Marketing Strategy Guide: How To Build Trust

You have an obvious vested interest in the customer buying what you’re selling, and they know that. This means you need to convince them to trust that you’re being honest with them. Considering how you will build trust in your brand is an important part of your marketing strategy. 

A customer is less likely to buy from someone they don’t trust, and the bigger the price tag, the more important this is. They may not think twice about who they’re buying a single chocolate bar from, but your reputation matters a lot if asking them to sign onto a 3 year contract. 

But, if you want your business to grow, you want to get more loyal customers. So it’s important that your marketing and actions as a business stay on brand to gain and retain their trust. A Marketing Director could bring your business the expertise to write a great marketing strategy and advise you on matters of branding. 

Why you need to build trust to grow your business

When someone is trying to get something out of you, it’s natural to assume that they may not be being completely honest. Knowing how customers think shows that we have a stronger trust in statements when we can’t see a benefit to the person making them. 

The two main ways of tapping into this are using statistics and social proof. Generally speaking, we know that if an advert directly quotes a statistic it shouldn’t be made up, and we see no reason why a stranger would lie on behalf of a business when giving a review. This means we trust any claims that are backed by numbers and reviews more.

Statistics and numbers

Numbers feel like hard facts. When people see statistics backing up a claim, they attach that same feeling to it. This means that a genuine statistic will go a long way towards getting a sale.

You’ve probably seen plenty of adverts with lines like “9 out of 10 professionals” or “79% of women.” Statements like these work because they provide large scale social proof. The customer is being asked to trust the word of the general population rather than that of a couple of people.

There are a couple of important things to note, however. Firstly, neither of these stats suggest total agreement, and this is on purpose. Nature doesn’t do perfect, so we don’t trust it when someone claims to be. 

Secondly, it’s important to know your audience when presenting them with stats. Customers of a cosmetics brand may not care as much where that figure came from, but the engineers buying from a niche business are much more likely to want to know what research backs it. 

If your business can’t currently call on any research to make such a statistic, consider making this a higher priority in your marketing strategy. By conducting this research now, you can set up options for future campaigns. 

Social proof

Social proof is using independent statements to provide support for your marketing. The claims come from the customer’s peers and so are naturally more trustworthy. You build trust in yourself by borrowing it from the general public.

One way of doing this is using any awards you’ve won in your marketing, however these aren’t easy to get hold of. An approach that anyone can use is to make use of reviews and case studies. 

❖ Reviews

Seeing reviews from normal people helps the customer imagine themselves using what you sell. It’s also a way for them to find out the answers to specific questions they might have.

Consider asking your customers to leave reviews. It’s best to give time to try the product out, but maybe send an email a week after and ask what they think. Encourage them to be honest.

Honest criticism looks good, as it can feel hollow when every review you see is a glowing 5 stars. Genuine criticisms make you look more grounded and honest. Just as with statistics, we don’t trust perfection.

For example, a review saying an item of clothing is tighter than it seems so they should buy a size up will help the customer get what they want first time. It looks good that you’re willing to share something that could be seen as a criticism and prevents them from becoming dissatisfied with their first purchase. 

❖ Case studies

Case studies are more detailed examples of a service, usually written by the business. They still work as social proof because they come from a customer. Case studies usually present a problem they were having and how your business was able to solve it.

This acts as a review, shows potential customers how they could be helped, and comes from an actual person. The best case studies will include a testimonial quote from the client that includes a picture, name and job title. This last part is what makes it effective social proof.

If you ever get an email or comment from a client that’s overwhelmingly positive, ask them for a case study. If they’re really that satisfied, they’ll be happy to provide you with one that you can use to spread the word. 

Building brand loyalty

Depending on what your business provides, it may be that you can identify good gateway products and services that you can provide. If you don’t have something like this, consider what you could add to your catalogue.

Starting with something small and effective, is a good way to build up trust with an individual customer. You provide something that has a low enough cost that the risk won’t put them off and then impress them with it. This acts as evidence to justify a higher priced option when they return to use you again.

If you provide a service, consider a free consultation or trial to impress them before they buy. If you sell products, do you have a more affordable entrance option they can try before moving onto your more significant products?

Retaining customer trust

It’s important to remember that trust is earned and so can be lost. Your brand must stay worthy of that trust.

Review your marketing and sales techniques and ask if they’re likely to oversell? A disappointed customer is far less likely to return to you, so don’t promise what you can’t provide. Sell what makes your product great and solve your customer’s problem, and you’ll earn their trust. 

It’s also great to see a business being honest. If there is a problem, make a statement to explain it. If one of your suppliers is having troubles, tell your customers rather than leaving them to wonder why their order is late.

The most important rule of marketing is that you must not lie. Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. Provable falsehoods destroy your reputation in the eye of the customer and can be incredibly costly if they are caught by standards agencies. 

To summarise

If you want to build trust with your customers, make use of the ones you already have to provide social proof. Be honest and open with constructive criticism, and never lie to your customers.

If your marketing could do with extra support, a Part-time Marketing Director could bring their experience to your Board. If you think your business would benefit from expert guidance, contact us and speak to one of our Regional Directors about how we can help you.

Contact your Regional Director of Boardroom Advisors

Written by: John Courtney

John is highly ranked in the Top 100 UK Entrepreneurs list by City AM and is winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award from techSPARK. He has been a Board Director himself for over 40 years and first started placing Non-Executive Directors over 25 years ago. John founded and ran seven of his own businesses including a Management Consultancy for 10 years, a Corporate Finance offering for 10 years and a mid-sized Digital Agency for another 10 years.