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What is TRUST and where does it come from?

by: Bryan Mann-Entzel, Creative Lead, and Sara Harrell, Insights Strategist at Greater Thought

There is an old saying that “Trust is the ultimate human currency, it’s earned in drops and lost in buckets.” The essence is that it takes time to build trust with anyone unfamiliar with you. Conversely, it can be obliterated in a moment if you aren’t careful.

Trust is complex. It includes consistency, sincerity, reliability, competence, commitment, and integrity. The real obstacle is, that we don’t start out with all of these things. They have to be earned, established and verified one relationship at a time.

When we look at what this means for brands and businesses like ourselves and the people we work with, much of our brand work is spent on what I would call foundational messages. Affirming the quality, purpose, and principles of the brand. You can’t expect someone to start working with you simply because they need what you sell. We have learned that over time, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” We spend far more of our time on relationship building because most of our viable leads come through existing networks, word-of-mouth, and more specifically “past history with us and those who refer us”.  That has a lot to do with the type of thing we are selling–creative services. It can be hard to understand to some. It is the relationship that the client is buying with us. And it still has to pass the need, value, and readiness tests too. Spending our resources on traditional advertising and media buys didn’t fully cut it because the trust, or personal connection wasn’t there yet.

Conversely, for more transactional things like buying lunch, there is a whole different set of factors that influence that decision. The sandwich shop may say, “The best sandwich you’ll have all year.” Do we trust that assertion? Maybe or maybe not but overall, it is a lower pricepoint, shorter engagement, and more of a basic need so we rationalize”I’m hungry, this new place sounds interesting, I’ve seen their advertising–so I’ll give them a shot.” If the experience is good, it reinforces the messaging that was put out but if it doesn’t live up to its promise, we gripe for a while and move on.

With businesses that rely on long-arch relationships, we are much less likely to trust that same sort of messaging. “The hardest working attorney you’ll ever find.” This approach doesn’t land in most cases because we haven’t established the trust needed yet. But imagine if that same attorney had a series of messages such as:

• We work hard for you

• A team with 60+ years of collective experience in business law

• We strive to be a true partner for you

• Fair rates and your first consult is free

Now you’ve learned a bit more to make an informed decision about this business and if you have a friend who recommends them on top of that… you may be ready to have a conversation with them.

There are a few key parts to trust. The first is ESTABLISHING trust. Things like past relevant experience/portfolio, high profile clients, referrals/word-of-mouth, and your messaging (brand position, mission, principles, tagline) all can help with establishing trust.

Next, there is REINFORCING trust. Things like reviews, word-of-mouth, and direct experience with you and your brand, all help to reinforce that trust early-on in a conversation. The real difficult thing is, all along the way, you are investing time and resources just to get to that next step.

The third factor of trust is EARNED or sometimes looked at as LEGACY, and that refers to a reputation. Big brands spend millions to build that earned legacy/reputation. Think of brands like TIDE, TARGET, WHIRLPOOL, WEBER, or CADILLAC. These brands have become known for quality and consistency over time. But what about services? HR BLOCK, AMEX AMERICAN FAMILY INSURANCE, and MAYO are a few that come to mind. Their reputations as experts are well known.

So how do we get there as smaller brands?

  1. Be honest, and forthright in service
  2. Brand yourself well and advertise when you can
  3. Encourage word-of-mouth and referrals as well as ask for reviews.
  4. Talk about your purpose, and your WHY as a business/brand more than what you sell. What is your WHY? We will cover this in a future post.
  5. If you lose trust, don’t panic but do a reasonable amount of mitigating–Try to make it right but know when to move on too.

Would you like our help with your business with regard to what we’ve talked about here? Let’s connect.

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