Trust is the currency of business. When we trust an organization, we do business with them whenever and wherever it makes sense without questioning it. If we don’t trust an organization, we look for alternatives and we spend a fortune over-evaluating their pricing and value model. Trust is extremely valuable. Thus, it is imperative for us to reduce the amount of time it takes for us to get our customers to cross the “Trust Threshold” and to give us a shot at their attention.
In “The Speed of Trust” by Stephen Covey, he poetically illustrates the value of trust in the business world. Without it, we add a tremendous amount of cost to each and every business transaction. Once we trust a brand to deliver on its promises, the next time we buy from them, the transaction costs go way down because we don’t have to spend as much time evaluating their promises. We have direct historical experience to draw upon from the past. The bigger the purchase, the more important this becomes. But where does trust really come from?
Trust, at its root, comes from experience. It could be from direct historical experiences, second hand stories from your peer group’s experiences or the stories that are produced by your marketing and sales teams. At the end of the day, how you make people feel with the evidence that you provide is at the root of all trust relationships. Whether we realize it or not, we spend most of our sales and marketing energy and dollars experimenting with ways to reduce the speed to trust with evidence.
Marketing is an exercise in minimizing the effort that our prospects have to exert to trust us.
Trust should trump most investments that you make in marketing. Behind each marketing dollar that you spend, you should have a very clear understanding of how it is building trust. Trust takes time to build and those micro-experiences matter deeply. Here are some ways to invest in building trust with your customers:
Reputation. Be who you say you are. Be honest. Maintain your integrity over time.
This is why testimonials and case studies become core marketing tools in the sales environment for most companies. They demonstrate that you keep your promises and earn trust over time. Speak honestly. Don’t use spin or jargon that is not clearly defined or creates a smoke screen. Never use manipulative marketing tactics. Forcing your customers to decipher your buzzword marketing moves them down the loyalty ladder. Most importantly, clean up the mess when you make a mistake. Every one of your customers should be a willing reference for you. One of the easiest ways to earn trust is through others who trust you.
Trust spreads like wildfire when you are trustworthy.
Commitment. Make promises. Keep them. Talk about them. When you actually make bold, short term commitments and keep them, you earn respect and trust. Even the smallest commitments matter. The language of commitment is really important to building trust. A clear and honest commitment represents the ultimate form of respect for your customers. Think about these two simple statements in context and how they make you feel:
“Give us your email address and we will register you for our blog.”
“Give us your email address and we promise to keep you informed of the latest trends in software product development.”
The former gives you the opportunity to then say in the header of your blog notification, “We promised to keep you informed on the latest trends in software product development. Here is our curated list of articles for the month.” That subtle difference in language can be impactful and the reminder that you are keeping your promises is an important part of the formula.
Consistency. Pay attention to the language that you use and make sure your team, your software products and your marketing materials are using language consistently. People notice contradictions and inconsistencies that occur when you use amorphous marketing language and buzzwords and it fractures your brand. Make sure the people that interact with your customers understand your company’s lexicon and know how to use it. A great user experience needs clear and exciting language to support it.
Great user experience designers know that the words you use matter just as much as the art.
The same with the designs that go into the UI’s that you build. Invest in developing and maintaining a user interface “kit” that will help maintain a consistent and trustworthy look and feel across all of the digital experiences that your customers have. They shouldn’t have to learn a new interaction model with each new digital experience that you create.
Transparency. Open the kimono. Share more information and more knowledge. Be free with your information and insights. When people learn from you and grow from the knowledge and wisdom that you create and share in the world, they learn to trust you. Take a hard look at your core operations and each of your customer experience touch points and figure out how to use the data that you have to improve transparency and build trust. The more transparency you create in the business environment, the more trust you breed. Whether it’s with your employees, your supervisors, your vendors or your customers, greater transparency always breeds more trust. If you work to hide information, control relationships and create a mysterious veil of superiority between your firm and your customers, over time, you destroy the trust relationship. If you look for creative ways to improve transparency at every turn — you build trust.
Here are four questions to ask of your organization:
- What information can you provide to your customers that your competitors are not providing?
- What data, information or insights can you draw and share with your customers to make them more individually successful in the context of your business?
- What knowledge can you provide for your customers that will help the in their careers?
What wisdom can you impart on your industry with the knowledge that you create in your organization?
Vulnerability. Be human. Be humble. Tell the world the truth about your imperfections and be open to criticism. There is no need to apologize for your mistakes and your imperfections if you are willing to clean up the mess and stand behind your products or services.
People will always trust imperfection with integrity over a perfect facade.
Listening. When you listen to your customers with the intent to understand, you build trust. When you listen with the intent to respond or react to your customers, you participate in a transaction. When your intent is to understand, and you have a commitment to always learning and growing, your customers will grow to trust you.
If you work these six tenets into your software experience strategy, you are sure to generate trust and pull more of your users over the “Trust Threshold.” The more you invest in each one, in fact, the more overall trust you will create.
Sean started building software products at 11 years old on his 8-Bit Commodore Vic-20 and he's never stopped. He studied aviation electronics working on F-14 Tomcats in the Navy, molecular genetics at the University of Rochester, and earned an MBA from the Simon School of Business. Most of his experience, however has come from working in the trenches with his amazing clients and the inspiring software products that ITX builds with them.
He is most fortunate to have the privilege of leading the team that is ITX. ITX has built a passionate team of technologists and artists that inspires him every day with the magic that they produce for their clients. ITX is pioneering the way that software products are built and creating best practices that has their competition scrambling. They are pushing the limits on what is possible with technology and bringing some of the most inspiring software to life for companies big and small.
Sean runs Innovation Workshops for his clients and speaks regularly on "Pull: How to create software that people can't live without." He has written many articles and thought leadership pieces on software product strategy, innovation and entrepreneurship.