In a world where, thanks to technology, clients have more choice than ever before, conversely, choosing a product or service has become a lot more challenging. Buyers are certainly willing to put in the research, but what everyone really wants is a shorthand — something to make those decisions faster and easier. That’s where the importance of brand trust can help. Clients are far more likely to do business with companies whose brand they trust and, in the long term, this can lead to loyalty and advocacy.
In this piece we examine the importance of brand trust, how to gain it, keep it, lose it and the work that it does for a business.
Why do we trust brands?
Any decision made by a business is actually made by people within that business — people with the same hopes, dreams and, crucially, decision-making processes as anyone else. It stands to reason then that some of the data extrapolated from consumer studies can be applied to the B2B world.
According to Edelman’s global survey, there are three main reasons why consumers trust brands.
- Product experience: In the study, 87% of the consumers interviewed cited their experience with a product as a reason for trusting a brand. Broken down further, 73% gave the quality of the product or service as the reason for their trust.
- Customer experience: 56% mentioned their customer experience with a brand as being important in creating trust. Included within that category were things like how the company treats the consumer, how quickly it responds to complaints and how well it protects clients’ privacy.
- Impact on society: 38% of respondents listed a reason encompassing a company’s impact on society, including how fairly it treats its staff (the largest factor in this category), but also things like the stance the business takes (if any) on wider social issues such as environment, race and gender.
Why are trusted brands important?
Technology advances in the last 50 years have allowed business networks to expand from local to national to truly global. However, this presents its own challenges. While there are clearly benefits to a more competitive marketplace and the endless choice that goes with it, how can you be sure that the company at the far side of the world is going to deliver and do so reliably? How do you know that problems are going to be quickly resolved and that your supply lines or projects aren’t going to be delayed? In the B2B world, with potentially millions on the line, the only way to do that is by dealing with businesses you trust and by being a business that others trust.
In short, building brand trust can really pay off in terms of loyalty, receptiveness and influencing buying decisions.
Benefits of brand trust
- Brand trust drives new business.
- Brand trust increases marketing receptiveness.
- Brand trust creates loyalty.
- Brand loyalty builds client and customer advocacy.
- Brand loyalty, advocacy and goodwill can help a business weather any storm.
How to create brand trust
The results of studies on brand trust can provide businesses with considerable insight into which areas they need to invest the most energy. Our job is not to advise on product development, customer service or the mishandling of company data – businesses know and understand their industries better than anyone else but there are areas where we can offer expertise and insight into how companies can create and grow brand trust. Some of those factors, how they affect trust and how to manage them may not be immediately obvious.
A website will be most clients’ first touchpoint with a business and that business’s first opportunity to start building trust with the client. If the user experience (UX) is good, there’s a greater likelihood that the business is trustworthy. What makes for good UX then?
Users feel safer knowing that a site has the appropriate level of security in place, which supports that sizeable percentage of people in the Edelman survey who said that companies protecting their privacy was important. Is the site constantly maintained? Is it well-structured and easy to navigate? Is it interactive? How fast are the loading times? Does the design look fresh and modern? If a website ticks those boxes, it’s a good indicator of the business’s competence and how it puts clients’ experience first.
Brand promise is everything the client can expect from dealing with your business or product. It can be further distilled to “what you do and for whom”. Take Airbnb for example — its brand promise enables travellers to experience a sense of “community” and “belonging” when they’re away. Promise is nothing, however, without the ability to deliver on it every single time. The surest way to destroy client loyalty is by failing to deliver on brand promise, whether that’s through an unreliable product or underwhelming service.
Why is content important for building trust? A well-maintained site with recently dated posts (on a blog for example) is a good sign the company is keeping on top of updates and its audience informed. Straight away, it seems more trustworthy. We’re not just talking blog posts either — we mean video, case studies, newsletters and so on.
More reasons why content builds brand trust include:
- It’s good for SEO: Being on the first page hints that a business is on top of its game and working hard on improving its UX and building trust.
- Relevant, insightful content shows that a business fully understands its industry and its clients’ concerns.
- If a business demonstrates that it not only understands its clients’ problems but also knows how to solve them, it projects competence.
- The “shareability” of content is almost like a word-of-mouth recommendation. If a trusted colleague shares a business’s content on Twitter or LinkedIn, it can be a sign that that colleague trusts where the information is coming from.
- Transparency: Content is a great way of giving people an inside-look at your business and how you do things. It suggests an honesty that removes yet another barrier to building brand trust.
It may be frustrating for them, but, by and large, clients understand that things can sometimes go wrong with a product or service. OK, it’s not great for brand trust, but nothing can build that trust up again like someone friendly solving the problem and solving it fast. That’s customer service 101, but how do you actually make that available to clients when they need it?
