Why Should Your Customers Trust You?

Understanding what drives a prospect's purchasing decisions -- familiarity, authority, affinity -- is key to building a successful relationship.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In their book No B.S. Trust-Based Marketing, authors Dan S. Kennedy and Matt Zagula detail strategies to build and maintain trust in your business, and in turn attract both customers and profits. In this edited excerpt, the authors detail how trust can be used to reach and retain customers.

There are many different sources of trust. Not every business can effectively draw on every source, but there's no business that can't be strengthened by drawing on some of them:

  • Authority -- doctor, lawyer, accountant, police officer, fireman
  • Affinity -- shared background, experience, philosophy, fraternity
  • Credibility -- factual basis for trust
  • Longevity -- years in business, in the community
  • Celebrity -- being known or being known for something
  • Familiarity -- reassuring omnipresence
  • Frequency -- the more often heard and seen, the more easily trusted
  • Second-party transferral -- earned, engineered, borrowed, rented, purchased endorsement
  • Place -- geographic or target market; being for a certain customer
  • Demonstration -- seeing is believing

People trust for the wrong reasons. By understanding how people actually come to trust, based on the above sources and others, you will be able to deliberately manufacture maximum trust.

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People have an underlying, ongoing anxiety and angst about nearly everything -- from the news they watch, to the car they drive, from the food they eat to virtually everybody from whom they get advice, services, and products. In this environment, trust is a huge advantage. But few advertisers, marketers, or sales professionals focus on this advantage. Instead, they drift to cute advertising, low prices and discounting, or rely on product-centric presentations. This is why trust-based marketing can be such a powerful tool. You'll leave your cluttered and competitive marketing environment and, via a road less traveled, appear uniquely attractive.

Even mundane purchases are affected by trust. My wife and I trust U.S.-grown produce and we distrust foreign-grown food. But why? I possess no empirical evidence that the U.S.-grown produce is safer. I've done no research, can't recall seeing any news reports and know of no information to suggest I have reason to distrust blueberries from Argentina or tomatoes from Mexico. We are obviously in the minority, since more supermarkets sell more imported than homegrown produce. But we are not alone. And local farmers markets' success attests to that. The point is, if "Who do you trust?" plays a part in many rather mundane buying decisions, imagine how significant it may be for somebody contemplating a more significant purchase or investment.

Certainly the more significant a purchase is to a buyer, the more consciously he seeks a trustworthy seller or provider, but you can't ignore the role of trust in just about every act of commerce.

My wife and I eat unknown quantities of foreign-grown produce, seafood and meat in restaurants, but refuse to buy it at the supermarket. Is that rational? Of course not. A big breakthrough in your approach to trust-based marketing will be forcing yourself away from rational, logical thought about why your customers would or should trust you. Instead, if you can "decode" how they really process you and the ideas, information and propositions you present, you'll find yourself holding a new key to the vault.

Related: Why and How to Build Customer Relationships with Website Comments

One of the main sources of trust is "pass along." You trust somebody because somebody you trust trusts him. It's passed-along trust.

Targeted investors handed their money over to Bernie Madoff and his epic Ponzi scheme voluntarily. And most who did so were sophisticated and wealthy individuals, managers of family fortunes, and paid administrators of universities' investment portfolios and pensions. All had access to competent financial, tax and legal advisors. Yet they handed wealth to Madoff. None could explain exactly what Bernie did with their money or how he consistently generated above-par returns. Trusting Madoff was irrational, so why did so many who should have known better? Because someone who they knew and trusted, trusted him. Yes, he served on the board of the Nasdaq stock exchange and had offices and trappings of wealth manufactured with the stolen money. But at the core, Bernie perpetuated his scam thanks to passed-along trust.

This reveals something very powerful about selling inside the fortress walls of a closed community like the very wealthy. Their fortress walls are their reliance on peer-provided information. They trust each other and distrust all others. But once the fortress is penetrated, with just one insider inhabitant, it is no longer as a safeguard for the other inhabitants. In a small, clannish industry or segment of an industry, the business-to-business marketer, the consultant, the software developer, the "expert" of any sort needs only the trust of one or a few well-known members, and all others' defenses against him disappear.

And the harder it is to gain the trust of anyone in such a community, the more viral it becomes, and the more valuable its viral nature. This is why it is so worthwhile to gain the trust of key centers of influence within any target group in which you seek to develop a clientele, and why it is worthwhile to invest in securing that trust.

Related: Secrets of the 10 Most-Trusted Brands

No B.S. Trust-Based MarketingThis article is an excerpt from the book No B.S. Trust-Based Marketing available from Entrepreneur Press.

Dan S. Kennedy and Matt Zagula

No BS Trust Based MarketingDan S. Kennedy and Matt Zagula are the co-authors of No B.S. Trust-Based Marketing: The Ultimate Guide to Creating Trust in an Understandably Un-Trusting World, published by Entrepreneur Press in 2012. Kennedy is a strategic adviser, marketing consultant and coach in Phoenix, Ariz. Zagula, a Weirton, W.Va.-based financial consultant, leads a national advisory practice.

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