In recent posts we have talked about the changing marketing landscape; it’s a social landscape that is creating new opportunities and presenting new challenges. Some call this new era the Relationship era. This new era requires a different marketing mindset.
“The ultimate goal of marketing is to generate an intense bond between the consumer and the brand, and the main ingredient of this bond is trust’ (Hiscock, 2001).
Now more than ever, consumers make purchasing decisions based on their level of trust. Trust is an asset that must be earned. Research shows it’s possible to connect sales and trust. The Brand Sustainability Map plots the relationship between Trust and Transactions. Brands with high levels of trust and transactions are labeled as Sustainable. Costco and Southwest are two well-known brands in this quadrant.
When allowed to market in consumers’ social domains, you’re entering personal territory. As such, it must be recognized as a privilege. If given the key to consumers’ inner circles, it is unlikely that those ousted out will be given a chance to re-enter, especially if the offender fits into the category of Marketer.
That’s one of the reasons that marketers should take seriously their job of cultivating trust. Communications that do not benefit consumers are on shaky ground.
To consumers who have allowed you into their circle of trust, your brand has been elevated above thousands of other brands. Be responsible with messaging that advances your objectives and benefits your consumers.
Here are 5 ways to foster trust when mixing social and marketing. As you read through them, ask yourself if your communications fit the bill:
1. Be Relevant—knowing your audience isn’t optional in the world of social marketing. Just as Kentucky Fried Chicken wouldn’t stand a chance mixing socially with die-hard vegetarians, your organization will suffer trying to mingle with those who have little interest in your brand.
Even qualified prospects and consumers will find poorly timed, poorly conceived communications objectionable. Being irrelevant violates trust.
To get in touch with your target, if you haven’t already, consider developing personas. If you would like to know more about personas you can read Why Personas are essential to Effective Marketing Strategies for more tips on relevancy and personas.
Part of being relevant is being real – Marketing and advertising is often filled with hyberbole. Some advertisers use exaggerated communication in an attempt to grab attention. Most consumers want to do business with brands that are authentic, believable and credible. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
2. Serve don’t sell – society’s “me-first” mentality opposes this philosophy. Selling puts brand objectives at the forefront; serving places the consumer in the priority seat. Find ways to help your consumers use your product or service – solve problems – Believe in your product or service, then own lapses or gaps. Read my personal example on how Amazon delivered a memorable customer experience.
3. Be Consistent — The brand promise should remain constant across all channels. We’ve all probably had an incident where we had one experience on a brand’s web site and a completely different experience in the store. A consistent customer experience is crucial in maintaining trust and maximizing the lifetime value of a customer.
4. Build community – Be human. Consumers want to do business with people, not organizations. Have a personality. Where possible, lose the corporate speak and engage in conversation. Personalize communications. Create a brand voice and empower colleagues to express that voice through their personality.
5. Listen and learn – This applies to internal and external stakeholders. Encourage two-way communication, and then be prepared to act on the feedback. A two-sided dialogue is authentic and supersedes rote, canned speech. Create a collaborative environment so insights are freely shared across all touchpoints.
In this age of content marketing, churning out messaging can become routine. If your focus is just getting your brand out there for top-of-mind awareness, that may only help you in the short-run. For long-term sustainability, your communication strategy needs to be intentional and purpose-driven. If your messaging turns out to be of little value, rest assured it won’t take long for customers to start asking questions like: “Why is it that you’re showing up in my communication stream every other day?” “What’s in it for me?” “Why am I wasting my time glancing over this?”
So determine, what is your purpose behind the communication? What’s the intended value for the recipient? Does it have personal relevance, for example, is it a reminder about loyalty program rewards that haven’t yet been redeemed? Do you have some information that’ll help solve an issue? Is it newsworthy? Attention-worthy?
Maintaining customers’ trust is a commitment for the long-term. Since trust is an intangible and elusive concept, brands must continuously evaluate and refine tactics aimed at cultivating trust with consumers, building relationships.
Advertising Age’s article does a nice job of summarizing the importance of trust “In the Relationship Era, the big winners will be in Sustainable, whose habitues typically spend little on advertising — because they don’t need it. By contrast, indifference is expensive and hostility unaffordable.”
What are your recommended tactics in using social media to cultivate trust with consumers?