Social media is a big part. Having chatbots on your website can be useful, but nothing reassures clients that they’re being listened to like getting a prompt, helpful reply to a online post. A social media presence is great too for sharing content, but, even more importantly, it projects your brand voice, and, if managed correctly, the idea that there are humans behind the scenes working to resolve client problems. Yes, we put a great deal of faith in robots and automation, but most people still prefer the idea that there’s a person on the other end trying to help them.
According to an Australian report, 63% of consumers are more likely to trust a brand that creates a conversation on social media with the authenticity of the content cited as a significant trust factor. One company that could potentially seem faceless and uncaring but which uses social media to avoid that is Cisco which runs a number of Twitter accounts as well as an active YouTube channel.
Even outside the realm of social media, clearly communicating via your website the various channels through which people can get in touch (and hours at which they’re likely to get a quick reply) will reassure clients that you have someone there when they need it.
Branding is important for trust for many of the same reasons as UX and content. It shows that you’re keeping pace with current developments and staying competitive within your sector. Giving your brand’s visual language a modern look which communicates who you are and what your clients expect is important to enabling clients to trust in your brand promise.
Applying our advice as well as acting on what you know about your own industry should put you in good stead when it comes to creating and gaining brand trust. But there’s a flip side. Brand trust can be hard to build, but it’s frighteningly easy to lose.
Breaches of trust and common mistakes
By far the quickest ways to lose brand trust is to repeatedly deliver a shoddy product and poor customer service. Client loyalty gets squandered when a product or service fails to live up to expectations and when resolving that issue becomes a pain in its own right. There are myriad other ways, however, that a business can suddenly find itself in the red when it comes to brand trust. Having a sizeable store of client trust and goodwill can help mitigate the odd transgression, but clawing back lost trust can still be tough.
Let’s take a look at some of the common ways that brands breach client trust and the surprisingly common mistakes you can avoid.
Failing to read the political climate
A recent study by SurveyMonkey indicated that 30% of UK respondents stated that an offensive ad would cause them to lose trust in a company with 9 and 10% respectively put-off by a lack of diversity in the company’s leadership and in the company’s marketing.
It’s generally best to avoid politics in your business’s communications. “Politics”, however, doesn’t extend to human rights issues and it can certainly do a business good to come out in support of worthy causes like environmental projects, LGBT+ rights and movements such as Black Lives Matter. There will, of course, be backlash to any position seen as political, but it tends to be outweighed by the goodwill and trust generated towards the company.
No client wants to feel like they’re doing business with an unethical company. By and large rules and regulations are there for good reasons, whether that’s environmental protection, public safety or employee wellbeing, and so, when a company breaches those regulations, it can be hugely damaging for trust.
Whatever the upfront costs of complying with regulations may be, they pale in comparison to the costs of losing client trust for violating them and potential disciplinary action from regulatory bodies. Remember KPMG’s $50 million settlement with the SEC in the US in 2019 for corporate misconduct? How about Deutsche Bank’s £163 million fine by the FCA in 2017? Google’s €2.7 billion for breaching EU antitrust laws? Not exactly small change.
The collection of data has the potential to massively improve customer service (and hence brand trust) with increased personalisation and more accurately targeted advertising. But there’s a paradoxical dark side for clients and businesses.
The results of a study by Ping Identity into the public’s attitudes to data issues make for alarming reading:
- 81% of respondents reported that they’d stop engaging with a brand online following a data breach.
- 63% of consumers believe that a company is always responsible for protecting their data.
- 55% say a company sharing their personal data without permission is even more likely than a data breach (27%) to deter them from using that brand’s products.
Crucially, from a UX point of view, 65% of consumers are frustrated by login experiences and a third have stopped using a device, app or service, or have left a bad review following an inconvenient login experience.
In the event of a data breach (or indeed any of the other examples of breaches of brand trust), a business needs to act quickly, be open and honest with its clients about why it happened, and demonstrate what it’s doing to ensure that it won’t happen again. The good folks over at Brandtrust have a peice on data breaches and client trust that’s well worth a read.
There’s a lot of very useful information out there on the importance of brand trust. What it all points to are two key elements that matter more than everything else when it comes to building a trusted brand: a great product (or service) offering and impeccable customer care. Get these two right and you’re well on the way to creating a trusted, self-sustaining brand with a loyal set of clients. But that’s hardly ground-breaking, is it?
Digging deeper into the surveys and studies, other elements that significantly affect brand trust are things like corporate and social responsibility, quality of data protection and the way the company presents to the world through its website and branding. Things like user experience on a business’s website, the quality of its content and its engagement across social media, and how up-to-date its image appears all very much affect a client’s decision to trust a company at various critical touchpoints in the marketing funnel, all underscoring the importance of brand trust. Building brand trust isn’t easy, but with diligent application of a few basic principles and our insight and tips, it can be done and the rewards are many.
Making brands work
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