When most people think about building their company’s brand they think about investing in marketing and advertising strategies. Typically the focus is on brand awareness and brand perception.
That’s a good start. But longer term strategy is to work on building brand trust. And that’s even harder to do. But it’s worth it. Research shows people want to do business with people and companies they trust. Trust is closely associated with long-term loyalty and positive word-of-mouth.
Building brand trust requires a well-integrated marketing approach. Your external communication efforts are important, but your internal communication and internal branding efforts are even more important when it comes to building brand trust.
That’s because building trust is personal. It’s about people.
Trust is built on communication. By that I mean two-way communication. This isn’t just about getting your marketing and branding messages into the heads of your customers and potential customers. It’s about listening as well. To build trust, you have to clearly understand what your customer wants and needs from you.
As businesses, the more time we spend seeing the world from the perspective of our customers, the better. It’s the only way to really understand how to meet the needs of your customers. And after all, it IS about the customers. So you have to ask and then listen. Have a conversation.
There are a lot of ways to get the insight you need – some more formal than others. Consumer research can be a great start. Especially qualitative research, which allows you to look below the surface and better understand the "how” and "why” of the decisions consumers make.
Social media tools are rapidly opening up a whole new dialog between consumers and businesses. It’s a space where the rules are still not set, and that’s the beauty of it. The web was built for communication, not commercialism, and businesses are trying to figure out how to participate in the consumer conversation. They’re looking for ways to talk, understand and advertise. Even if you’re not ready to start conversing with customers on the web using social media tools, you should at least listen in to hear what your customers are saying about you.
Your front-line employees – those who interact with your customers every day - are an excellent source of insight into what your customers want and need. Are you asking them the right questions? Are you creating opportunities for your employees to share what they know so you can act on it as a company?
Make it as easy as possible for your employees to do what’s best for your customers. Nordstrom does this with a simple handbook that spells out the company’s number one goal: "To provide outstanding customer service.” To do that, the employees need to follow one rule: "Use good judgment in all situations.”
While your corporate mantra may be about doing what’s best for the customers, if you don’t equip your employees with the power to do what’s best for the customers, you can’t build trust.
Building trust with your customers comes down to the actions of individuals within your company. You can invest heavily in marketing communications to get your message in front of customers and potential customers, but if your employees aren’t equipped to deliver what you’ve promised, your marketing investment will be a waste of time and money.
- Lynn Manternach, Ph.D. This article originally appeared in the Tree Full of Owls column in the Corridor Business Journal.