Elephant and Dog PhotoLike. Trust. Credibility.

This is the order in which we make decisions to hire a company or individual, or how we buy a product. In the “Like” stage, the Buyer either has a positive feeling about the brand or has a sense of enjoyment talking with you. Passing this first test can occur very quickly. But if a Buyer doesn’t have the initial warm ‘n’ fuzzy feeling about you, she won’t even consider making the effort to decide if she trusts you.

Who (or what) do we trust? If we know nothing about the person or company we want to hire, we turn to already trusted sources for their opinions. If your good friend, Mary, tells you she had a wonderful experience working with XYZ Company, often the sale for you is as good as closed. You get to pass “GO” and collect $200 moving right on to Free Parking!

Since having raving recommendations rapidly shrinks the amount of time and effort it takes to close any sale, it’s no wonder that most companies have jumped onto the bandwagon to develop a multitude of ways to show prospects how much their customers love their stuff! From Yelp! to TripAdvisor, Amazon’s product reviews, testimonials on your own website, to comments of appreciation on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Zagat and many others, good reviews and testimonials are the wormhole you’d like all your prospects to travel through to speed the number of hot leads to your door.

Take a look at this recent report (below) from Nielsen on what and where buyers are trusting the most. Are you making the most of your marketing opportunities on these venues?

Trust in Advertising Q3 2011 from Nielsen
Here are my recommendations based upon the results shown in the chart above:

  1. Are you a member of one or more formal networking, leads or non-profit groups that offer plentiful opportunities such as mixers, meetings, fundraisers and so on to meet new people all the time with whom you can expand your contact sphere to gain referrals?
  2. Are your reviews and testimonials posted online? In how many places? Can you do more?
  3. Can you write a column for your local newspaper or get a journalist to publish an article about your business? In how many newspapers or local magazines?
  4. How thorough (and simple) is your website in conveying to visitors quickly what products and services you offer?
  5. Regularly send clients and prospects an email newsletter!
  6. Notice that the next 5 or 6 venues in the chart are all traditional marketing mediums with approx. the same level of trust by buyers behind the preceding online venues. Consider if you should re-prioritize your marketing mix of tactics between traditional and online.

Now that you know how buyers feel about the many marketing venues you use (or have been considering employing), take a look at what professional marketers are planning to use in 2013 from this Marketing Profs chart:

B2B Content Marketing Usage by Tactic - Marketing Profs

Why do professional marketers place nearly two-thirds of their planned emphasis next year on online tactics? Because they work!

Social media sites are one of the top platforms for quickly building (but sometimes losing) the trust of buyers. When you respond quickly on one of these sites to a consumer’s problem or concern, your company’s level of trust immediately jumps much higher for the prompt customer service (even when you can’t completely solve the problem online right away).

Conversely, if you don’t respond to questions or concerns promptly, your trust level plummets speedily.

As we close in on the New Year and your begin planning your 2013 strategy, how can you make best use of this information to grow your business?

Do these charts dovetail with your expectations? Do you agree with the findings? Let me know by commenting here.