Think on the most important relationships in life, and chances are a core theme runs through each – trust. It’s the basis of friendships, the essential driver of long-term associations and in consumerism it’s the foundation of customer loyalty.
Trust is the factor that ensures we continue our association with people and products. It’s why we turn to a particular person when in need, the reason we select one product over another time and again. It’s why we stay with the same bank or continue to patronise the same airline, restaurant or hotel chain.
At Openseed, our services are built on a foundation of trust – not only in the way we service our own clients but in the marketing strategies we employ on their behalf.
We create, build and nurture trust through marketing strategies that are clear, visible and open to the consumer while focusing on credibility and a personalised customer experience. We do so in the knowledge that trust converts the interested to the committed, and that when this trust within a relationship is consistently honoured, prospective consumers become customers for life.
At Openseed we call this “trust-driven marketing”, and here’s an insight into why it is the core foundation of what we do…
The elements of trust
As Psychology Today explains, trust in any relationship is built on a series of five essential elements:
- Knowing yourself and your intentions
- Ensuring your actions match your words
- Being sincere about your reactions
- Being open to feedback
- Accepting another as separate and different
In marketing and branding, that framework might look slightly different and the terminology more consumer-focused, but the ethos remains the same. Building trust in a brand is about:
- Outlining your brand identity and its values through your mission, vision and brand story
- Ensuring your product or service does what you say it will, and the customer experience meets expectations
- Engaging in an open, meaningful, two-way conversation with your consumer
- Eliciting, welcoming and responding to feedback
- Understanding your consumer and their changing needs
So where do you start? How do you build then accelerate trust?
Creating trust through first contact and brand identity
No relationship starts from a point of implicit trust. It is a valuable commodity which must be earned then nurtured. Gaining trust is about “getting to know each other”, and in marketing this starts with transparency about who you are as a brand and a deep understanding of your consumer.
Your brand identity speaks to who you are and what you stand for as a company. It is your vision and mission, your point of difference and your corporate values.
Creating a true brand identity sees all these factors encapsulated into not just what you say but how you present yourself through imagery, logo, design and text.
A brand identity will answer the following questions:
- Beyond the practical, everyday things that your business does, why does it exist?
- What motivates you and your team to do what you do, beyond just making money?
- How are you different to or better than your competition?
- What will you deliver?
- Why would a consumer pick you?
Creating a brand identity requires an understanding of who you are, where you want to go, how you are different to your competition, and the barriers a consumer would need to overcome to pick you.
Once established, this brand identity is the first point of contact potential clientele have with a business, and the memorable moment they continue to recall.
Whether or not you live up to the promise of your brand identity is how you continue to build a relationship based on trust.
Know your customer
No relationship occurs in isolation, it is two parties interacting, which means a deep understanding of who your consumer is and what they want is essential.
The best way of defining this is through a customer persona. Akin to having an imaginary friend in the room when making business, branding and marketing decisions, a customer persona is a very specific profile of who your customer is, how they spend their time, what they believe and how they live.
Critically, this customer persona will give you an insight into how your consumer makes decisions and where their pain-points lie. The customer persona then becomes your target audience for marketing, in the knowledge this is the person you are conversing with.
Creating a customer persona involves asking the following questions:
- How does your customer spend most of an average day?
- What is their disposable income?
- What brands are they attracted to?
- What is their position on a specific issue?
- What are their priorities in life?
- Which sources of information do they trust?
- What are the keywords that indicate who they are?
- What quote sums up their frame of thinking?
- What goals do they strive to meet?
Once you know who you are and who your customer is, trust-driven marketing creates an initial point of interaction and works to build a relationship.
Building trust through trust-driven marketing
It’s not enough to just get your product out there. It’s not enough to simply get eyeballs on what you’re selling. Trust, not exposure, is the currency of today. (Entrepreneur.com)
When you have an implicit understanding of who you are and the consumer that you’re talking to, the journey of establishing and building trust begins.
Our approach to trust-driven marketing sees Openseed break this down into specific areas that are designed to establish an open dialogue between the business and consumer built on personalisation, openness, credibility, and the customer experience.
Courtesy of your customer persona you know exactly who your consumer is, what’s likely to interest them and where they source their information.
Now it’s about meeting their information needs through interesting content that’s tailored to them. In other words, you need to “speak their language” about topics that matter in their world.
Known as personalised content, it’s all about tailoring your message to the audience you want, or as the Content Marketing Institute explains:
“Content personalisation is a strategy that exploits visitor or prospect data to deliver relevant content based on the interests and preferences of the target audience.”
