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Five Ways to Build Trust—and Tipping Points for Choice

by Anthony Cirillo  |  
January 5, 2010

A column I was recently reading, by noted coach and businessman Harvey Mackay, contended that trust is the most important word in business. It made the point that people buy from people, not from companies.

I work in the healthcare sector, particularly hospitals and long-term care companies. People would rather not need their services, and it may be years before they need them. Studies seeking to understand how people choose hospitals have found that physician recommendation is usually at the top of the list. But how do people find that physician? Usually through word-of-mouth—from people they trust.

Healthcare entities are large, complex organizations, like most large corporations. How do you start to build trust for such institutions? I would contend that you first need to humanize the large organization that you represent.

As a former CMO for a hospital in NJ, I came into the position with a challenge. The hospital had been for-profit, and its idea of community involvement was none at all. The mentality had been, "We are paying our taxes, so leave us alone." The competition was eating our lunch. And now, as a not-for-profit entity, we were tied at the hip with a sister hospital that faced closing. More than ever we needed to tell our story.

Did we use billboards or fancy advertising? No. Simply, the strategy was to involve our senior team, and all levels of the organization, in the community. Simple things like joining the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club, and the like made a big difference. Because the community saw that human beings were behind the stark cold walls of the hospital.

In the end, when we had to make hard decisions about closing our sister hospital, the community understood, and most of our patients sought services at the remaining hospital—not our competitors.

To help build trust, start with the following five steps.

1. Be transparent

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Anthony Cirillo is president of Fast Forward Strategic Marketing Consulting, LLC ( in Huntersville, NC. Reach him via

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  • by Andrew McFarland Tue Jan 5, 2010 via web

    To get a friend, be a friend. To get trust, give trust. Your example showed that you were willing to trust "the community" to "understand" the hard decisions. Sure, you took steps to be visible, active, and engaged, but the first step of trusting your "customers" is the hardest.

    Thanks for the article!

  • by Anthony Cirillo Tue Jan 5, 2010 via web

    Thanks Andrew. Funny how we have no control as marketers when you think about it. And taking that first leap of faith is the hardest. Thanks for commenting. Anthony

  • by Barbara Bix Tue Jan 5, 2010 via web

    To get trust, deliver. I also do a lot of work in the health care industry. As you note, most people turn to physicians for recommendations. Yet, when you interview community-based physicians, one of their largest issues is that hospital-based specialists are hard to reach or don't keep them abreast of patients' progress. I suspect investment in systems that improve service to referral sources is a better investment than the branding campaigns many hospitals are launching today...

  • by Anthony Cirillo Tue Jan 5, 2010 via web

    I agree with you Barbara. And with reform, medical home, etc. the PCP will be more of a gatekeeper and the specialists are going to have to pay attention!

  • by Donna Baske Thu Jan 7, 2010 via web

    You get what you give. If you want respect you have to earnit. if you want people to like you and follow you, say on twitter - give them a reason. I think working in a corporate environemnt has at times stripped people of the aspect of just being people.

    I react to what resonates with me and makes me want to contribute / comment and join the converation. End of the day we all go home and are real people there's no reason we can't act that way ALL day .

  • by Anthony Cirillo Thu Jan 7, 2010 via web

    I love it Donna. We are real people and should act that way ALL day! Thanks.

  • by Robert Airhart Mon Jan 11, 2010 via web

    May I make 12 copies of the article "FIVE WAYS to BUILD TRUST-and TIPPING POINTS for CHOICE"%3E

    I wish to give these to my Association Board members.
    Bob Airhart

  • by Anthony Cirillo Mon Jan 11, 2010 via web

    Robert - fine by me!

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