“Do our users trust us?” It’s a hard question that many businesses neglect to ask, maybe because they want to avoid the answer. But the answer can help shape many strategic and necessary shifts in customer care, product, sales, and marketing.
Why is trust important? It seems like an obvious answer, but if a prospective customer doesn’t trust you, they won’t buy. Or, they won’t buy again. Or, they won’t recommend you to others. Or, worse, they’ll proactively bash you online. You get the point… while building trust is only part of your marketing goals, building trust touches many parts of your business.
If you need more proof that building trust is important, there are plenty of studies that show it’s effectiveness (we compiled a bunch of stats here). For instance, according to Gartner, business buyers say that references are the second highest purchasing influencer, only behind direct interactions with the provider.
How do buyers learn the most about your business? From you, of course, and the relationship you build with them during the purchasing process. However, almost all buyers are looking for other ways to truly trust you.
A former dean and professor at MIT Sloan School of Management defined trust-based marketing as building consumer relationships through trustworthy dialogue and unbiased information. Customer advocacy is at the core of this theory in order to help buyers make informed decisions based on equitable advice. Because, customers want validation from others that everything you’ve told them is true (cue case studies, recommendations from others, referral networks, etc.)
If you’re asking yourself how you can build a business that fosters trust, we pulled together a few tips:
Transparency is all the rage these days in circles of emerging and high-growth companies. The thought process being that the more you share, the more others can learn from your experience. This type of transparency can trickle through to marketing, sales and customer care practices, as well. People appreciate transparency because it’s about the good and the bad.
If sharing “the bad” scares you, you can always soften the narrative. Create brand and voice guidelines so your team knows what’s on and off limits to share. Incorporate transparency into your messaging and marketing activities to start to create that relationship with your prospects and users.
Be real, be human
Sounds similar to transparency, right? Kind of. Our friends at Drift do a great job of explaining the importance of being real in marketing, specifically copy & messaging, and it translates. The biggest takeaway is that users want to be spoken to online and offline like you would IRL. You can excel at this by listening to your customers and using the phrases and words that they use to describe your product or service. Clearly, those aspects of your business are resonating.
Proof is one of the most important aspects of building trust. In the book No B-S Trust-Based Marketing, the authors highlight five basic kinds of proof as it relates to your business:
- Proof of concept – Why is your idea a good one? What’s the demand and why?
- Proof of personal relevance – What customer segments do you need to convince? Do you have existing customers within this segment that can vouch for you?
- Proof of promised benefits and outcomes – Can you demo your solution so prospects can see and feel how it could affect them?
- Proof of superiority – Can you gain third party validation (reviews, PR, analysts, etc.) that your solution is the best option out there?
- Proof of concept – (yes, this is a repeat) Can you combine all these types of proof to overwhelmingly tip the scales in your favor?
Nurture users and be personal where possible
In high-growth-startup-world it’s easy to get locked into your metrics (daily active users, lifetime value, customer acquisition cost – the list could go on and on) but remember that these users are people. They’re taking time out of their very busy day to give you a shot. Take the time out of your day to show appreciation for your most loyal fans. When you’re smaller in size, it can be a small token of appreciation like a note from the CEO thanking them and asking for feedback. As you grow, look into loyalty programs that scale and represent your brand.
Build social capital
Sure, you have your master list of customers but who are your fans? Social capital is the community you build around you, based on trust, where transactions are reciprocal and for the common good of the network. If you have a loyal customer, get to know them and figure out other ways that you can bring value. This can be anything from introducing them to influencers, sending a new hire their way, leveraging their solution for your own business, trading services, writing recommendations, and more.
Creating these tight-knit circles of trust-based transactions has a direct correlation on your growth and you’re never too big to build that network. In fact, the wider social capital net you cast, the better.
Listen, then act on feedback
Let’s be honest, with all of your interactions with users, you’re bound to hear constructive criticism. Take each comment seriously and try to understand where the user is coming from so you can make the experience better for them – and for others – in the future. Feedback is critical for any business, but in the early and growth stages, it can save you months or even years in testing and tinkering with go-to-market strategies, messaging, sales, product development/design, and more.
If you can, express to your users if, when, and how you’ll be incorporating their feedback. Such two-way communication goes an incredibly long way in building trust and garnering recommendations from your user base.
How are you incorporating trust into your business? Let us know at hello (at) ventureapp (dot) com.
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