The likelihood is you will be serving up this personalised content across a number of spheres, including:
- Website content
- Social media
- Email marketing
Regardless of which avenue you are targeting, the key aim of all content is to be interesting and engaging to your specific market through topics that:
- Kick start a conversation or ignite debate about topics or issues dear to them
- Answer questions they may have
- Help them make a decision
- Offer them something specific that they personally like
All these add up to serve a variety of aims, including giving credibility to your business, establishing you as an authority, ensuring you’re the first point of reference for information or just an interesting place to “hang out”.
When coupled with inherently personal mediums like email, this adds up further, and according to statistics, there’s great value in building trust through personalisation:
- A Demand Metric study from 2016 found that 80 per cent of marketers say personalised content is more effective than “unpersonalised” content. (Source: Contently)
- A study from the Aberdeen Group found 75 per cent of customers like it when brands personalise messages and offers. (Source: Salesforce)
- One third of email recipients open email based on subject line alone, and personalised subject lines have 26 per cent higher open rates than non-personalized emails. Then, once open, personalised emails improve click-through rates by 14 per cent and conversion rates by 10 per cent. (Source: The CMO Show)
- Over 30% of Amazon’s revenue comes from personalised recommendations, and around 75 per cent of Netflix’s rental sales are due to targeted suggestions. (Source: The CMO Show)
While personalisation is no doubt effective, the art comes down to ensuring it’s done well, while respecting a consumer’s sense of privacy.
Transparency and openness
In any relationship, it’s important to feel both parties are open, authentic and transparent in their motives and actions. In the digital age where so many businesses vie for consumer attention, this is particularly important.
As Adweek explains, in many ways the free flow of information offered by the internet has created an “age of distrust”.
“Fake news infiltrates the media daily. It inundates social media feeds and tempts with the most appealing of clickbait headlines. For marketing’s underbelly, it has been a gold mine, but it has come at the cost of trust and consumer confidence.
“Never before has the general public been so skeptical of absolutely everything, let alone marketing and advertising. Edelman’s 2017 Trust Barometer reported the largest-ever drop in trust across the institutions of government, business, media and NGOs.”
So how do you go about addressing this level of skepticism? By being open, honest and accountable about what you do through the information you provide.
Entrepreneur explains: “Transparency in business requires entrepreneurs to remain open and informative about key points of information, including their business’s goals, history, performance and operations.”
Offering this achieves measurable results.
A recent study by Label Insight found up to 94 per cent of consumers surveyed said they were more likely to be loyal to a brand that offers transparency, while 73 per cent said they were willing to pay more for a product that offers complete transparency.
In marketing terms this means everything from your vision and mission to contact information should be clear. It also gives scope for engaging content about how your products are made, where they come from and who is involved. Who is the team behind your company, what do they offer, what drives them each day?
Meanwhile, the internet and social media offers a further avenue to foster this open communication. It provides a public space to communicate with your audience clearly and transparently.
Tips for using this to effect include:
- Setting up alerts through Google or other tools to monitor your media mentions and address any issues accordingly.
- Featuring a Frequently Asked Questions page on your website and updating it regularly based on feedback.
- Opening up your blog page to comments and feedback
- Monitoring your social media page and responding to comments
- Using a social media monitoring tool to address brand, product or service mentions
As Adweek explains: brands that regularly engage with their customers directly through social media, forums, message boards and review platforms end up with a built-in marketing team made up of their own customers.
Meanwhile, it’s important to understand modern communication is a conversation with a consumer, not a one-way affair. Which means you should actively welcome and invite your audience in with content that inspires them and engages them, and then respond to them when they take the time to make comments or embrace discussion.
And the truth is if you’re in an open conversation with your client base, they’re more likely to trust you and keep you front of mind.
Credibility is critically important for any business looking to build trust and content-wise it evolves in two very different ways:
- Through the message you send your consumers
- Through the message consumers convey about you
The message you send your consumer
Any trust-driven marketing strategy will partly be about establishing your authority within your industry and sector.
It will involve content that speaks to your knowledge, expertise and insight. This strategy ranges from tips your prospective consumer might be interested in to general commentary on the state of an industry or its future trends.
All these content types add up to paint your brand as a go-to place for insight and knowledge, and done correctly, it also helps your marketing develop a compounding effect.
When your brand is an authority with credible information and insight it is more likely to be noticed by influencers like bloggers, journalists, researchers and industry conference organisers. This exposure helps generate valuable third-party endorsement or earned media which then works to add further credibility to your brand.
