How do you build trust with customers and partners?
Anyone who has spent more than a day or two in marketing is familiar with the vendors that offer to sell you the “most current and qualified contact lists” available in the industry. Some of these offers are legitimate, and others are pure rubbish.
Trust is easily lost and extremely difficult to recover.
I’m amazed at how many of these calls and emails I still get even though I’m essentially retired. The ones I find most amusing are addressed to me as the Director of Marketing, VP of Business Development or some other grandiose, ego-boosting title.
If the contact is made via phone, my first question is, how current is their contact list? They will then assure me their data is fresh and constantly updated. Then, I ask how their list could be so wonderful if they aren’t aware that I’ve been retired for two years or that my title during my working years was more like marketing manager or business manager.
I mean, come on; you’re selling a contact list, and you can’t even get my contact data right?
They obviously miss the irony in my question and follow up by asking if I could share the name and phone number of the director of marketing.
The main point, here, is that my trust has already been lost because their list doesn’t have my name, title or status correctly documented. I have no need to discuss anything else with them because I have no confidence in their product.
A Positive Customer Experience Requires Trust
Establishing trust is more than honoring warranties and not overcharging, and it requires more than offering legitimate customer references. It’s all about a million little things that may not seem important, but you can bet someone will notice if they aren’t right.
In a recent Forbes article, Blake Morgan puts it very succinctly by saying, “One of the most important aspects of customer experience is trust. Customers simply don’t want to do business with a company they can’t trust.”
In the digital marketplace, you can’t rely on your sales rep’s appearance or other traditional visual cues related to establishing trust. The trust-building needs to begin as soon as a visitor arrives on your website or social media page.
Four Ways to Build Trust with Partners, Customers and Prospects
Let’s take a look at four things you can do to build trust with your prospects and customers.
Personalize Your Online Presence
Present your brand in a manner that is relatable on a personal level. Don’t list page after page of features and benefits; present an image of someone benefiting from your product.
An image of Grandma smiling as she walks out of your hospital with a new hip is far more effective than listing the engineering credentials of your product team and the medical credentials of your physicians.
If you sell emergency vehicle equipment, you can be sure that an image of a little girl being reunited with her puppy following a house fire will sell more firetrucks than statistics on pump capacity.
This is not to say that the technical details aren’t ultimately important, but initially, the prospect needs to know that you are in your business for the right reasons.
Understand the Difference in Establishing Trust and Maintaining Trust
Prospects interact with your enterprise in ways that are different from your established customers. Their trust has not yet been gained. Accept this reality, and incorporate it into your marketing and selling activities.
Make sure your online references are, indeed, still referenceable and that you have representative references from all markets you serve. If you don’t have a reference in a specific market, be upfront about it. Advertise that you are looking for future references in this or that market segment. This can turn a prospect into a partner.
For your existing customers, do not fall into the complacency trap. Do not assume that silence is golden. Engage with your customer base in a constructive manner.
These activities can include things such as product reviews, input sessions for future development and invitations to participate in product planning.
When customer anniversary dates roll around, make a big deal about them. Thank your customers for their business over the years. They will know you are paying attention.
Use Technology Effectively
I’ve worked with customer databases where a frequent response to a phone call to this or that individual was to learn that the person had died several years prior. Make sure list scrubbing is ongoing and meticulous. You really can’t buy scrubbed contact lists. You make them and maintain through your own marketing activities.
If you engage in outbound marketing, especially cold calling or direct mail, be sure the names and titles are correct and that only one listing for an individual is used. Nothing says “we’re clueless” like sending three emails using three different titles to the same guy.
CRM systems and CPQ systems all can help you effectively communicate accurately with prospects and existing customers, but only if the date within is properly maintained. When properly implemented, CPQ software enhances the buyer experience.
Treat Partners and Vendors with Respect
Businesses rely on partnerships and those include suppliers and other supporting businesses. Treat your vendors with respect, honor their service and provide accurate feedback about their performance.
It’s critical to remember that they, too, are in business, trying to achieve a profit. When times are good, it is easy to be a good partner. When times are not good, good partners can be very hard to find. How you treat your partners in times of plenty will be remembered when things slow down.
Make sure your HR group is positioning your company to new hires and prospective employees as one that embraces the virtues of honesty and truth.
Nothing is worse than having your image trashed by some fool trying to make a career-building splash based upon deception or deceit. Being honest with any business you deal with is critical to establishing your trust within the marketplace.
Trust is easily lost and extremely difficult to recover. Yet, it is not that difficult to establish, if it is genuine.
Make your business culture one of trust, and your prospects, customers, employees and suppliers will reward you over and over again.