Building trust with an influential audience, as you’ve seen in previous chapters, doesn’t happen overnight. (Amazon’s years-long battle to generate a sizable profit helps underscore this point.) It occurs in little fits and starts, beginning as you start to show people that you’re on their side, and eventually blossoming into a highly-beneficial relationship for all parties involved. A big piece of this process is asking yourself “What can I do for them?” not “What can they do for me?” Most people think of relationships in the sense of give-and-take, but it’s frankly better to think of them as “give and give:” Relationship-wise, win-win scenarios work best.
Considering your audience in ways beyond the basic business mentality of “How can I make a profit from customers?” is a crucial shift in moving towards a “What can I do for you?” mindset. Practice this philosophy, and customers will soon discover that you’re on their side. In turn, this helps build trust towards your business and brand, which helps drive awareness and update. You can find a number of hints, tips and strategies for building trust and establishing or enhancing relationships below.
1. Keep in Constant Contact
Social networks, online forums and communities, blogs, and other online platforms provide a ready vehicle through which to create a constant stream of dialogue with customers, and remain in continued contact. But overall, your aim should be to be a stable, recognizable presence everywhere your users travel. That means creating valuable content that others can access and share through your website, as well as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other popular channels. That also means contributing to industry trades, speaking at events, and providing support for various associations and organizations that work to better your industry. Simple ways to start: Write how-to articles and tips; distribute videos of Q&As with staff and industry experts; or simply pass along content of interest that others have created or show audiences how to get the best deals and bargains. Demonstrate your expertise by volunteering free articles, podcasts, videos, and other material, and you not only stay top of mind – you create value by saving them time, money and effort. All present excellent ways to demonstrate your capabilities, raise awareness, and spring readily to mind when customer needs arise.
2. Design Messaging that Fits the Medium
Red Bull presents an example of strategic communications done right. The brand has grown beyond a mere manufacturer of energy drinks to become a leading name in youth and action sports culture because the company has begun producing slick videos, magazines and online media properties, and successfully aligned itself with extreme sports athletes. American Express took another tack: Its credit cards are quickly enjoying growing awareness amongst small business owners thanks to the creation of its OPEN Forum online community, featuring articles and videos by leading experts, and discussion forums where executives can share insights and strategies.
3. Drive Dialogue and Discussion
Encouraging your users to get involved in online forums and outlets for discussion is clearly a great way to build trust and drive sharing and return visits. It’s also a great place to source feedback and suggestions that can improve your efforts to provide superior services and products. Just a few simple ancillary ideas you can use these properties as a springboard for: Hold contests, conducting surveys and posts, and inviting users to contribute ideas or concepts for new logos and advertising campaigns. Even Castrol motor oil has created a community of involved fans courtesy of its Castrol Football page that lets fans keep up to date with Europe’s best soccer leagues. Some companies feature internal subject matter experts as content providers and moderators; others source contributions from outside experts (e.g. blogs or videos) and allow participants to interact with them. Not only does this create value for customers: It also provides the benefits to be enjoyed from association with these prominent names, and enhances search engine optimization efforts, as content may be more readily found by search engines, providing greater brand exposure.
4. Encourage Ongoing Conversation
Many people like to talk about social media from a marketing or promotional standpoint, when what they’re really referring to is interpersonal communications and customer service in the age of relationships. The Internet is the single largest echo chamber the world has ever seen, and information and opinion has more power to travel further, faster and louder than it ever has before. What many organizations miss: A conversation has to work two ways—we must always consider what creates value for others, how to best engage them, and make a point to acknowledge and respond to their contributions.
5. Harness the Power of Influencers
Do you know the single most influential factor that impacts purchase decisions today? It’s not advertising, brand awareness or product affinity. Ultimately, it’s word of mouth discussion, which can echo powerfully, and is often present at vital touchpoints during the purchasing process, e.g. right when we’re reaching for our credit card online. Creating conversations, not critics, is the goal of customer service and communications—that requires us to respect others’ input, spark constructive dialogue, and act wisely upon the discussions which ensue.
Think about what you see when you visit an online retailer or an app store—reviews, opinions and commentary right there at the point of purchase. Customers have more of a voice than ever before and it’s pressingly vital that we not only allow their opinions to be heard, but also that we acknowledge them. Every opportunity we have to interact with them is an opportunity to amaze them and to create goodwill. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, it takes many good deeds to build a positive reputation, and just one bad deed to ruin it.
6. Concentrate on Building Engagement
When measuring the ROI of outreach efforts, proponents of social media frequently like to argue that success can be gauged by the number of shares, tweets or Facebook likes on any given campaign. But measuring impact today isn’t that simple. You could have 1,000 tweets on a particular piece of content such as a video or blog post, but what if only a painfully small fraction of those who made them represent the actual audience you’re trying to reach? What if you can’t prompt them to take action? And what if you never interact with these individuals again? The name of the game is now engagement—the ability to connect with an audience, inspire audiences to action and create positive exchanges for all.
7. Make Building Relationships Paramount
The bottom line: If you want to create customers interest and loyalty, you’ve got to earn people’s trust. That means being genuine, being as good as your word and being capable of delivering high-quality work or insights on tight turnaround – and always acting in others’ best interest. It also means being willing to signal via your actions that you don’t just hear what customers saying, but are further actively seeking out others’ opinions and assigning weight and import to both sides of the conversation. Think of the whole process as an exercise in dating—let others get to know you before leaning in for the kiss. With competitors often just a click away, there are plenty of fish in the sea! Woo others and build trust before trying to drop to your knee and put a proverbial ring on it: That’s how you create empathy and lasting appreciation.