You know your business is trustworthy — after all, you’re one of the people running it — but the wary consumers of the modern age might not be so sure.
There’s a consumer trust crisis facing big corporations and small local businesses alike, and if brands want to emerge unscathed, they need to be working to fix it.
The Consumer Trust Crisis
According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, the industry standard for measuring consumer trust, only 48 percent of the general population in the United States trusts businesses, falling from 58 percent last year and with a general trend moving downward over the past decade.
That lack of trust can manifest in a number of ways. Customers may be less likely to follow through on a full shopping cart in your online store. They may be less willing to part with their personal information on your landing page. And if they trust you less than they trust one of your competitors, they may choose them over you.
Ultimately, you’ll need to consider how you build and showcase trust in the following areas, at a minimum:
· Security. Cyberattacks are more common than ever, and customers want to be assured that their data and assets are secure in your hands. If you can’t get your customers to trust that you’ll responsibly handle their data, you could lose their business entirely.
· Advertising. If you aren’t careful, your advertising could do more harm than good. If your customers feel that your message is insincere, forceful, or in any way manipulative, they may disregard your message and all messages coming from you in the future.
· Branding. Your brand is the sum total of your company’s goals, values, and mission. It’s a statement of your integrity, and a snapshot of the humanity behind your business. If that image is unoriginal or contrived, it could make your brand seem like just another corporation, and one that’s not to be trusted.
· Corporate social responsibility (CSR). Almost any actions you take in the realm of CSR will make you seem more trustworthy. Contributing to causes that fall in line with your company’s core values demonstrate your adherence to those values, but failing to do anything to give back to your community or help your environment can have an opposite effect.
· Industry standards. Though less controllable, you’ll also need to consider how your industry is trusted as a whole. For example, the financial industry saw record-low trust in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis — and is still reeling from it today. If you’re in an industry with lower-than-average trust, you’ll have to work twice as hard to close the gap.
Building Trust in All Areas
So what actionable steps can you take to improve trust in your own brand?
1. Authenticity. I’ve written recently about how authenticity could be driving a content marketing revolution — and I stand by it. Demonstrating authenticity in your ads, on-site content, and other communication channels instantly makes people trust you more. If your customers believe you’re giving them value, rather than trying to get value out of them, and if you come across as sincere, they’ll be more likely to trust your motivations and intentions.
2. History. Unfortunately for new brands, one of the most reliable ways to build trust is through history. Your brand needs to be consistent in delivering exceptional products and services, and needs to be tested through the years. The longer you’ve been around, and the more consistently you’ve been a leader in your industry, the more trust you’ll naturally accumulate.
3. Proof. Trust is a matter of believing what a brand says, or relying on them to follow through on a commitment. You can earn that trust implicitly, or you can take a shortcut and prove that you’re trustworthy. For example, you could use reviews and testimonials as a form of social proof that verifies you follow through on your brand promises. You could document evidence of your attempts to improve the business, or show off the numbers on your performance in the past. It’s hard to argue with numbers and objective metrics.
4. Transparency. You can also boost trust by making your business more transparent. That means allowing more people to see how your company operates, inside and out. Depending on the nature of your business, that could mean anything from publishing an ingredients list for your main product to disclosing information about how you treat your employees.
5. Personal interaction. People will always have the tendency to trust other people more than they trust corporate brands. We’re social creatures, and so naturally will respond better in a one-on-one conversation than we will to a faceless corporation. Accordingly, you can improve consumer trust by letting them interact with the human beings of your business, either through personal brands or through personalized customer service initiatives.
Are you ready to start a revolution of consumer trust in brands? You may not be able to do it by yourself — but that just means your brand will look even better compared to your competitors. The more you’re willing to invest in your consumers’ trust, the closer those consumer relationships will become, the more sales you’ll make, and the more opportunities you’ll have for long-term growth.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!