The Power Of Customer Trust In Brand Marketing
Contributor Jonathan Hinz notes that, in the digital age, addressing your online marketing challenges must start with building a foundation of trust.
Never before in history has the average consumer held so much power. With social and mobile technology at our fingertips, everyday people can voice their opinions and rally communities to do the same.
The challenge for brands today is determining how to use the voice of the consumer to their advantage. The best solutions share the same core element: trust.
Everyday Challenges For Every Business
Whether you are a business-to-consumer (B2C), business-to-business (B2B), technology startup or major consumer brand, you are likely struggling with the same challenges: maximizing website rankings, generating leads, attracting new prospects, keeping existing customers, improving brand loyalty and boosting conversion rates. While there are countless strategies and technologies to help address these challenges, securing your customers’ trust is an effective way to help address all of them at once.
It may sound simple, but trust isn’t easily won. Here are three important starting points to incorporate into your marketing strategy:
- Personalize communications. In the age of big data, there’s no shortage of customer data and insights available and no excuse not to personalize your marketing communications. However, according to Return Path, marketing communications account for 70 percent of today’s spam complaints. By targeting communications to specific customer segments, you can cater to their individual needs with information that is highly relevant. Personalized communication makes customers feel valued and respected and makes your business seem more approachable.
- Nurture credibility. Reputation matters, particularly in today’s peer-to-peer social economy. This is especially true for online businesses, which rely on online reputations to build a foundation for success. When customers can easily check the reputation of any company with a quick Google search, and make purchasing decision based on website rankings and customer comments, reputation management becomes paramount. Businesses that allow open customer reviews gain immediate credibility with prospective and existing customers. Reviews aren’t exclusive to online businesses; online reviews live at the middle point between traditional and digital business where customers meet sellers and talk to other customers about their experiences.
- Create fans. Ask any sports team and they’ll tell you fan support makes all the difference. How do sports franchises create lifelong fans? Typically, fans are made based on tradition, community or admiration — your family has always supported a specific team, your friends and coworkers root for the same team, or you like specific players and the team’s ethics. Whatever the reason, the common thread among these reasons is built loyalty. People don’t generally choose a team to support at random; they are influenced by others’ opinions. The same is true for businesses. By giving your customers a voice, you also give them the means to advocate on your behalf to influence others.
Combined, this validation creates trustworthiness, transparency and credibility for a business, which in turn fosters long-term trust. But when it comes to trust, it’s not a one-and-done scenario. Maintaining trust is a lifelong effort requiring consistent customer engagement, feedback and action.
Maintaining Trust In An Untrusting World
Consumers can be a cynical lot. They want to know the companies they do business with are trustworthy, honest and real. Very few companies offer a try-before-you-buy sales model, so consumers must look for other sources, such as peer feedback and customer service reputations, to help guide their decisions — or take a leap of faith.
Consider this from your customer’s perspective. They can go to any one of countless vendors and retailers offering the same or similar goods and services. Why should they purchase from Business X instead of Business Y? How do they know they’ll get good service, a high-quality product or the best price? In short, can they trust the business to deliver what it promises?
If prospects don’t feel they can trust your business, perhaps it’s because there’s no evidence to show the business is trustworthy. Of course, as a marketer, you can say your business is honest and credible, but without external validation, today’s informed consumers aren’t buying it.
It’s no surprise purchasing decisions rely more on community feedback than on marketing messages. While a clever marketing campaign may generate interest, a customer’s peers hold the key to the final buying decision. Statistics show 61 percent of customers read reviews before making a purchase. If your business doesn’t have online reviews, consumers have limited resources to help them make a decision.
When it comes to brand loyalty, customer service weighs heavily in customer decisions. In fact, data from Zendesk shows that customer service is the most important factor affecting trust in a company. The reason is simple: actions speak louder than words.
Customers who take the time to review a business do so with specific intent. Perhaps they want to share their pleasure in the item they purchased. Or maybe they want an acknowledgement of their complaint — or better yet, a personal apology and an offer to make it right.
Businesses that collect customer feedback are in a good position to influence customer trust in their brand. It’s what a business chooses to do with customer feedback that really sets them apart.
The Power Of Trust
Modern marketers understand the value of customer data to personalize marketing campaigns and nurture leads. However, many overlook the value of that customer feedback, not only for attracting prospects, but also for retaining customers.
Collecting customer feedback is a great first step, but to foster ongoing trust, you must act on that information. By responding to negative feedback, you can show that you care about your customers and are committed to improving their experience. When a prospect reads customer reviews and sees that your company is actively engaging with customers and addressing their complaints, he or she perceives that your company is responsive, transparent and reliable.
Existing customers experience a similar reaction and are more likely to purchase from that business again. Research shows increasing customer retention by five percent can lead to a 25 percent to 95 percent increase in company profits. Considering it costs more to acquire a new customer than to sell to an existing one, engaging with customer reviews is an efficient and effective strategy for retaining customers.
It’s a fact that consumers are heavily influenced by the experiences of their peers and routinely consult customer reviews to form opinions about a business to make purchasing decisions. By leveraging those reviews, engaging with customers and acting on their feedback, you have the opportunity to create the most powerful brand marketing message there is: trust.