Some recent posts by John Jantch and John Sonnhalter relate to the importance of earning and maintaining trust in the marketplace. Sonnhalter summarizes Jantch’s posting with these observations about how trust is earned/maintained.
- What do others say about you – These third-party comments say a lot about how you really do business. Customer reviews impact SEO.
- Who are you connected with – Who do you hang out with, how do you add value, who do you collaborate with? All help shed a light on who you really are.
- How do you react – How do you react to questions or negative comments? People are watching.
- Are you easy to do business with – Convenience has become a value proposition. Actually go through your own process to see how easy it is to really do business with you.
However, I think the issue here is simpler, and more complex.
You earn trust, in my opinion, though your behaviour. These are simple concepts: Deliver more value than your clients expect, providing memorable and enjoyable experiences, while resolving complaints and problems (even if not your fault/responsibility) with sensitivity and respect. In other words, you do such a great job that word of mouth (regardless of marketing) works naturally.
If you have this fortunate situation, than you just a tiny drop of marketing to propel your business. In fact, you will likely soon run up against a barrier to growth unrelated to marketing and business opportunities — the challenge will be to maintain the service standards for which you earned your early trust.
You need to add employers, contractors, business systems and processes to handle your growing demand. There is a sweet spot for employee efficiency (yield per worker); which is three. Then, from three to 10, the efficiency declines, until it stabilizes at 10-plus employees (by then, you start benefiting from certain economies of scale and specialization. But it is hard especially at the beginning to ensure your successive hires/contracts are at the level of your original core group (which probably includes you.) You’ll need to pay your new employees fairly (even better than the going market rate) and you’ll only be able to do that through efficiency and higher pricing, which will enhance the importance of your reputation underlying your marketing.
Failure to manage the growth could result in damaged reputation, and as you’ll see below, this leads to really serious problems — because when your trust goes to below zero, you end up with a negative reputation and no amount of marketing will save your business for any length of time.
Can you balance this tightrope? Yes, though it is a constant problem.
I’ll leave with one example, without naming names (because that would violate my trust-based rule of never describing individual businesses or organizations negatively in this blog.)
A major contractor has grown out of the ashes of a bankruptcy, where several creditors were stiffed. The business has done well in its reincarnation. It markets extensively and effectively. But growth creates challenges. Systems and processes might be effective, but the best and brightest employees may not want to work in the cookie-cut pressure environment.
There are grumblings of discontent. A former employee, in a job interview with a competitor (who doesn’t need to advertise at all because of his 100 per cent word-of-mouth reputation) described how his former employer uses heavy-handed techniques to ensure that social media postings remain positive (to the point that lawyers are visited and disgruntled clients receive home visits to correct the problem.) The tensions, just under the surface, don’t appear in public and the advertising and marketing machine continues.
Should we believe a single disgruntled former employee? Probably we should not rely on that aspect alone. However, I expect the company is spending enough money on its marketing and business management to overcome a declining trust number, and will be able to survive (and possibly be extremely profitable) until that number heads into negative territory. In this case, spending resources on the root causes of the lost trust may be far more effective and less risky than dumping it into general marketing initiatives.