Tuesday, November 6, 2007

More on Direct Marketing and the Issue of Trust

In a recent post, we spoke about the importance of creating trust through our direct marketing efforts. With trust, it is more than talking about it -- it's about proving it. As a matter of fact, esteemed consultant, speaker, writer and fellow blogger, Charles Green, has built his whole business on this very subject.

The following is an excerpt from Green's website, Trusted Advisor Associates:

Based on our experience with sales and advisory organizations, five statements seem true:

  1. The single greatest factor affecting sales and business success is the level of trust in the customer relationship.
  2. The level of trust between businesses and customers is very low these days.
  3. Business focuses too much on competition—and not enough on customers.
  4. Business has gotten very good at faking trust—which is cynical, and inevitably destroys trust.
  5. Genuine trust-based relationships are based on a desire to see the customer succeed—not on a desire to achieve sustainable competitive advantage.
We couldn't agree more! In our business, this is simply why we exist. If we we didn't understand these very important points, we wouldn't succeed. And, as Green points out above, the level of trust is very low today when it comes to business relationships. It's sad -- but true.

It does seem odd, though, that we actually have to talk about this. It would seem that you either are trustworthy or you are not. The reality is, I guess, that there are more business relationships that have failed due to the lack of trust out there than we would have guessed. And due to that, cynicism is at an all-time high. This makes it difficult for all of us to convince those who have been burned in the past that we should, indeed, be trusted.

What a conundrum! As you continue to plan your marketing strategy for the next year, this is an important concept to keep in mind. How trustworthy are you? How trust-creating are your direct marketing efforts? Does your product/service actually do what you say it will? Are you creating slogans that really are true?

It's funny. We learn the importance of being truthful from a very young age. And that concept only becomes more important as we become adults, and responsible for our words and actions.

For more on truth in all aspects of marketing and advertising, take a look at Green's recently posted November Carnival of Trust. It's a very well-written blog that looks at trust in even more detail. It'll get you thinking about what you do on a daily basis. And, hopefully, make you proud of how you do it -- I know that we were proud to be one of Green's Ten Selections!


Charles said...


Thanks for highlighting the issue of trust in your thoughtful comments.

I find trust issues particularly interesting in businesses that don't automatically have a great deal of institutional trust (like, say, nursing does). I think direct marketing is one such industry, as are pharmaceuticals, and some others.

The issue is acute when people don't give you the benefit of the doubt. How does one gain trust in the face of suspicion?

It seems to me the one thing the direct marketing industry can do is to continue to listen, openly, about the market's reactions. The kiss of death is to get defensive, or start proactively "getting your message out," or to carefully spin your message. Those are all tactics which justify people's preconceived suspicions.

However, to openly invite comment, to acknowledge critics (e.g. by providing opt-out options), and to continually engage in dialogue--those are the actions that begin to increase trust, even in the face of cynicism.

Thanks for the good thoughts, keep them coming.

Charles H. Green

Nancy Arter said...

Hi Charles,
Thank you for your additional insight on this very critical issue. And you're right, as soon as you become defensive, you definitely cause more suspicion which, in turn, creates further distrust.

This is one of the reasons that we are such huge proponents of blogging. When done correctly, blogs create an environment of open and honest communication. Blogs allow for communities to come together and openly discuss issues, where all sides of opinions can be presented and intelligently debated. It's such a great discussion forum.

Thanks again for your thought-provoking comments. We look forward to the next Carnival of Trust!