Trust is essential to a successful business that stands the test of time.
If so, then why aren’t we all focusing on trust a heck of a lot more?
Trust isn’t something that just magically happens. It takes intentional effort.
PWC ran a survey in May 2022 where they found that 87% of executives think customers highly trust their companies when only about 30% do. We may hope people trust us, but that doesn’t mean they actually do!
Check Your Inbox
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting inundated with spammy messages that basically read, “Hey, you don’t know me at all, but I’m awesome. Buy my stuff!”
I’ve certainly not done any rigorous analysis, but I feel like these messages are cranking up in frequency–and intensity. One follow-up message literally started out with, “Since you didn’t respond to my previous email, I’m assuming you’re interested but too busy at the moment to respond.”
That’s a pretty bold assumption!
I only bring up the spam to show what it feels like to be pitched by people we don’t trust. I don’t know them. Maybe they are awesome at their jobs, but I’m not interested in finding out.
I’m sure these campaigns net some level of success for the people sending these messages, but the likelihood of creating shallower connections with leads is dramatically higher. Time-to-close may be shorter, but lifetime value will certainly be less than what it could be.
Trust Is Expensive
Let’s think through some of the steps required to build trust as marketers. One, you need to listen well, and you need to interact with your customers in some capacity (online, in person, etc.). This process could include efforts like customer surveys, additional meetings with current and prospective clients, content writing, and media production. (Marcus Sheridan, a marketer I’ve watched for several years and who has proven his strategies many times over, has a great article on trust-building and three steps to take on marketing tactics to use.)
The items listed above certainly aren’t cheap, but there is also a degree of opportunity cost. Instead of paying for these listening and response tools, you could be using direct marketing efforts that push for the sale immediately. And in some cases, it makes a lot of sense.
Less expensive products or more disposable products don’t require the same level of trust. We know that. But it’s easy to fall into the same trap even with more expensive items when looking at the annual sales numbers.
There’s something truly satisfying about being able to see a one-to-one relationship between a marketing effort and the amount of revenue coming in. That relationship is becoming ever more elusive for several reasons right now, so we must start thinking more expansively.
Trust-building means investing in materials which won’t pay off immediately. The thing we must look for is the long-term return of the efforts.
This concept also extends to what attributes go into a SQL (sales-qualified lead). Just because someone attended a webinar does not actually mean they’re ready to make a purchase. Actual trust is required.
Our Podcasting Experience
I can point back to a podcast that we ran for two and a half years and say that the trust-building process took longer than expected for that effort. We built relationships in the short-term, which have been extremely helpful, but I couldn’t make a strong correlation between podcasting and sales.
We wrapped the show at the end of the previous year (it’s November now as I’m writing this), and we are still generating potential client conversations from that show.
Which leads me to…
Trust Isn’t Easily Scheduled
Trust-building doesn’t match an easy timetable. I would have preferred that potential customers showed up a lot sooner in the podcasting process. We even promoted the show to get it out to a broader audience. All of that helped in building listenership, but it didn’t mean that we’d built enough trust to earn business.
Still, without the opportunity to connect, we wouldn’t have had the opportunities at all.
At this point in our marketing journey, I look at it as though we cannot buy trust, but we can invest in meeting new people. This is where direct response advertising can have some positive effect. Instead of asking for a sale, you’re asking for a connection, a subscription, a “follow.” This is the “quick win” we can look for.
The Paradox of “Slow”
If you aren’t following Jay Acunzo on LinkedIn, you need to fix that. He regularly posts insightful marketing comments, and I get a lot out of them.
In a recent post, Jay connected trust to the concept of influence and talked about its value over “simple” numbers like “follower counts” and “likes.” I asked about ways to measure influence for the sake of a business, and Jay responded that businesses should be evaluating Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and sales velocity (among a number of other factors). The overall idea is that trusted brands are quicker to complete sales. And here’s the paradox:
Anything that is about speed and efficiency, not just totals, really is the product of influence.Jay Acunzo
Yes, it takes time to build trust. The return on investment is faster sales (eventually).
Getting there isn’t fast, but the resulting value leads to easier relationship- and deal-building in the future. The “quick wins” are coming, but they’re going to be a while.
Translating Trust to Systems- and Collateral-Building
Ok, trust is important. It can lead to outsized returns on your efforts.
Extract the Right Data for a “Trust to Dollars” Conversion
If you’re going to make this case to others in your company, you must find these stats for your company and look at what kinds of efforts can sway them (again, hat tip to Jay Acunzo here):
- Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
- Sales velocity
- Sales margins
- Lifetime Value (LTV)
- Qualitative Feedback
- Audience influence level on a company hierarchy (how many c-suite folks, etc.)
You need to set your benchmarks looking at historical data and then see what your efforts are doing to potentially exceed them. (Additional thought here… can you see where past efforts increased your margins, brought in better feedback, etc.? Follow those threads!)
Extract the Right Data to Replicate or Enable Customer Success
There’s other data available to help you in your quest, but you’ll need to think about your systems in new ways.
Instead of just running quick searches on user behavior, dig in to specific profiles to see what nuggets you can find.
We see this all the time when it comes to systems like data visualization tools for doctors and medical specialists. Reviewing usage data quickly turns up the average interaction types for these high-profile users, but the power users are the ones leaving behind important clues about what they find important about the system.
Use the Data to Build Features Others Might Need
Take the info from those power users and look to see whether you should make that “export your case” button one of the top calls to action on a page. Maybe you can provide announcements to new or returning users who haven’t been on in a while to talk about how “users really like this potentially overlooked feature.”
You can take a page out of SparkToro’s book, and just send an email to new users:
I’m sure you have folks doing some onboarding of your tools when customers first sign up, but you want to provide as many opportunities as you can for your customers to succeed.
Pull in the Sales Team
Get your sales team involved. Poll your influential customers on a one to one basis. Give team members the chance to advocate for customers so you can come up with a meaningful solution.
Maybe interested customers want a calculator of some sort that shows how proactive investment can reduce risk for their company or hospital.
Interested customers might just need an easier way to order!
While medical technology companies do have to work through a number of issues depending on where a customer is based, who the sales rep is, and more, there are ways to streamline the process. (If your process still involves faxing anything… yeah, that’s a painful step in your process. It still happens!)
I’m sure I’m missing lots of other opportunities that would work at your company. This is your chance to let your imagination run wild.
Michael spends a great deal of time with the healthcare industry both professionally and personally, which gives him the perspective of what stakeholders on either side of the care equation need.
He began coding in 2008 and subsequently shifted his attention entirely to online marketing. Michael completed his MBA in 2018, focusing on the intersection of healthcare and marketing.