Trust, like many emotive words, can be overworked and misused when it comes to thinking about the relationship between a company and its customers.  

One dictionary definition reveals that trust is “a firm belief in the character, strength or truth of someone or something”.  Well, if it was just the truth of something, I could say that there are certain companies that I trust will give me poor service and waste a lot of my time.  Yes, that does fit the definition but of course that’s not the trust that we want to earn.

Rather, what do we want our customers to have a firm belief in with regard to our company or brand?  It could be that you offer a superior product, or great service, perhaps an easy and simple shopping experience.  You may want to be seen as providing knowledge and expertise, or maybe very aggressive pricing. Some of these attributes may be mutually exclusive, some may not be how we want our customers to see us at all.  Thus, the very first consideration when thinking about building customer trust is how you want to be viewed. In other words, what do you want your brand to stand for?

In answering that question, I’ve seen many organizations start reeling off a list of wonderful qualities that they want to be known for.  Well sorry, bad news here – you can’t have more than two, and ideally just one. Think or your favorite brands, the companies you trust (in the best sense of the word), the companies you turn to time and time again.  What is it about them that you value? I am willing to bet that you aren’t thinking of a long list of positive attributes, but just one or two. Trying to build a brand based on too many qualities just weakens the mix down to simply being known for nothing.

To help identify your designated quality (or maybe two) upon which you can base your entire revenue generation efforts, here are two considerations to help point you in the right direction.  First, you must start with an intimate understanding of your market and what the buyers in that market value.  We looked at some earlier; expertise, a convenient buying experience, perhaps timely nationwide delivery, or maybe just plain old low pricing.  Whatever it is, you must know your market.

And here is the second, and disproportionately overlooked insight, but true nonetheless.  If you find that your market has differing aspects that they value, then you are looking at more than one market.  You can’t have buyers in the same market that value different things.  In our consultative approach, we actually define a market as a group of buyers that buy a particular offering in very similar ways.  Thus, Toyota buyers and Lexus buyers are different markets – which is exactly why Toyota had the good sense to separate the brands, both in terms of what they stand for and the actual physical locations.  So, full marks if you’ve now figured out that you must define your market in a far more focused manner than you may have previously thought.

Let’s get back to that earlier question.  If you can only be known for one, maybe two things, what would that be?  What is it that you want your market to believe to be true about you, to have a firm belief in, and therefore trust you to provide?  

Here are the three components for defining your brand and earning customer trust.

  1. Carefully define your target market focusing solely on buyers that value similar things.
  2. Harmonize what you are offering with those market values.  
  3. Deliver on your brand promise.  

And it’s going to take more than just a sales and marketing focus to make these things happen.  Delivering on the brand and earning the customer’s trust comes from the whole organization; its business processes, hiring practices, organization, compensation, leadership and investments.  

The critical element in the equation is understanding the market by engaging in a deep analysis of your buyers and their buying journey.  Do you know what really happens, how they make their decisions, who gets involved, what they value and what their concerns are? Its only by developing this level of understanding that you can focus on the elements that will lead to gaining and retaining the trust of your market.