Your customers are smart. Generic promotions and outright sales pitches get ignored or deleted. Or worse, customers recognize when claims are exaggerated, full of buzzwords or downright false. Trust in your brand suffers. You lose the opportunity to engage with them before you even begin.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of pushing product information out to the market. You spend countless hours perfecting your differentiators, setting up campaigns and tracking metrics. Your messaging is full of acronyms and flowery language. You are trying to curb the claims of the competition (without resorting to “Everyone else says they can do it, but we are the only ones that can!”).
Your customers are human. You should talk to them as such. You should understand their challenges and their vernacular, from both a macro and micro level, and then connect the dots back to your product or service. Tailor the message. Build trust before you sell. Resist the urge to one-up your competition when it’s not founded on a customer-first mentality.
Let me explain.
There are five key steps to connecting with your customers first to build trust in your brand.
1. Listen to understand, not to respond.
Before you say “I can’t believe she’s telling me to listen to my customers,” hear me out. How many times have you been sitting in a corporate meeting thinking about what question you should ask to be visible, give yourself credibility or steer someone toward a certain way of thinking? In doing so, chances are you’ve completely missed something valuable in their point of view.
To truly listen, you must do as little talking as possible. Do not steer the conversation. Always ask open-ended questions. Who? What? Where? Why? How? And the most important point of all – you will never know the answer to a question if you don’t ask. Find a way to connect to your customers in a meaningful way. Do it often – especially in my industry where things change constantly.
2. Apply design thinking concepts to your approach.
The concept of design thinking is grounded in product development. But I would argue that you can apply those same concepts to your role as marketing professionals. Empathize with your customers without mentioning your product or service. Understand the challenges from both a micro level (their specific role, the nuances of their organization, their own customers) and a macro level (the industry trends impacting them, regulations, competition). Really get to know them. Once you have defined the problem (from their point of view), engage them in the solution – which now brings me to the third step.
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3. Connect the dots.
Now that you know their challenges, you can put on your corporate hat. How does your product or service solve their problem? Connect the dots between your differentiators to their needs. Let them arrive at the same conclusions you do – or offer new insights you may not have even thought of.
4. Engage and educate.
You’ve engaged with them and they see the value you bring as a potential solution to their challenges. Now the real work begins to build trust in your brand. The key is to continually engage with them by offering relevant content that addresses their needs. You know what they are by now. Show them you are knowledgeable, experienced and would make a good partner.
5. Rise above the competition.
Remember when I said your customers are smart? That they are human? They are. Stay above the fray. Be honest. Be genuine. I’ve seen many marketers try to outdo each other from competing organizations. Once one competitor makes a statement or claim, suddenly everyone is making a similar claim. Is it really true? Hard to say. But it’s obvious what is happening.
My recommendation would be to stay the course and connect back to your customers along the path to building trust. The rest will come.