Strongly Trusted Brands Are A Hugely Protective Insurance For Businesses And The Marketers That Own Them
To your customers, when the economy goes slow or uncertain, the familiar becomes even more important. The sense of instability pushes many consumers towards what they’ve known. They gravitate towards the things that feel “proven” to them.
Best-buddy brands are part of the things consumers cling to, at a period of life when other things are shaking around them.
A survey by JWT, for instance, suggests that people going through rough life patches want to feel good about the things they care about. Brands they are closely connected to – and more importantly, learn to trust – become part of these things they want to feel good about.
But consumers holding their favorite brands close to themselves is just one side of the picture. Did you realize that strong brands that have built consumer trust are also a huge protection for businesses in challenging times? They are a bulwark for the businesspeople who own these brands. Strongly-trusted brands can literally save businesses and marketers in downturns.
At Solohacks Academy, we want to show you how boost brand trust so that it can be your ever-dependable protective security. In good times, it helps to shore up enough brand goodwill, so that your brand acts as your fall-back resource in difficult times.
1. Why And How To Build Your Brand To Protect Your Business Against Rocky Times
The logic is clear. If your brand enjoys customer trust it gets longevity. It also gets more profitability. It costs less and less to market. In economic downturns the better the ROI your brand has the easier it becomes for your business to survive, even when you spend less to keep things going.
There are ways to increase brand trust and longevity. But before we come to those, learn how your brand has three facets, all of which consumers must trust.
a. Trusted Brands Can Increase Odds Of Business Survival
In recent times we have all seen very turbulent economic conditions worldwide. In the shakeout a lot of brands will go under and a few will survive. At times like these, it pays to really study those brands that were bent but not broken by previous economic and global storms. You will find, as I did, that it was the brands that insured the survival of the businesses that owned them — and not vice versa.
In economically difficult times, consumers begin to tighten their purse strings and spend less and less on anything but the barest of needs and wants. In the process of selection of what they will allow themselves to spend on, the factor of “brand loyalty and brand goodwill” plays a huge part.
The known and the trusted is always a lesser risk than the unknown — and additionally, by hanging onto brands they trust and love, people are trying to hand on to their old lifestyles which they fear losing. The unshakeable brands become the ones most trusted and loved, that are for consumers symbols of their lifestyles.
The companies that own these brands survive on the sheer tenacity of the consumers of their brands to hold on to what they know and love best, as they try to preserve the icons of their previously better lifestyle. A good brand that has become part of someone’s self-concept so deeply, is the best insurance a company can have for survival during economic slowdowns and depressions.
Another factor that plays a part in tough times is the brand’s ability to unlock its profitability grown from consumer trust.
Where does the real revenue from a brand come from for the company that owns it? It comes from two factors: “differentiation” and “longevity” of the brand. The longevity of brands is a direct consequence of relevance to consumers for years and years, giving the brand time to build greater trust and consumer loyalty.
The longer a brand lives and thrives, the lesser and lesser becomes the expense to maintain its market momentum. If a brand survives over time, all that was spent to launch and keep it going can be viewed as an investment with long term returns and not as an expense with short-term bursts of gain.
b. Building Trust For Your Brand’s Three Facets
Building trust for your online brand is actually a three-way process. Well before your “product brand” presents its face to the audience, your “informational brand” and your “personal brand” have to make themselves stand out as beacons of trust, credibility, consistency, and reliability. Only then will your product brand have a glimmer of a chance to get a look in.
When you assess your brand competencies and trust factors remember to look at all these three areas — first separately and then together.
Your actual brand: This is your product that you aim to sell.
Digital marketers as a whole have done yeoman service to all of us by creating a selling style where the customers have learned to make do with images, less than ideal trials, and to accept case studies as nearest examples of the kind of expectations they can afford to have of the vendor. Much as you want to be very creative and innovative in the way you sell products and services online, the pattern is so set now, that if you deviate too far from the standard practices you will lose the trust that comes from being close to what is familiar and feels safe as a process for the customer.
This is something you have to bear in mind — that the user has learned to trust a certain sales experience almost universally used online, and too much deviation from this journey makes the product or service look too maverick for comfort.
Your informational brand: The content your brand publishes.
One of the critical ways people judge your product (which they may not be able to touch and feel) is to check out the quality of information and intelligence the brand displays online, as a measure of how the actual product may be. This whole online idea of “content marketing” is thus a way to ensure that the “informational brand” associated with your actual brand gives people a great foretaste of your actual brand.
