“Trust me.”

Words spoken (and written) by friends, lovers, spouses, colleagues, children, pleading pets’ eyes and even our enemies.

Most likely you put many companies in the latter group. Most certainly many of us generally put banks in that group after the last few years. (Mind you I’m referring to institutions – not specific individuals who work for them.)

We often think of anyone selling to us as an enemy…who wants our trust.

Earning, Securing and Keeping Your Trust

As a marketer, I think about customer trust a lot.

For example, I trust I haven’t lost you even though there’s been an unplanned hiatus in my weekly missives from The Cornucopian. (I’ll know shortly if my open rate or unsubscribe rate takes a great leap in negative territory. LOL)

I trust you haven’t missed my weekly emails too much (since I haven’t heard any complaints).

I trust you indulge me by reading my emails since I know you receive a zillion of them every week in your inbox.

I trust you’ll accept my apology for the break in the proceedings and move right along.

Keeping Your Trust

Obviously I’m going in reverse order here. But this is where so many companies drop the ball. They’ve earned trust, secured it, and then often blow it. How does this happen?

Let’s allow a certain amount of attrition to changes in customer needs. Perhaps someone learned all they wanted to know from you. They may be perfectly happy with your products and services, but now they’ve graduated. Hurray! That’s not losing trust. They’ll come back in a nano-second if you have what they need later.

Blowing it: First someone provided good valuable stuff; then this someone got lazy and sent out fluff, manufactured poorly. Their quality slipped, and of course, the customer noticed and left.

For awhile last month I honestly couldn’t think of something truly worthy to discuss in this newsletter. Perhaps it was because I was seeing so much cr*p land in my inbox too. It was deflating.

My mind was swimming with the thought: “You absolutely can’t ship (a Seth Godin term) a crappy email to your readers!” And that thought simultaneously dovetailed with the little devil on my other shoulder yelling this in my ear: “Herb Caen cranked out five superb columns every week for the San Francisco Chronicle for 40 years without missing a day! How dare you not burn the midnight oil to produce a masterpiece now!

So, in short, after all that confession: How do you keep trust?

Don’t produce schlock! Don’t ship schlock!

It’s much better to wait until you have something valuable to share, keeping quality ALWAYS at a high level.

Securing Trust

Once you’ve earned trust (and I know I’m on a bit of a Benjamin Button timeline trajectory here), the act of securing it involves a boatload of repetition. In the world of marketing (but the same applies for any personal or business transaction) it boils down to the old Chinese idiom: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!”

Think about those late night TV ads for gimmicky products. As soon as UPS delivers what you bought, you realize it’s junk. You feel taken in, the wool pulled over your eyes. You are less likely to purchase again from the same purveyor. How about politicians? Most don’t trust them. Or, the one with the least amount of distrust gets voted into office. It depends upon how you like to look at it!

On the flip side, in a relationship (personal or business) if the initial trust is reinforced by delivering good quality over and over, the bonds are harder to break.

The issue of trust rather jumped out at me last month when I read Rather Persistent (all puns intended).

TV news anchors earn the trust of viewers over a very long period of time. Dan Rather had been anchoring the CBS news desk for a few decades before he was unceremoniously and very publicly booted from the network. The reason given by the network at the time had many folks in different camps, some on Rather’s side and others with the network. Someone decided Dan couldn’t be trusted.

And while I’ve not been a regular viewer of Rather for a couple of decades, I (on the other hand) trusted his reporting as a body of work. Evidently I was not alone (no surprise there). Rather landed at Mark Cuban’s AXS TV. (He also has a gig guesting on Rachel Maddow.) I don’t always agree with what he has to say, but I appreciate that he explains his reasoning very clearly.

I was surprised to learn that Mark Cuban gave Rather a completely free rein. Cuban trusted Rather regardless of the flap at CBS. Rather’s body of work had convinced Cuban to overlook a glitch.

Here’s to hoping you overlook my glitch!

Earning Trust

Every day I learn much more about earning trust with clients, friends, family, associates and even (yes) my dog!

What has sunk in recently about trust with my clients?

It’s not like I didn’t know this before, but I’ve learned to connect with them better than before, which means I’m making it easier for new or prospective clients to ‘get it.’ In understanding more thoroughly how trust can be built, I have more options available to me in crafting successful strategies with them.

Trust is often earned in baby steps. (Cue the opening sequence from “What About Bob?”) The amount of trust required to make a purchase is in direct correlation to risk.

Buying a candybar at the checkout counter on impulse has little risk to the purchaser – particularly if she’s already had the candybar brand before. A different brand or flavor would involve a slightly higher level of risk to overcome. If you already know you like it, there’s no risk involved.

On the other hand, if a purchase relates to a high-level of risk – hiring the right attorney for a life or death court case, investing in a start up, choosing a caregiver for an ailing parent – far more attention will be paid to a higher (and more complex) trust ladder than purchasing that candybar.

My short list of tips for trust success:

  1. Know where you fit on your customers’ trust scale: Are you an impulse purchase, a major decision, or something in between?
  2. Cost of products and services often directly correlate in the buyer’s mind with trust: The more your product costs them, the more trust you must build in advance before being able to close the deal.
  3. Once you’ve earned the client’s initial trust, have a plan to reinforce the trust given. Be genuine. Reinforce your customer’s good decisions. Be gracious and thank her for her business. Keep your standards high. Don’t ship the schlock!
  4. One of the best parts of modern marketing is that it has made keeping a customer’s trust vastly easier than it was ten, 15 or 20 years ago.

Many businesses have glacially paced repeat sales cycles: Realtors rarely see a client purchasing a new home every year; roofers rarely see a client contract for a new roof but every 15-20 years; and many professionals (such as physical therapists) often do their work so well they never see the client again!

But even if you have a business in which repeat sales are minimal to non-existent, your past clients can be a fantastic source of referrals – if you keep in touch with them via email or social media. By merely sending a note, a thank you, a ‘thinking of you’ notice, you reinforce the initial trust that was earned in the relationship.

Use the tools of modern marketing to simply stay in touch with your customers – even the ones who haven’t bought in years – and you’re far more likely to gain a repeat purchase from them.

Don’t give it up!

Evidently Dan Rather never did.

Photo Info: By Unknown. Publisher: Strobridge Litho. Co., Cincinnati & New York

[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons