Trust is of higher importance for your brand than ever before. Between enterprise-level cybersecurity fraud, claims of fake news from our nation’s top leadership, and the Moonlight/La La Land mix-up at the recent Oscars, we have collectively been thrown off kilter. It has become increasingly difficult to answer the question, “who can you trust?”
In an age where CGI technology can create new worlds before our eyes, we are left with the sense that perhaps this world we inhabit is also not quite as it seems. When any image can be altered, or created from scratch, the term “seeing is believing” is no longer an option. Augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality force us to question: how do we remember to recognize actual reality?
While these questions err towards the philosophical, there are real business implications involved for PR and marketing professionals whose livelihoods depend on our ability to win the trust of our clients’ customers. According to a 2017 study by TrustRadius, The B2B Buying Disconnect, vendor-produced marketing collateral is the least-trusted source of information for B2B buyers. However, the study found, there are three sources of information that still hold a strong sway over buyers when the tactics are executed well.
1. Free trials and accounts
Let’s admit it: everyone loves free stuff. Free trials are a great way to instantly add value to your base of potential customers. What’s more, users are more likely to develop a positive relationship with a brand they perceive helps them for free. Offering free trials can also mitigate a new user’s perceived risk of trying a new product, making them more likely to give something a go that they would shy away from paying for up-front. Freemium models, where users can access some but not all of the product’s benefits for free and must pay to access the product’s full functionality, are quite popular for SaaS companies like grammarly and Dropbox. It may seem counterintuitive, but giving away a product for free can be just the thing to gain your customer’s trust and land a sale.
2. Product demos
The term “demo fatigue” has been gaining traction in the tech industry, and for good reason. When companies focus too much on the top of the sales funnel, demos can turn into a pushy sales tactic driven by automation instead of relationship building. Yet consumers still rank product demos in their top three most-trusted sources of information, so it’s not time to retire the practice quite yet. In an environment where we no longer feel we can trust what we see or what we read, demos offer a hands-on experience that allows your customer to build a direct relationship with your product. Just don’t forget to keep the lines of communication open once you’ve landed the account. The emerging field of customer success requires companies to take a sales approach at every stage of the customer’s journey, starting at acquisition. “Building even greater customer success is the foundation for everything we do,” said SaaSOptics CEO Tim McCormick, whose company provides a subscription management platform for SaaS-based companies. Product demos are only the beginning of the customer journey.
3. Referrals from a friend, colleague, or peer
New research from the American Press Institute (API) and The Associated Press‑NORC Center for Public Affairs Research suggests that the credibility of a news article is determined less by the reputation of the organization that publishes it than by the reader’s relationship with who they see sharing it online. A link from an unknown news source shared by a friend is deemed more credible than an article from a major publication shared by a stranger. This example illustrates a truth marketers have always known: word of mouth is an enormously effective tool to drive user behavior. That’s why referrals are one of the most trusted information sources available to us today. But we can’t just wait around hoping the praise rolls in. Optimizing this tactic requires a thoughtful strategy. Nicole Wojno, CMO of UserIQ, uses her company’s Net Promoter Score to identify the company’s best advocates among its users. Her team then contacts those satisfied customers to ask if they would be willing to leave a review on a third-party site, write a testimonial, participate in a case study, or serve as a source for a press opportunity. “All of these tactics help generate referrals for UserIQ and build credibility by allowing happy and successful customers to speak on our behalf and tell others about us,” Wojno said.
As we embrace technology, we must reconcile the pitfalls along with the advantages. With creativity, dedication, and resourcefulness, marketing and PR professionals can still win over the trust of their client’s customers. It just requires an honest appraisal of our trust environment and willingness to offer customers sources of information which they deem trustworthy.