So when you check the strengths and weaknesses of your product and business, do remember to assess your informational brand on its own and in the context of your actual brand. Again, check this out from the point of view of potential customers, competitors and “market intelligentsia perception”.
Your personal brand: The authority you can command.
The third component of your brand online is your own personal brand. You, as the business owner, are judged as an associated brand by the digital public, because most social sites require you to profile yourself first and then create pages for your brand or company. On Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook, your personal profile is key to how your brand is perceived. Again this is a measure people use to gauge your actual brand (which they can’t touch or feel) by checking out what kind of quality and caliber you personally exhibit.
Your personal brand will enhance your actual brand if you are seen as “authentic, credible, trustworthy and authoritative”. Anything even slightly fake will rub off badly on your actual brand.
c. How People Online Learn To Trust Your Three Brand Facets
There is an inter-relationship and a sequence to the trust of the three brand facets described above. You may have noticed that people initially — your target audiences — tend to research your product and invariably find you online via links to your content. Thus your content brand comes to public notice first.
If the content engages the target reader, chances are that they will immediately look up your About page to see who you are, and read through your credentials and get a feel of the quality of your personal brand. This About page and your informational brand will together help seal the perception of you as an authority they can begin to trust.
A lot more reading of your articles may then ensue as readers gradually get accustomed to seeking you out for your opinions on different subjects. Now they will not come to you via search, they may come to your site directly from bookmarks or via links on your emails (if they have subscribed to receive updates whenever you write a post).
More reading of your work will either validate or erode into the authority image you initially created, and that is why it is so important to maintain the quality and originality and the tone and content of your posts. The first time people read your work, they gauge you. Thereafter when they read your work, they are looking to see if your standards are reliable and consistent.
The more trust you have accumulated via a series of consistent quality posts reflecting the high standards of your information brand, the less resistance will be there when you then project your product brand before the public. At this stage, it’s not just what is being sold to them, it’s also who is selling and how reliable and commanding is their word.
2. The Many Ways To Build Brand Trust For The Long Term
As we said before there are lots of ways you can begin to build brand trust. For convenience, I have grouped these methods into three categories — building trust with brand presence, building trust with brand behavior, and building trust with brand content.
All these three areas offer opportunities for enhancing brand trust, but remember that most of the time, brand trust is built slowly. It involves persistence, consistency, and transparency in word and deed.
a. 3 Ways To Build Brand Trust With Your Brand Presence
Become extremely visible.
In the words coined by Hinge Marketing, you have to grow as soon as you can into a “Visible Expert”. You have to become one who is not only an out-and-out ace with terrific domain knowledge in your area of expertise and your brand’s niche, but an expert who seems to be everywhere important online, saying and doing pretty important things.
According to research from Hinge Marketing, people themselves automatically imbue “Visible Experts” with even more qualities than they may have. They will believe you can be no less than generous, honest, sincere, trustworthy, reliable, knowledgeable, generous and a terrific person to know and connect with.
Demonstrate leadership qualities.
Increase your leadership qualities by increasing the help you give people instead of trying to sell anything to audiences. A leader shows the way. A seller tries to inveigle a sale. There’s a mighty difference there.
Jay Baer stresses this point a great deal in his book “Youtility”. If you are seen as doubling up to help other businesses flourish fast, you will find yourself with enough business trust and more to keep your brand in clover.
You get trusted by the company you keep.
Who do you network with, who are you following, who is following you, who is “liking” your social updates, who is upvoting your articles, who is ready to become your brand ambassador … who, who, who? The company you keep online is very important as a signal to your trustworthiness — and by association that also rubs off on your products and brands.
That’s why you’ll find sudden traction online when you are seen mingling with the ONES THAT MATTER. This is one of the fastest ways to raise your trust factor by deepening your own network with worthies of all kinds. And while you mingle, try to see how each one of them builds his own trust factor.
b. 3 Ways To Build Brand Trust With Your Brand Behavior
Stay true to your word, without let up.
Online, your word is your badge of honor, your “certificate of value”. Once you promise to reply an email, you MUST reply. Once you say you will help someone who needs your assistance, you MUST be prompt and ready to assist. If you promise a client to look into something on his behalf, you absolutely MUST follow up without having to be prodded and reminded. Your contribution need not be earth-shattering but it has to be extremely reciprocal and on-the-ready to be given.
And don’t be afraid to give your word to one and all, just because you know you’ll then have to keep it. Give more of your word and grab every chance you get to show that you don’t fear challenging yourself to live up to high standards of professionalism.
