It might sound strange, but the most valuable commodity in business isn’t money, it’s trust.
As a vital component of all positive relationships, building and maintaining trust is an organisational responsibility on par with strategic planning, financial awareness, and staff well-being.
It’s a simple equation: if customers don’t trust you, they won’t buy from you. And if you don’t sell, you don’t survive.
But in the era of fake news, clickbait, and the increasing frustration that stems from online advertising and privacy concerns, earning trust is harder than ever.
According to The Edelman Trust Barometer 2018, public trust in businesses has been falling steadily since 2013, and a study from HubSpot found that only 3% of people considered marketers and salespeople trustworthy.
So, what can you do?
Well, for starters, you can build trust via the medium of content. Here is a handful of ways how.
1. Banish jargon
Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
– George Orwell
Jargon, gibberish, acronym-
While, once upon a time, it was believed industry-speak made you seem more informed, that myth has been repeatedly busted – with most, if not all, studies finding the inverse to be true.
Today, the epidemic of business jargon suggests two things: either the user has no real concept of what they’re talking about, or they’re trying to pull a proverbial ‘fast one’.
As neither of these alternatives flatters you or your organisation, removal of jargon in its totality is the best answer.
2. Discuss your limitations
If something seems too good to be true, it probably is...
– My Dad (among others)
Your customers aren’t ignorant. They know the world isn’t perfect. And, what’s more, they know your products or services aren’t either.
Sometimes, to help convince your consumers that you’re the best at ‘activity A’, you may need to concede that you’re not so hot at ‘activity B’.
And, while this may sound counter-intuitive, it all stems from the human psyche.
A report from Spiegel Research Centre found that, for products with a star-rating review system, the likelihood of purchase peaks at a star rating of 4.0-4.7, then decreases violently as the rating gets closer to 5.0.
Meanwhile, a study of B2B buyers found that positive-only reviews come across as disingenuous, with 40% reporting that negative reviews can significantly help to build credibility for a product.
Discussing your product candidly, warts and all, ensures you come across as honest, genuine, and trustworthy.
And, considering that 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business anyway, pretending to be something you’re not will only hinder, not help, your cause.
3. Partner with trusted influencers
Recommended by dentists.
– Every toothpaste advert ever
Is it strange for a company to promote the views of a profession that directly benefits from the shortcomings of its products?
Does it work as a marketing tool anyway?
And for many businesses, the quickest way to gain trust is to partner alongside those who already have it.
This can range from content collaboration such as webinars, e-books, and blogs to outbound promotional collateral like direct mail and adverts.
No matter the industry you inhabit, there’ll always be an authoritative figure or trusted influencer for you to work alongside.
The easy part is finding out who they are; the tough part is convincing them that it’s in their interests.
4. Promote case studies
The best way to show that a stick is crooked is not to argue about it or to spend time denouncing it, but to lay a straight stick alongside it.
– L. Moody
On the whole, case studies are vastly under-leveraged.
When deployed and promoted effectively, however, they operate as proof that your company can deliver on its promises.
To this end, creating an eclectic variety of case studies will demonstrate your ability to achieve consistent results for a range of clients.
But creation is really only the first step. Promoting these case studies on your website and in sales collateral will deliver vastly improved results.
Once again, Spiegel Research Centre provide the statistics – finding that having five or more reviews posted online resulted in purchase likelihood increasing by a factor of almost four times.
5. Instil brand uniformity
A brand is a voice and a product is a souvenir.
– Lisa Gansky
From sales to marketing and back again, it’s important to ensure your message is consistent.
Discrepancies in what you display, say, and produce
After all, a contradiction can just as easily be a false promise, and as soon as a consumer thinks they’re being lied to, they won’t hesitate to find the door.
To avoid such scenarios, brand marketing must be a core tenant of your wider marketing strategy, as, only with an unwavering understanding of your brand and its values, can you be assured that all communications remain true to type.
6. Teach don’t tell
Those that know, do. Those that understand, teach.
Finding unbiased information is no mean feat. Everyone has an agenda.
Which is why, on average, customers will need to review an average of 10 information sources before feeling able to trust a business.
What they’re looking for is information that’s both illuminating and impartial. They want the facts in their purest form, without the bells and whistles of clever advertising and the false promises of smart word-smithing.
It’s important, therefore, that all information you impart into the online sphere is devoid of embellishment – regardless of whether it’s advertising or content in-line with an inbound marketing strategy – as it’s only a matter of time before your customers discern the fact from the fiction.
7. Keep your word
A single lie discovered is enough to create doubt in every truth expressed.
– René Descartes (probably)
Gaining the trust of your customers is a hard-fought battle, but losing it is infinitely easier.
Over-promising, under-delivering and pushing a sale when you know, deep down, that your product’s not quite right can do irreparable harm to your brand.
Especially when you consider that you risk losing 22% of business when potential customers find one negative article on the first page of their search results.
Keep your promises, keep your customers happy, and reap the benefits as a result.