How to Build Business Trust, And Why it’s Important
Facebook, Volkswagen and Starbucks have rocked consumer confidence and more importantly trust in business; even startups and SME’s have been caught up in these scandals. This shake-up of consumer trust in business has left a taint which can be felt in many businesses and almost all sectors. As a new company, it’s more important than ever to build trust with customers and stakeholders.
But I’m trustworthy, is that enough?
Unfortunately not. A few bad apples start to ruin how people perceive business and ultimately makes your job harder.
I recently researched how much people trust different types of advertising and less than 50% of people trust traditional techniques: TV ads, Brand Sponsorship and the worst was Newspaper advertising (less than 42%). This is because these channels have built up a stigma over many years and now people do not believe in them. Social and digital content is increasingly going in this direction at an accelerated pace with the rise of fake news and reviews.
Let’s be honest here, this distrust is warranted in many cases. Just look at Sean Spicer and his alt-facts. One of the best books on PR by Ryan Holiday, “Trust me I’m lying” shows how he personally manipulated the media, blogs and even government officials into helping boost American Apparel sales (and notoriety). There is a clear incentive to mislead in every case, and, in the aforementioned scenarios, the end rewards were enormous.
If you’re a startup building a brand then you need to build trust whilst battling through a deluge of lies and manipulation. This is hard for anyone – but it gets even harder when you’re bootstrapping or on a short run rate, with no time or finance to outsource to a PR firm (often a mistake).
Firstly and I suppose this is the ‘low hanging fruit’ easy option to go though – build a reputation with those who already trust or believe in your brand. These are your followers, your early adopters or tribe. Building Word of Mouth recommendations from this group should be the easiest and the best way is to be remarkable. To be the kind of company or have the kind of product that people are actually doing to want to tell their friends or family about. Seth Godin’s (incredible marketing guru) magnum opus, ‘The Purple Cow’ explains how the best and fastest growing businesses grew by being remarkable. This is a tall order, but building a remarkable company is probably the reason we all got into running their business.
It’s amazing to see that even in this incredibly high-tech era and with AI just around the corner that the old maxim about word of mouth being the best marketing is still incredibly relevant.
What is the main issue with Facebook’s privacy, Volkswagen’s emissions or Deepmind’s Ethics board? They’re neither open or honest.
Ok, if you didn’t hear about the AI company Deepmind’s ethics board then don’t worry, it’s incredibly niche and I’ve only just discovered it myself. When Google bought Deepmind, the founders demanded an ethics board to keep them in check (AI might be dangerous). The issue people have is that no one (but the inner circle) know who is on this board. It’s not that the board exists, merely that nobody knows who is involved because it’s secret.
It’s a similar issue with Volkswagen’s emissions scandal, as the details became clearer it became more and more evident that all Volkswagen did wrong was to lie. This is obviously a huge issue and highly unethical but in terms of consequences, well there are none. They’re not polluting any more than their competitors, the residual value of VW cars hasn’t dropped (actually gone up) and their lies are reversible. However, there are massive civil class action legal cases brought against them by government and media outcry .
Why, because they cheated and lied.
Lying about your product, it’s functionality or your numbers (especially to investors) will put a permanent black dot by your companies name, something very hard to get rid off. It’s tempting for all three (I know) but it is certainly not worth the risk. Think is it worth ruining the company for?
Values are always really important for trust, we trust people with similar values and these have to be real and not superficial.
“Mark “Rent-boy” Renton: Well, he’s always been lacking in moral fibre.
Swanney: He knows a lot about Sean Connery.
Google’s is simple: Don’t Be Evil. This simple value is so pervasive it flows into every aspect of this now massive company, with every engineer or analyst keeping this present in their mind. Even when forced to censor pages by the Chinese government founders Larry Page and Sergi Bryn fought to be as open as possible. Would we let Google hold the amount of data they do on us if we didn’t trust them?
The other is Zappos (acquired by amazon) who literally wrote the book on value-based business. Tony Hirsch’s book “Delivering Happiness” in an incredible insight on how values can drive business and along with Zappos’ value handbook here is a masterclass on value-led business. These values have flown into Amazon who has created their own incredible value system. We trust these companies to deliver the best service and that’s why we keep going back.
Even growing startups like Benefex have an incredible value system, it’s plastered on their walls in their awesome Southampton based offices. This means every member of the company and prospective clients can see what they believe in and can trust them to stick to their values.
This is probably the most important aspect and is a combination of all of the above. Be human, humans live by values, humans are true to themselves and doing this helps to make your remarkable. As the lead marketer or CEO picking up the phone or replying to customers on social media creates a huge amount of trust and makes your company seem human. Tony Heish (CEO of Zappos), often personally mans the phone at Zappos’ customer service site and talks to customers about their complaints. Think about how much they’re going to trust him and his company now? Do you think they’ll tell all their friends about it? No wonder Zappos (a shoe company) was acquired for over a $1.2bn in 2009.
On the converse side, looking at autoresponders or tweetbots and nobody wants that. It seems so fake, it’s uninteresting and nobody will remark on it (at least not positively).