Finely hone your online tone of voice.
Don’t try to be too whacky, too playful, too humorous, too sober, too cautious, too anything. The things you should be are balanced, knowledgeable respectful and AUTHENTIC. Be yourself. You really don’t need to be more or less than that. Most people, especially online, seem to try too hard to be a “positive avatar” of themselves in real life. Maybe it’s the absence of physicality online that makes people try to compensate for their non-presence by underlining their online tone of voice with too many touches of artificiality.
And then again, remember we have a basically skeptical audience online that mistrusts first and tends to ask questions later. So it’s better to be on the side of consistency and sincerity. Be really who you are — without apologies. You will be respected and trusted for that.
Respond with both speed and distance.
Online customer management and customer nurturing are about earning trust through both promptness of action and promptness of reserve. How does that work? The speed with which you respond is perceived as one reflection of deep concern and care. Since people are in a predominantly self-service mode online, when they need help they ask for it — and they expect to get it on the double. And then they prefer to be left alone as one more mark of your deep sense of etiquette and courtesy.
If you want to sell anything, you have to first sell your “keenness to help at once” when someone needs it, as well as your “keenness to maintain distance” when someone needs it.
c. 3 Ways To Build Brand Trust With Your Brand Content
Be ultra-generous with your knowledge.
Bruce Clay, one of the biggest and best known names in SEO, was once asked why he put all his content and knowledge — reams and reams of it — for free online. Would it not let people who could become his clients run away with all the freebies instead? Bruce explained in detail that exactly the opposite happens.
People see how much you know, and how tough it is to put it all together the way you do. They see and read enough to know that you know your onions, and no one else can do it all the way you do it. And they realize they surely can’t replicate you. So they begin to trust your depth of knowledge and hire you instead.
People online tend to trust a brand that is communicative.
The responsiveness of a brand is gauged as an indicator of its trustworthiness. A short but quick response to a consumer query, comment or opinion is better than a long but delayed reply. Topics of discussion online wait for no one. People move swiftly on from topic to topic, so unless a brand’s response is “to-the-point” and “to-the moment”, it is a wasted response.
Research shows that waiting too long to reply online is considered as being “unhelpful”.
Let the brand’s trustworthiness come through via experience rather than words.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not the brand’s job to tell its consumers what the company values are. It’s the brand’s job to let consumers “experience those values”. Consumers experience a brand online when they are encouraged to linger in the fold of the brand’s online community.
Within the brand’s online communities, “conversations” are the embodied form of brand values. Conversations bind the community together, consolidate brand values, and provide the brand the insights to further impress its personality upon the community. That is why brands must seek to archive, organize and monitor conversations, to glean insights from them.
3. Three Ways To Speed Up The Brand Trust Building Process
If your brand is relatively new to the market — or if it hasn’t quite seriously prioritized the building of trust factors — there are a few ways to speed up the trust your brand gets from its audiences and the general public. Use the methods below when you want to give your brand a quicker burst of trust.
It’s not always easy but it can be done — if you know how to grab a good endorser or a great cause that can jack up your brand trust. Some marketers have also used what I’d call “extreme transparency” to get that trust-thrust. Try it and see if it can work for you.
a. Get Big-Name Endorsements That Can Transfer Some Brand Trust To You
There may be brands in your space that are bigger than you, have been there longer than you and whom people have learned to trust a lot. Perhaps you have some overlap of audiences. If that is the case, that would be excellent. However, even if your audiences are not quite the same, if a big brand is in a niche that is close to yours, and it can act as an endorser of your brand, you can get some transfer of that brand’s built-up brand goodwill to your brand.
If your target audiences respect some brands in fields related to your own, see if you can build bridges with these larger brands. See if you can wheedle them into a joint venture to promote you (it may cost you money). If they agree to help in your brand promotion to some level of mutual comfort, you could have a winner of a strategy for quicker trust-building for your brand.
But remember, the association between your brand and that bigger brand has to be more than just a tweet they put out about you, or a few words of favorable commendation. They have to demonstrate to the public that they trust you enough to do some bit of business with you, or alongside of you. It is that trust they demonstrate that transfers their goodwill to you.
All this is not easy to achieve. Brands that have taken the time, effort and persistence to build their brand trust over a long period know the value of what they have achieved. They will not give away a part of that lightly to a small brand “on the make”. They must really know you well, and begin to trust your personal integrity. If there is a risk to their brands and the trust they enjoy, they will not be sticking their neck out for your business.
