Every business is in the business of trust: building it among customers, scaling it to capture markets, and maintaining it to fuel growth. That’s a tremendous challenge in a digital world full of bad news and fake news. How do brands break through the noise?
Transparency is the answer. Transparency shrinks the distance between a brand and consumers and builds trust. Consumers gain an authentic window into who you are, what your brand is about, and the value you provide. Transparency also helps scale trust at a faster rate.
If someone asks me how to become more transparent, I give a one-word answer: Access. Today's consumers crave access to the brand and the people behind it, as well as the products themselves. Why do people wait in line for the latest iPhone? Because they want early access to Apple’s innovation in particular — not just a smartphone. They want that connection to the brand.
You can provide access to your customers by being transparent about what’s going on in your company, say, from an employee’s perspective. Consider peppering your social feed, company blog, or email newsletters with employee profiles that reveal their insights into customer needs and how they meet them or offer tips on how to get the most out of your product. You may even find that some of your employees can be influencers themselves, with their own social accounts and followers.
To be successful at transparency, you need to know the difference between transparency and over-sharing, which requires calculating the risk versus reward for each sharing opportunity. One caveat here is that the calculation depends on the context. It changes and evolves. For example, the idea of talking about the mental health struggles of one of your executives in 2015 would not have met the criteria for transparency. But today, when movie stars and Olympic athletes talk about their mental health challenges, it might. We should re-ask an old question and put it through today's risk-versus-reward calculation.
Everyone in the world craves empathy, the feeling that someone else understands you. To scale trust, you must first scale empathy, and technology is the vehicle to do so. By using technology to understand and leverage information about customers and prospects, you can gain insight and create empathy. Of course, data can be misused, and we’re right to be concerned about that. But a dashboard that provides insights using quality data and the latest best practices in analytics can help overcome that challenge.
On the marketing side, you can scale trust using influencers that have already established trust among their followers. Influencers could be celebrities with massive followings and reach; thought leaders who have built trust and rapport with a focused audience over time; or a subject-matter expert — someone who is “in the weeds,” doing the work, within the company as an employee or outside, as a customer.
Subject-matter experts can be tremendously influential because most of today's consumers don't trust a brand or a logo. They trust the people who work for the company and represent the brand. They offer a peek behind the curtain — in a word, transparency. This can even work with celebrity influencers. Let’s face it: Nobody really believes that LeBron James drives a Kia. When today’s consumers see LeBron in a commercial for Kia, they immediately know he is getting paid to endorse that product. The ad isn’t effective because you think, "Hey, LeBron James drives a Kia." Instead, it comes down to, "LeBron James associates with Kia as a brand because they have principles that he believes in as a dad, as a leader.” He is lending Kia his authenticity.
John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, has taken a very transparent approach to marketing. He shares his unfiltered thoughts across multiple channels. He replies to social media posts, he makes himself available at events, and he does ask-me-anythings (AMAs) online. He even takes transparency a step further by sharing his personal life and hobbies through a Facebook Live show where you can watch him cooking at home. That access into who he is at his core not only builds trust but also humanizes his brand. I couldn’t tell you if the CEO of my carrier is male or female, yet I can say with some certainty that the leader of T-Mobile cares about his customers. I understand his values, which allow me to connect with him at a deeper level. That relatability is that secret to building trust.
Let’s face it: The Field of Dreams notion of marketing — if you build it, they will come — is broken, if it ever worked in the first place. If you build a website, if you launch a new social channel, if you have a new email newsletter, no one is going to embrace it simply because it exists. Consumers are smarter than they’ve ever been. Not only do they have more access to information, but they also have more channels to decide how they’ll consume content. Transparency is a way to leverage this access — actually embrace it — to answer the question, “Why should I trust you?”
Transparency will play a huge role in the future of marketing and how you connect with consumers in the digital world. Targeting and segmentation will still be vastly important, though, and hyper-personalization is changing the game enormously. Find out more by reading “Segment of One: A Glimpse into the Future of Digital Marketing.”