When calculating brand value, trust is often a dynamic that is considered an afterthought primarily. Trust is an intangible sum challenging to quantify in business balance sheets. And yet, it’s quite possibly one of the most important things to a company’s overall net worth.
Why you ask? Because trust is one of the main driving factors behind customer commitment and loyalty. A recent study by bestselling authors David Maister, Charles Green, and Robert Galford revealed a direct correlation between a brand’s perceived credibility and increased client retention.
So how do some of the world’s greatest brands use trust marketing as an essential part of their core message? Today, we will examine what best makes up this vital advertising strategy and highlight two companies that offer best practices in this area.
Breaking Down Trust
Although trustworthiness can be difficult to define, a simple scientific equation can be applied to the concept as it exists in business relationships. In their book, The Trusted Advisor, Maister, Galford, and Green broke the idea down brilliantly as follows:
Trust = Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy + Self Orientation
In this scenario, credibility refers to the messages (written and verbal) conveyed by the brand. Reliability is the consistency of actions performed by representatives of the company. Intimacy can be defined as the honesty behind the message (i.e., can I trust that they live by the values they express.) and how well you understand your client’s choices. While self-orientation directly follows how genuine a brand’s focus is on meeting the customer’s needs over that of the business.
These four factors can significantly contribute to a customer’s overall loyalty. Over 81% of a Business Insider study respondents cited trust as the number one reason they remain with a brand. This translated into a 40% increase in higher brand value when consumers perceived them as an organization that cares about its clients.The Trust Equation: Trust= Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy + Self Orientation via @bryankramerClick To Tweet
Establishing Credibility in the Age of Social Media
As in any relationship, two-way communication is essential to building trust. Therefore, companies must embrace transparency as its core component of social marketing.
According to a Webbed Feet survey of Millennials, an astounding 92% of respondents stated they trusted what is classified as ‘earned media, such as social media, word-of-mouth, and recommendations from friends/family. When you factor in other age groups, the number only slightly drops to 84% (EduBirdie).
In both studies, brands that used social media to relay messages of customer concern, transparency, and ethical treatment of topical issues rated the highest among clients.
So it’s essential to consider these when crafting your social media strategy. Are you simply using social media to promote your latest product? Or do you look to the platform to react to customer feedback? Companies looking to gain a competitive foothold among clients must be willing to do both.
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Best Practices: Zappos & Freshdesk
One brand that has done so successfully is Zappos. The well-known online shoe store has received industry kudos from just about everyone for their treatment of their customers. From installing widgets on their website to encourage interaction between shoppers to their Fan of the Week highlighted on their Facebook page, Zappos has successfully used social media to create stark, raving fans.
Even more impressive is their ability to use social media to diffuse what could be a branding nightmare. As in the case of when Kanye West disparaged the company in 2013 due to what he saw as a slight to the marketing strategy of his upcoming shoe collection.
Instead of engaging West in a Twitter battle, Zappo’s CEO Tony Hsieh playfully responded by tweeting a picture of a toilet and plunger priced at $10,000 to his over three million followers. In the accompanying link, Hsieh used the opportunity to make light of the comment while underlying his company’s continued commitment to providing customers with the services they want. The move was celebrated as being a brilliant way to address negative headlines without creating further controversy.
Another business that has successfully leveraged social media to create trust is Freshdesk. Since its founding in 2010, the company has successfully grown its customer support platform by focusing on customer satisfaction.
Freshdesk has provided detailed branding information through its active social media and blog over the past few years. Freshdesk was met with controversy recently when cloud analyst and blogger Ben Kepes accused them of stealing their ideals from a competitor. Within hours of his original tweet, the CEO of Zendesk accused them of being “a freaking rip-off.”
Looking to address the situation, Freshdesk’s social media team created a website to make the case transparent. They engaged individuals openly who were questioning the value of their business. By acting swiftly, they maintained trust with current customers while leaving open the opportunity to change the minds of their most ardent critics. They showed class and transparency. Well done!
Trust marketing is a way to create loyalty through a combination of credibility, reliability, intimacy, and self-orientation. As there is a direct correlation between trustworthiness and client retention, the most successful companies utilize social media marketing to build transparency while meeting client concerns.