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7 Steps to Getting Brand Trust Right

There’s a crisis in consumer trust. At least that’s the word in the research.

The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that only 48% of the U.S. population trusts business as an institution (a 10-point drop from 2017).

Yet, brand trust is one of the biggest factors in consumers’ purchasing decisions.

According to PwC’s Consumer Insights Survey (2018), 14% of respondents put trust as their No. 1 reason for choosing a retailer. “Trust in brand” was the second most frequently cited reason for purchase decision-making.

But while 72% of CMOs feel pressure to secure brand trust, it’s not always clear how to take ownership of it. This guide can help.

Step 1: Know your brand-trust goals (and how to measure them)

Do you want your customers to be raving about your company on review sites? Do you want them to recommend your products or services to friends and family? Do you want loyal customers who patronize your business?

Define what brand trust means to your organization. Detail what success looks like and how you will measure it.

To monitor how your brand is talked about online, set up Google Alerts for your brand keywords. When they appear online, you’ll receive an email from Google.

You can also monitor how well your audience trusts your brand by checking out relevant review sites – Google My Business, Yelp, Trustpilot, or industry-specific destinations. You can track mentions and conversations on social media with social media management tools like Hootsuite.

You can ask your customers directly for their opinions on your brand through online tools such as Survey Monkey, which provides templates you can customize. You can conduct an online survey to find your Net Promoter Score (how likely they would be to recommend your business to a friend or colleague) or assess customer satisfaction.

Step 2: Appoint a brand trust lead

Although this step isn’t mandatory, consider it if you’re keen to get your brand trust right.

Your brand trust lead is responsible for ensuring that your brand’s goals and vision are well detailed – how you want to be perceived and how you go about achieving trust. The lead can develop blueprints and protocols for how to achieve trust in your content, across your marketing activity, and in your customer service.

This person also can be responsible for monitoring and evaluating perceived trust of your brand, and for leading changes to continually improve your brand trust.

Step 3: Be authentic through brand storytelling

Authenticity is proven to be at the heart of trustworthiness. Consumers today are not interested in the sales pitch, the marketing lingo, or the “key benefits.” They want to know who your brand is.

Achieving authenticity comes down to your company’s DNA – your values, your goals unrelated to profit, your culture, etc. Out of this comes your brand’s unique and authentic voice.

Be authentic by being present – respond to negative feedback, address complaints, engage with your customers online (failure to respond to customers on social media can increase churn by 15%). And when you make a mistake, own it.

Be authentic by telling stories, which can better engage your customers and help develop a relationship, and, therefore, build trust.

Getting your storytelling right means developing a brand narrative. Nike tells its brand story not by promoting its products or even its brand. It tells the story of Rory McIlroy as a child looking up to his hero Tiger Woods and then finally meeting him. Only toward the end does the viewer see the trademark swoosh and the slogan “Just Do It.”

TIP: Invite your customers to tell their stories. Share these on your social media platforms and use a relevant hashtag to attract other customers to tell their stories too.

Step 4: Offer consistent customer experience

Customer service, while critical to any business, is somewhat limiting in its ability to develop a trusting relationship. It’s transactional – answering a question, helping pick out the right product, or troubleshooting problems.

Customer experience goes further, looking at the person’s journey through your brand. If done well, it provides your customers with a personalized, unique, and consistently high-quality experience that demonstrates that you understand them and their needs.

The better the experience your customers have, the more likely they are to trust you as a brand. According to PwC, 73% of consumers cite customer experience as an important factor in their purchasing decisions, yet only 49% say companies deliver.

TIP: Review your customer journey and list the touchpoints between your customer and your brand. Identify the opportunities where the relationship can be enhanced through, for example, heightened personalization.

Step 5: Focus more on relationships than conversions

Businesses understandably tend to fixate on conversions, sales, and revenue. However, those that focus on customer relationships first will be paid dividends in the long run.

According to Wunderman Thompson, 56% of consumers feel more loyal to brands that “get them” – that have a deep understanding of their priorities and preference. These brands have taken time to understand their customers and made efforts to build relationships.

TIP: Treat your first-time customers like VIPs, set a high benchmark for your relationship from the beginning.

Step 6: Embrace transparency

Transparency about your business is a crucial factor in eliciting trust. According to research by Reach Solutions, 58% of consumers don’t trust a brand until they’ve seen “real-world proof” that it’s kept its promises.

Transparency is showing your customers the truth about your brand, your products, services, etc., so they can determine for themselves if you’re worth buying from. Don’t expect them to take your word for it.

How you prove your transparency depends on your business. Transparency, for example, could be publishing third-party research about your products, divulging ingredients for your products, or responding openly and honestly to queries on social media.

Step 7: Build social proof

According to a Nielsen study, 92% of global online consumers trust word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family above any other form of advertising (up 18% since 2007). While this illustrates consumers’ growing distrust of advertising, it also shows that peer reviews and social proof are more important than ever.

BrightLocal’s research also backs this up. In 2017 and 2018, reading a positive review made survey respondents more likely to use a business. Only a small proportion (15%) said they didn’t let reviews influence their decision.

TIP: Interact regularly on industry-related review sites with customers who are talking positively and negatively about your business. (Sign up through a tool like Mention to alert you of online mentions so you can respond in real time.)

Ready to trust?

Brand trust is a big deal for marketers in 2019. It’s time to be proactive about it.

Your brand trust relies on what you say to your customers, how you say it, and how you prioritize their needs. It is communicated in your transparency – how you own your mistakes and inject your personality – and how you prioritize relationships over sales.

Building trust with your customers isn’t easy, but leaving it to chance won’t cut it anymore. If you take steps to own it, consumers will choose you above your competitors and, if you maintain their trust, stay with you for the long haul.

Please note: All tools mentioned in this article were suggested by the author. If you’d like to suggest a tool, share the article on social media with a comment.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute