People do business with people they know, like, and trust. But building trust with our audience can be an act of courage. Well... a series of them, really. Yet it can quickly pay huge dividends. In addition to the reward of good will that everyone feels (or maybe because of them), building trust can reap higher response rates, loyalty, and revenue.
Imagine landing on a website that spotlights an apology for a huge mistake the company made. Then, on another site, you see they've highlighted an offer that trusts you to pay whatever you feel their offer is worth. That's just crazy, right? Not really. There is plenty of proof out there that trust is not just good for one-on-one relationships, it's also good for business.
Here are two examples.
- When the rock band Radiohead released its most recent album online, it trusted fans to decide how much to pay. The band generated more revenue for that one album than for all its previous releases.
- The University of Michigan Health System (UMHS) risked legal liability by encouraging its doctors to apologize when they made mistakes. Trusting that patients would be forgiving paid off for UMHS. The number of malpractice suits fell, so much so that other providers are taking the same approach.(1)
According to Stephen M. R. Covey, author of The Speed of Trust, "Trust is the key leadership competency of the new global economy." Covey says trust is "the heart and soul" of business success on all levels, and that in looking for drivers of success, "nothing is as fast as the speed of trust."(2)
We all know that people do business with people they know, like, and trust. Therefore, one of our top priorities should be to develop abiding trust in our relationships with our prospects and customers. When we do that, we can propel prospects through the sales pipeline—and transform customers into a testimonial- and referral-powered sales and marketing force.
In his book, Covey discusses 13 concepts for building trust in one-on-one relationships. What I'll do here is spring off Covey's concepts to explore how we can create content that generates trust with our audiences.
Be uncompromisingly honest
Many of Covey's concepts are based on the idea that being honest builds trust.
When we create content, we need to tell the truth at all costs. Being relentlessly honest demonstrates integrity. Creating spin may be what we see others doing, but if we want to build trust, we must never give in to the temptation to modify or distort the facts.
One way to lose trust is to over-promise. In our haste to stand out from the competition, we don't want to risk having the customer feel that we've under-delivered. What about honestly stating what our strengths are... and what our strengths aren't?
Be unstintingly kind
Extending kindness is a marker of our trustworthiness.
Let's find ways to be kind by acknowledging the contributions of others. Yes, it's great to recognize our organization's achievements, but let's also write about the unsung accomplishments of people within our organizations—and those outside, in our market.
We can also be kind to our audience by finding ways to be generous in sharing things of value with them. Instead of always sell, sell, selling, how about we set a strategic goal that—whenever possible—we will create pieces that are genuinely helpful to our audience?
Be courageous in the face of bad news
Covey talks about being courageous in addressing the tough stuff. I see it as honorably standing tall in the face of conflict. When we're tempted to avoid the issue, or to make excuses, that's when we know we need to do the opposite: Face it and address it.
This is what courageously honest people do. And human beings are deeply attracted to courageous honesty. Let's not use press releases to make excuses or point fingers when things go wrong. Instead, let's apologize and do everything we can to make things right—right away.
What's your trust rating?
Think about your website. In your mind, conjure up a montage of the pages that talk about your organization and what you offer. Now, based on what you've learned here, bring to mind the amount of "real estate" you've invested in building trust with your audience. What do you think? Is there room for improvement?
Don't worry, there's no need for a revolution. Evolution will do. Step by step, create content that builds trust. Then measure the improved response—and see for yourself how powerful trust-building content can be.
1. "Building Trust in Business by Trusting," by Dov Seidman. Businessweek.com, August 27, 2009.
2. The Speed of Trust, by Stephen M. R. Covey, 2008.
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