Build trust and they will come

It might sound like a concept contrived by a marketing department, but brand trust actually taps into one of our most innate needs: to make meaningful connections.

Meaningful connections are an essential ingredient of being happy. They’re also an important aspect of consumers’ interaction with businesses. In the supermarket aisle we choose a certain product over another because we trust it. We’ve been told a brand story; we’ve had a subconscious conversation and believe it is the best choice for us. We already have a connection with it.

This search for meaningful connection applies to all brands because we increasingly expect the norms and etiquette of social interaction to apply in the commercial world.

When you meet someone for the first time you want to be memorable, and you hope to meet someone who you think is worth remembering. It’s the same with your brand. If marketing is the start of a new conversation, then your company shouldn’t greet potential new customers with ‘I’m so great, look at me, buy me now!’.

As the maxim goes, the best conversationalists are the best listeners

If you listen to your community and respond respectfully, you may get permission to add to the conversation. And just like a real conversation, you don’t spam them with junk about yourself. You tell them the parts they’re likely to find most interesting.

For instance, let’s say you’re a legal recruitment firm. You know that since the global financial crisis, the legal services sector has been in turmoil, but you need to know what legal professionals are most concerned about right now without spending big on market research. Social media monitoring is an easy, cost-effective, at-your-fingertips form of listening.

After a bit of listening on social media you learn that lawyers want help navigating employment uncertainty but are, unsurprisingly, sceptical of a thinly veiled sales pitch. As a legal recruitment firm with your finger on the pulse of the industry, you have the very expertise they need.

So, you develop a free report on the state of the industry, you start a blog to discuss the important issues and you provide media commentary. And if you’re worried about adding to the noise (apparently a new blog is created somewhere in the world every half a second) consider the 100 billion Google searches made every month.

Earn trust by being a power for good

Like recruitment firms, banks are often seen as having more power than their customers. They provide an essential service, but size and financial clout seemingly grant them immunity from customer feedback. Bank customers especially, can feel disempowered by contracts and the effort required to change suppliers. Could a bank build trust and connect in a meaningful way with these customers?

An example of taking trust building to a whole new level is Commonwealth Bank, which is dedicating resources to creating an entire community, rather than just engaging an existing one. Its Women in Focus program aims to create opportunity for women in business through a supported network of knowledge sharing and events. It offers potential customers valuable experiences and opportunities, with extra benefits for account holders. This is a banking behemoth building trust and benefitting the community while boosting its bottom line.

Whether you have a marketing plan or not (and we recommend you do) brand trust needs to be at the centre of your business. Genuine relationships are built over time. This is not when you think there’s something in it for you, but when you think you can give something to others. That’s what creates value and that’s how you build trust. Then the business results will come.

By Julia Loughlin