The idea is this. Instead of trying to build slow trust with audiences, if you put some of that effort into cultivating the trust of a big brand it may pay you faster dividends. Your audiences will more readily and quickly begin to trust you because you have that bigger brand endorsing you.
b. Support A Great Brand Cause That Has Its Own Massive Traction
It’s now an era of larger responsibility. Cause-marketing has become something that gets brands instant brownie points on the trust scale. Customers want to know if the brands they are considering supporting share their desire to make change happen in this world by associating with important causes.
On blogs and social media, the idea of “giving” rules. A brand seen as generous to a noble cause, which also encourages others to be the same way, gets immediately placed higher in the eyes of those who are its potential customers. But the important thing here is this. Not only does your brand need to be seen to be associated with a worthy cause, but it also has to give the right cues of sincerity, transparency and deep belief in the chosen cause. Only then does “trust” in your brand set in.
There are the kinds of questions audiences ask to see if a brand’s support of a good cause is genuine:
- Is the brand really giving from the heart and asking others to do so as well? Does the “brand tone of voice” reflect confidence, trust and credibility?
- Is the brand’s chosen cause aligned to its values and mission? Or is the brand doing something totally outside its usual ambit?
- Is the brand doing more than just giving dollars and putting its name on banners? Is it educating people on the cause, and actually facilitating diverse ways in which people can help?
- Does the brand have a formal affiliation to the cause it is supporting, or is it just lip-service? Are the brand’s name, logo and other “authority” assets deployed as badges of official support?
- Is there an integrated online broader “cause-campaign” of which social media is just one part? Or is the whole campaign simply hinged on social media with no other larger context?
The Warc “Seriously Social” Report offers an extremely interesting insight about trust in brands that support causes. The report states that the cause-marketing campaigns of brands must be multichannel, where social media should a supporting channel, and not a leading medium. There appears to be less trust in a brand that does some free propaganda on social media, and does not invest bigger marketing dollars in the cause it purportedly believes in.
c. Show Your Vulnerability And Uphold The Value Of Extreme Transparency
Every now and again you’ll find many brands trying this tactic of being “extremely transparent” in a bid to win the trust away from competitive brands. Their story often is “We’re more trustworthy than the other guys, because we to extreme lengths to bare our business soul to you”.
At various times in Internet history, brands have come up with seemingly innovative ideas to give proof of their “extreme”transparency”. First, it used to be trust badges they wore to show how respected they were in their industries — and how safe and secure their sites were. T
hen it became a game of who could show more social proof of trustworthiness.
At least six different types of social proof have been used by brands in a bid to outshine others on the trustworthiness factor:
- Using testimonials from experts.
- Using testimonials from users.
- Showing off high ratings on review sites.
- Citing the “wisdom of the crowds” like applause on the social media.
- Citing the commendations of peers and competitors — the ultimate form of praise.
- Showing various renowned certifications or membership of apex bodies.
After social proof was overdone by the crowds of marketers as trust-begetting tactics, we had hordes of bloggers showing us their “monthly earnings statements”. This is a bit of a conundrum. As a target audience member of such a brand, don’t you have to be able to first trust that the brand is showing true numbers and not Photoshopped ones? So how does this count as “transparency” to get trust, when it sounds like you need trust to believe in the “transparency”?
A more recent version of “extreme transparency” I have seen is where brands deliberately try to come off as “vulnerable” so that they look more truthful and honest than others. To an extent this works, I suppose, because, in earlier times, businesses and brands always showed us their good times, and not their “bad hair days”.
The moral of the story is that “extreme transparency” works to gain quicker trust. But there is no one way to use “extreme transparency”. Every now and again there is an innovator in “transparency tactics” who then becomes the role model for everyone else to be seen doing the same thing to get trust.
If you chance upon a great new idea to reveal “extreme transparency”, try it as a trust-quickener. But don’t ever be one of the crowds after another person’s brilliant “transparency or vulnerability idea” has been copied a thousand times over.
In Summary …
- Strongly trusted brands are a hugely protective insurance for businesses and the marketers that own these brands.
- People going through rough times want to feel good about things they care about, including brands they are closely connected to.
- Trusted brands can greatly increase odds of business survival at low costs, in economically shaky times.
- People have to trust your brand’s three facets – your information brand, your personal brand and your product brand.
- There are lots of ways you can build brand trust via your brand presence, brand behavior, and brand content.
- There are also ways to speed up the trust your brand gets: get a good endorser, support a great cause, or show “extreme transparency”.
So What Are Your Thoughts? Do Share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of Knowledge Commerce solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
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