speaking to the customer’s problems and their perspective on the need, then following up with your positioning as the solution. Too many brands skip the problem and customer perspective altogether and jump to their solution. Customers see themselves in the problem or need, not in what you are selling. You have to meet them where they are first, then you can guide them to your product or service.
As a brand, it’s critical that you are clear and honest about who you are and what you do. You can’t be everything to everyone and be real (or effective). You also can’t be guarded or overly constructed. "Raw" and "real" beat "polished" and "closed-off" personas any day of the week. An overly polished and bland brand doesn’t feel real and honest to us. Neither does a brand that tries too hard to be like its competitors or to pander to what it thinks we want. Define your unique voice and own it. Then people will believe you.
In terms of marketing, authenticity manifests in a number of ways. First, through the power of personal brands. Giving your employees a voice and a platform creates a more personal and honest view of the company and its expertise. People connect with people, not logos or values statements. The more people you give your customers to connect to, the better. Authenticity also means capturing the real and honest moments in the company without having to always run everything through four rounds of edits and hours of production. Facebook Live, unscripted interviews, candid photos, heartfelt stories about employees and customers, and sharing community events all help to show the real company as it lives and breathes on a day to day basis.
Trust is never more fragile than when things go wrong. Trust is broken when the brand doesn’t take ownership for its mistakes and do what’s right. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about acknowledging when you aren’t perfect, communicating it immediately, honestly, and clearly and taking the steps to rectify the situation. If you do, you will actually strengthen the relationship and deepen trust, no matter how big the infraction.
Marketing helps demonstrate accountability by sharing communications immediately when an issue occurs and highlighting customer service resolutions through case studies and testimonials. When there is an issue, communication is critical for rebuilding trust and connection with customers. Marketing serves as the conduit for that communication.
This is often the most overlooked and underappreciated element of trust in marketing. Brands want instant results. They want a single ad, email, or blog post to trigger a purchase. But the truth is it takes time to build trust. The larger the purchase, the more risk and investment are involved, and the more time it takes to build trust with the customer.
Marketers generally understand that it takes time to build trust and to build up enough brand awareness and desire in the customer’s mind. We usually have to sell clients and supervisors on the time factor. Digital marketing tools and data that help to communicate not only the number of engagements per customer, but that also show the growth in the number of customers engaging with marketing assets, the many channels customers engage in, and the correlation to sales, will help build the case for continued investment in marketing efforts.
C.S. Lewis said, “Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.” It’s also about doing the same things consistently. We don’t trust a company that is always changing opinions, chasing fads, or sporadically sending out emails and posts. We trust the brand that is unwavering in their message, in how and where they show up, and in what they do every time we interact with them.
Marketing helps demonstrate integrity through clear and consistent messaging, along with posting and communicating on websites, social media, and email in regular intervals. Marketing also helps by developing content that provides value to the customer before the transaction, through educational articles, templates and checklists, demonstration videos, and other useful information and tools.
It is difficult to build trust without having all of these factors. The more that a customer trusts the brand, the more likely they are to not only buy, but to tell others to buy too. If you make it a point to be real, show up consistently, and always put the customer’s needs ahead of the sale, trust will grow and so will your revenue.