[picapp align=”left” wrap=”false” link=”term=sears&iid=6092209″ src=”3/d/5/b/Sears_Posts_2nd_6427.jpg?adImageId=7761923&imageId=6092209″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /]Why do I begin this conversation with a photo of a Sears sign? Because in this discussion, the Sears brand has been and still is, a trusted brand name in my family. There are a few things that are iconic to my family generational-ly and the Sears Christmas catalog [their first Christmas catalog came out in 1933] is one, and the tool and appliance departments at the stores are another. When my mom brought home the catalog early in the month every December, my sister and I would sit and devour it. We’d mark the pages and leave it sitting around just where dad could see it.
The products that my parents and their parents purchased at Sears were trusted simply because they came from Sears. My dad would not buy tools for his garage shop from any other vendor. My grandmother and mom only bought their clothes from Sears. Up until my mom passed away a few years ago, I was taking her on her monthly shopping trips to Sears.
So how can you and I – small and home-based business owners – build a brand that has this kind of trust attached to it?
I began exploring this question due to an article in the business section of my morning newspaper on November 10. I had time that morning to read through more than just the front page of each section and on page four in the biz section that day was a big article titled, “PayPal could overshadow eBay” with a subhead: “Convenience, trust in the brand help build loyal following for online pay service.” [article by Rachel Metz, Associated Press-San Francisco].What jumped out at me in the subhead was the phrase “trust in the brand.” I believe this to be true of PayPal. I’m a home-based business owner and I do business through PayPal…in my etsy store I only accept PayPal. I utilize PayPal as a way to pay for supplies through my mosaic tile supplier. Why? Because I’ve grown to trust PayPal. Why?
- PayPal does what it says it will do
- I have never been sorry or inconvenienced by the service – from the article: “…PayPal doesn’t share your financial information with merchants. That brings peace of mind to people who might otherwise worry about shopping at a site they’ve never heard of….”
- PayPal offers enough services to meet my business needs
According to the article, “…As of the end of September, 78 million people had active PayPal accounts, up from 65 million a year ago….” What does this tell me about trust in the brand? That people trust PayPal to be consistent: what you see, what you hear, what you read about PayPal is what you get…every time.
I thought some more about the question: how do you build brand trust? For answers I went to the experts who shared some valuable wisdom. The key things I think they are saying is that your business and the way you do business needs to be consistent and transparent: what is seen, what is heard, and what is read about your business should be what your customer/client gets…every time.
The question I posed: How do you build brand trust?
- “…You create a product, service, message, or name that’s simple and memorable. You surround it with easy to understand differences and you consistently engage every corner of space online and off and then you do it next week and the next and . . ..” – thank you to John Jantsch – a marketing and digital technology coach, award winning social media publisher and author of Duct Tape Marketing www.ducttapemarketing.com
- “…When it comes to a small business building trust in their brand particularly online, the first thing they must do is approach it with the give-to-get principle. Every relationship must be approached with the mindset, “how can I help?” They will position themselves as a connector and expert in their industry…Perceived risk is the number one barrier for small businesses. The more important thing a small business can do to build trust in their brand is to be clear about exactly what business they are in, keep their word and deliver on their brand promise….” thank you to Melinda Emerson “SmallBizLady” Author, Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business that Works! (Feb. 2010 Adams Media) www.succeedasyourownboss.com www.melindaemerson.com
- “…I believe brand trust is about getting your organization’s message out frequently and consistently – and then following through. If the message and the user/customer experience do not match, trust is eroded. It’s like the old adage about saying one thing and doing another – customer/client service must reinforce the marketing/branding message for strong brand trust to be forged….” thank you to Jane K. Stimmler, The Marketing Edge
- “…Following are two ways I recommend building brand trust: Have a suggestions/comments area on your business’ website– and a system in place for responding to all comments received in a timely manner. If you know there are times you’ll have heavy traffic, have a standard email that gives an “estimated waiting time” for a personalized response. ALWAYS RESPOND…Call with no news: very often people don’t call back because they don’t have the information you requested. Making the time to call whether you have good news, no news, or bad news is a fast way to build brand trust….” thank you to Frances Cole Jones, www.thewowfactor-thebook.com
- “…I’d say the best way to build trust is with brutal honesty…I think brands do themselves the MOST good after a ‘drama’ of some kind – some kind of bad publicity. I recommend the sooner they come forward, and the more honestly they come forward the better. There have been cases where people have started Facebook groups or started tweeting relentlessly about brands that have stuffed up in some way or another and stupidly the brand has IGNORED all of the drama expecting it to ‘blow over’ – and of course with this kind of social media available – it DOESN’T! So eventually after much delay they have no choice but to speak up, but by then it’s too little too late…I think brands have the most potential to win raving fans during times of trial and bad publicity – the more humbly they come forward and either say “we were wrong” or the like the better it is for them and their future sales....” thank you to Allison O’Neill author of The Boss Benchmark www.thebossbenchmark.com
- “…A satisfied customer is not a loyal customer by any means. I build brand and customer trust by NOT expecting them to be loyal to me, but by being loyal to THEM! I earn loyalty by giving it. I do it one “D” at a time: Discover (what is important or of value to my customer), Decide (what their experience will look like), Deliver (what I set as their expectation) and Do It Again (it’s an ongoing process that changes and improves with feedback….” thank you to Chrysty Beverley Fortner www.linkedin.com/in/chrystybeverleyfortner www.chrystybfortner.wordpress.com
Here is what I think the above experts are telling me when it comes to building brand trust:
- give-to-get; this is very much like having a service mentality. Instead of positioning your business in your own mind as “the customer is lucky to have this,” you position yourself as “how can I be of service?” As businesses, as business owners, we need to remember there is no entitlement. We are not entitled to have customers or clients simply because we hang out a shingle. A customer may purchase once, but what will bring them back?
- consistency – this is a principle that says you treat every customer exactly the same; your products are of the same value and quality from one season to the next; your message, although worded to fit various occasions, says the same thing each and every time
- transparency – this is the “what you see is what you get” concept; your business is open and visible – your customers and clients [and competitors for that matter] can see what your business standards are by the way you do business, by what you say and put “out there” and by the way you treat your customers, clients and vendors [suppliers, even the FedEx delivery fellow]
- honesty, open and frequent communication – to me this means the right hand and the left hand are working in concert on the same tune; that your message and actions match; that you and your business are accountable for every message, product and service
- follow through – do what you say you are going to do or deliver…make no promises – rather, say what you stand for
My personal input on this question is that building brand trust takes time. Do all of the above and over time your brand will stand the test of economy and fluctuating customer demand. Also, I think it needs to begin with a leadership question: what exactly do I want my brand to be, to say, to be known for and trusted for?