The art of creating credible content is about keeping your finger on the pulse, reacting with commentary when required, ensuring your content is well-researched and offers valuable, fact-driven information that educates your consumer.
The message consumers convey about you
Perhaps even more important than what you say about yourself is what consumers tell others about you. In other words what is your reputation?
In many ways reputation, including reviews and recommendations, embraces the age old tradition of word of mouth, but in a social media age, the effect is amplified, as Adweek explains:
“As consumer trust decreases, reliance on people increases. More specifically, reliance on the opinions of peers. According to Edelman’s research, a person like yourself is just as credible for information as academics or experts about a company or brand.”
Meanwhile, a host of further statistics back this claim:
- When making a purchase, 92 per cent of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising. In fact, they trust their friends and family nine times more than they trust advertising. (Source: Salesforce)
- Half of all adults are now routinely checking online reviews before making a purchasing decision. (source: Pew Research Center)
- 78 per cent of people who read online reviews find them reliable (Source ReportLinker).
- 88 per cent of consumers trust online review sites as much as personal recommendations (Source BrightLocal. Additionally, 69 per cent of consumers like to read product reviews written by trusted experts before making a purchase.
So how do you elicit recommendations and reviews?
These days many consumers are highly-versed in online reviews on Google and social media, but it also doesn’t hurt to ask existing customers to review your business.
Meanwhile other strategies include:
- Encouraging feedback through online surveys and prompts
- Highlighting your website or social media feedback page on receipts and correspondence
- Offering incentives to people who take the time to review your business
- Actively requesting written reviews from customers who have enjoyed a positive experience with your business.
Handling the negative
We’d all like to think every interaction with our business was positive, but the truth is you can’t please all the people all the time.
It’s what you do with a negative review of your company that counts, or in the words of Bill Gates “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”.
So, what do you do when the reviews don’t reflect well? In this instance openness and transparency are paramount. If your business has negative reviews, address them quickly and proactively in a bid to remedy the problem or make up for the poor experience.
Responding to a negative review in a timely manner shows you care, are open to feedback, are looking to do better and value their experience as a customer.
Importantly, acknowledging and responding to negative reviews indicates you are fallible, yet responsive, transparent and authentic. And yes, that works to build trust.
As former British Airways vice-president Donald Porter once famously said: “Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong”.
Customer service might feature late in this article, but arguably it’s the most important element of any business interaction.
You can say what you want about what you stand for, what you offer and the service you provide, but the ultimate test is in the experience a customer has with your brand.
Trust and customer service go hand-in-hand because it is the experience a customer has with your business where you have the opportunity to honour your word.
As a business this means any marketing message you have must be backed by the methods you employ to do business including the staff you select, the products and services you offer, and the professionalism you display.
Together, these factors add up to create the customer experience during a personal interaction with your operation.
A positive customer experience including good service, professionalism and attention to the customer needs allows your business to create fans. And these fans become your greatest advocates in terms of recommendations, reviews and word of mouth.
Meanwhile, a poor customer experience is also likely to be shared through reviews and ratings.
A research report from Zendesk illustrates exactly how this works. They note:
- Survey participants ranked customer service as the number one factor impacting vendor trust
- 62 per cent of business-to-business (B2B) and 42 per cent of business-to-consumer (B2B) customers purchased more after a good customer service experience
- 66 per cent of B2B and 52 per cent of B2C customers stopped buying after a bad customer service interaction
- 24 per cent continue to seek out vendors two or more years after a good experience
- 39 per cent continue to avoid vendors two or more years after a bad experience
And the truth is people are more likely to share a bad customer experience than a good, with 95 per cent sharing a negative experience and 87 per cent sharing a positive one.
Importantly, social media and internet are driving this trends, with 58 per cent of people more likely to tell others about their customer services experiences today than they were five years ago.
Almost half (45 per cent) share bad customer service experiences and 30 per cent share good customer service experiences via social media.
At Openseed we establish and build a reputation of trust for our clientele. We start with a conversation about your brand, your business, where you are now and where you wish to go. We work to build a brand identity through logos, text and websites that espouse your business ethos.
We help you identify your ideal consumer and initiate targeted marketing strategies to ascertain where they are and what interests them.
We further employ trust-driven marketing using content to establish your business as a credible authority in your field, while catering to your specific audience’s information needs on the mediums that suit them best.
We seek to engage this audience with relevant, timely content that allows for feedback and a two-way conversation.
Importantly, we track what works and what does not, in a tireless bid to honour not only the trust you have in us, but the trust you have built with your consumer.