Ask the experts: Establishing trust through marketing

Monday, December 20, 2010

Q: How can I develop a marketing strategy that helps establish the trust necessary to convince prospective customers to buy from me?

DANA HUKEL, President and CEO of BOLD Marketing: There are several strategies businesses can employ to foster an environment of trust with existing and potential customers. The most important of these is consistency, which encompasses both an internal and external perspective.

Externally, the marketing messages you portray to the public or business sector must be consistent. They must support your brand and hold true to the main strategic objective of the company. Consistent messaging in promotions, advertising, scripting and sales will lead to an increased comfort level the consumer has with your business and its product/service. Much like the Nike swoosh depicts feelings of trust, reliability and high quality, your brand can generate the same with consistency and patience.

Internally, the feeling of trust through consistency must apply to whether or not your business and its employees deliver (consistently) on the ad promise. Be honest. Be predictable in what will be promised and actually delivered. Admit mistakes. If you develop an internal culture of trust, your consumers will have their expectations consistently met or exceeded once they act on an advertisement or promotion.

Other strategies to establish trust through marketing messages include:

* Provide valuable information to your prospects up front, so they perceive you as an expert. The more value you provide, the more trust you build.

* Trust increases gradually. It takes five or more high-value interactions with a prospect before they trust a business.

* Trust is based on "pull," not "push." You build trust when you give prospects the opportunity to choose whether or not to take advantage of the information and insights you can offer.

* Trust is fragile. Again, be consistent in what you promise and deliver.

* Your newsletter, social media, public speaking, quality media mentions and articles, and testimonials can help establish trust.

* Authenticity and empathy build trust. Prospects want to work with professionals who can step in their shoes and understand the results they are trying to achieve.

* Trust can also be developed by being an adviser, giving open and honest advice about how to move forward.

DREW JANES, Owner/producer of Relentless Media Productions: Trust is a major determining factor to gain respect, confidence and loyalty from your customers. Your approach to gaining that trust will be crucial as to how your potential customers feel about your company and your brand. It was once common that most people made their purchasing decisions based on the best deal that a sales pitch could promise and less on the brand, character and emotional connection with that business. Today, businesses should lean on finding ways to connect with their customers and not just communicate to them. This connection is the foundation to gaining trust, just as it is in any relationship. For businesses, this means that they have to be a resource for customers, not just a place of purchase, which helps establish them as a"trust agent." Authors Chris Brogan and Julian Smith define a trust agent as those who "build networks almost reflexively by being helpful, by promoting the good work that others do, by sharing even their best stuff without hesitation, and by finding ways to deliver even more value on top of all that without asking for anything in return."

To establish the trust necessary to convince prospective customers, businesses need to connect with their customers in a way that is beyond the ads and create a realistic approach to reaching customers. The key is to be a valuable resource that they will continue to come back to for answers as well as products or services. Those are the customers that remain loyal and become your biggest fans and at the same time promote your brand in a way you, as the business owner, never could.

GERA LEGRAND, Promotion specialist at the Southeast Missourian: The answer to this question involves not only your advertising schedule and your advertising message but your entire Marketing Bridge. The Marketing Bridge was developed by Norton Warner in 1968. I was introduced to it in the 1980s and find it is still most applicable to the success of businesses today. Marketers should not be without a copy of the Marketing Bridge tool.

The Marketing Bridge, simply defined, illustrates all the forces that combine to make a sale. Ultimately, the Marketing Bridge illustrates all the aspects of marketing a business owners must examine and manage to be successful. Thus, to be trusted. While advertising is an important part your Marketing Bridge, it is no more important than the other parts. The other categories (or links) within the Marketing Bridge are: personal selling, merchandising, price/value ratio, and your business, which includes such crucial items as the quality of your products, your location, your parking, your service and your business vitality.

While simple, a complete explanation of the Marketing Bridge is not possible in the space here. So, to get to perhaps what most readers would interpret the crux of this question ....if you have a solid Marketing Bridge, then developing trust, or conveying trustworthiness, through advertising, comes down to two elements: message and consistency.

To convey trust, your message must be easy to understand, simple and straightforward, yet meaningful. You must effectively communicate your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Make sure your message is believable. The best way to get people to trust you is to tell the truth. So do not advertise what you cannot deliver on! Avoid using clichés, such as "a tradition of quality service" or "our people make the difference" or "for all your _ needs." Those statements can be, and pretty much have been, used by so many businesses that they mean nothing to your consumer.

To convey trust, you must consistently communicate your USP to the consumers. You must advertise with frequency and with diligence. Advertise your message with consistency; do not advertise one month then stop for months. The more the consumers know about you, the more they will begin to trust you. Repetition builds reputation.

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