Without trust, businesses have nothing

May 20, 2011


People do business with people and brands they like, know and trust. Can we all agree that trust = sales? (Image credit: merchantcircle.com)



There’s a story about a small business that you’ve probably heard. A husband and wife team invest all their hard-earned money to fulfill their dreams and do just enough to get the doors open. Times are tough at first, but they work hard. They always have. And they treat every customer that comes in like they’d treat their own children.

People talk about the couple like they talk about their high school. Or their favorite restaurant. Or the park where they played baseball as a kid. What was once just a dream the couple whispered about before bed at night is now a pillar of the community. Their neighbors don’t remember life without it. They tell stories about the couple when they’re out with friends and become regular customers on the weekends. It’s a business built on trust…and word of mouth.

There’s a similar story about a big business. Of course, the owner started it as a small business just like the couple did. But business was good and it grew over time. The owner built the company with culture and customer in mind. And customer service became the first priority for him and his people…which made sense, because that’s the mentality they had to have when they started.

Even though it became a chain, the company was more like Cheers. It was impossible for everybody to know your name, but it felt that way when you talked to the employees. Whether in person, on the phone or online, the service came with a smile. Well, it seemed like it did over the phone, even though you couldn’t see for sure. And the company involved its customers in the business. It shared cool projects and products. Asked people how to make them even cooler. The relationship between company and community got people talking. It was a business built on trust…and word of mouth.

See, we can talk about analytics, ROI, impressions, influence…the whole lot. And we should. In fact, if you’re looking to follow some people who know a thing or two about measurement and always share valuable insights, here are some I’m a fan of — Chuck Hemann, Don Bartholomew, Shonali Burke, Rebecca Denison, Ken Burbary, Sean Williams, K.D. Paine. And I know there are other amazing minds I left off the list.

But before you start studying up on metrics and analytics, don’t forget that sometimes the simplest answers provide a lot of value in their own right. Trust has always correlated to good business. It’s always been a part of positive sales. It’s always played a role in customer retention.

A 2009 Nielsen study said the most trusted form of advertising — by far — is “recommendations from people known.” Word of mouth is widely thought of as the most effective form of marketing because of the fact that people usually trust the mouths from which the words are coming.

Measurement and analytics is a big topic — a big topic worth our time. And one we can really deep dive into and learn a lot from. All I asked is that you don’t get blinded by the numbers. Remember, people do business with people they like, know and trust, no matter the size of that business.

So the next time you’re talking impressions or influence, have a coinciding conversation about trust. Deep dive and discuss what metrics effect trust. And don’t forget that marketers and communicators spent years going after positive word of mouth when it all occurred offline and they couldn’t see any of it.

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Shonali 1179 pts

Justin, you're too kind. Thank you! And you really hit the nail on the head. Without trust... what do we have left?

JGoldsborough 239 pts

Shonali Exactly. I believe in deep dying into analytics and trying to understand online WOM as best we can. But the simplest, clearest research and evidence I have seen in support of WOM and engaging through social media is that 1) people trust third-party advocacy most and 2) people do business with people they like, know and trust. I think we need to keep reminding each other about the simple value of trust and that successful businesses have believed in WOM and gone after it for years.