My father used to caution not to believe everything one heard or read. He was not a cynic but an optimistic realist. Nonetheless, like the majority of his generation, his basic intuition urged him to trust existing institutions and assume (that most dangerous word), that what they were saying or doing was for the common good. “Fake news” had not morphed from the lingua franca to become the lingua twitter.
That’s not always the case anymore. MediaPost shared the following on Mar. 19:
“The news business is battling public distrust. Nearly half of respondents to a new Axios/Ipsos poll said they do not trust traditional media ‘very much or at all” to accurately deliver information about the COVID-19 virus.’”
That distrust should inform how marketers must rethink their approach to customers and prospects as we plunge into a new and uncertain era.
On Jan. 19, the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer published this worrisome finding:
“… despite a strong global economy and near full employment, none of the four societal institutions that the study measures — government, business, NGOs and media — is trusted. The cause of this paradox can be found in people’s fears about the future and their role in it, which are a wake-up call for our institutions to embrace a new way of effectively building trust: balancing competence with ethical behavior.”
If “disbelief” is the new normal gut reaction to our foundation institutions, it goes without saying that our commercial messages, however well wrapped in engaging narratives are likely to need the “suspension of disbelief” to be effective. That almost certainly means stepping back a little (or a lot) from our “act now” knee-jerk impulses and asking ourselves what we need to do to achieve that “suspension,” to establish the critical trust that my father suggested might be missing.
Building Trust With Customers and Prospects
If we look at the Amazon ethos, building credibility item by item, on-time delivery by on-time delivery, rapid refund by rapid refund, trust impacts each transaction more than efficiency. Not surprisingly, that same Edelman study found “ethical drivers such as integrity, dependability, and purpose drive 76% of the trust capital of business, while competence accounts for only 24%.”
Trust capital may become the new marketing gold standard, joining brand equity as a key metric for valuing a company’s relationship with its customers and prospects.
But how can we measure integrity, dependability and purpose? It may be easier said than done. Perhaps a good starting point is looking backwards.
How much feedback have you had from your customers, especially negative feedback? (We all love compliments but we seldom learn from them.)
One of my first jobs was to read complaint letters, research what had (or had not) gone wrong, and then write for the signature of the CEO, a truly personal answer. The number of “thank you” notes we received was the best lesson you could have in the value of real personalization.
If you don’t have a strong culture of responding to every complaint, not with a form letter or email but with a thoughtful and helpful personal communication, you should put one in place, now. If I can’t talk to a knowledgeable and helpful human being instead of an algorithm, like many others, I’m gone and your trust capital has tanked, or at best, taken a hit.
A recent blog post from Yes Marketing put it this way:
“In a world driven by access to options, an emotional connection with a brand can be the tipping point for consumers when deciding where to spend their dollars.”
You certainly want it to tip your way, and that means doing whatever is necessary to establish and retain that emotional connection and trust.
Whatever we do to build trust capital during these uncertain times, even if not immediately measurable, is certain to pay big dividends when the crisis is past.