Online marketing is in many ways objective and measurable, but it is also as much an art as a science. Grasping the subjective and defining intangibles is always difficult and this applies to the concept of Trust in Online Marketing.
If Gasoline powers Cars
If Electricity powers Light Bulbs
Then Trust powers Social Media.
In this blog post, I will provide a definition of Trust and explain why it is important. I will then show you how I construct the audience and strategy variables which will allow us finally to have a detailed discussion about how you can further build Trust into your Social Media and business strategies to become more successful.
I have prepared a brief introductory video for you about this post:
Now, Let us try to define Trust…
- Honesty – you must be truthful
- Consistency – your behaviour must not vary over time
- Integrity – be yourself, your reputation matters
- Straight forward – avoid being Machiavellian or manipulative
- Openness – Do not hide unpalatable facts
- Fairness – treat others as you would have them treat you.
On the internet, you create a track record and a trail. It is almost impossible to undo what you allow to be posted out there. As a result, if you do not interact online with the highest standards, you will eventually be found out. As Churchill once said, “Reputations are built in years and destroyed in moments”
So why is it important?
The purpose of online marketing is to create leads and convert sales. To do this you need to move your leads through the sales funnel and close the deal. In online terms, I like to think of this Conversion Cycle in terms of:
- Find Me
- Know Me
- Like Me
- Trust Me
- Do Business with Me
- Evangelise Me
You will see that Trust is right in the middle of this process. If you do not win the trust of your potential customers, the conversion cycle breaks and the business migrates elsewhere.
So to answer the second part of the question first, Yes, emphatically Trust is important.
Lets Apply the Six Minute Strategist Methodology to start to understand this in a little more detail. I like to create structures to analyse problems, but this time I want to build it up so you can see my train of thought more clearly.
So let’s start by creating a 2×2 Grid.
As a business owner and Entrepreneur, your task is to address two Audiences simultaneously – your internal audience and your external audience.
This invites us to consider what goes in the blank boxes in the middle? I have made some suggestions, but I would invite you to think about it and insert your own.
It is clear to me that one of the bases for success in all of these is Trust. Your internal and external communications need to meet the definition of Trust we have included above and your Content and Implementation strategy must be consistent with these principles as well.
Lets take this to the next level and get to our 6×6 Matrix. Firstly lets look at your Audience in more detail.
Your internal audience includes:
- Your Management Team
- Your Employees
Your external audience includes:
- Your Customers
- Your Suppliers
- Your Competitors
So this gives us Six Variables on the Audience axis.
Your Strategy includes the following variables
Your Implementation Strategy includes
So now our 6×6 Matrix looks like this:
Now we can start to get to the real meat of the argument. If you preferred to use Magic Hexagons, I would recommend you place one of these two in the centre and examine each of the other variables in turn. This will stimulate you to look at further offshoots and variable clusters as you go and I would encourage you to use the following discussion as a brainstorming template rather than a definitive answer. In the interest of brevity, I will keep my comments short.
I am going to put the Content and Implementation Variables i.e. Strategy at the heart of the following discussion…but equally you can discuss these variables in terms of the Audience instead.
- You – be yourself and find your own style; use a good photograph of your face for your online “Avatar”, make some (limited) but personal information available to show that you are human
- Management – manage but lead by example
- Staff – get to know them and make clear what you expect of them
- Customers – build rapport – people do business with people
- Suppliers – help them to realise that your success is their success
- Competitors – compete, know your enemy but also realise that you are in the same market and sink and swim together
- You – make sure you have your personal online presence integrated to ensure consistency, honesty and openness
- Management – be accessible and have open lines of communication, private email, IM, personal mobile numbers
- Staff – ensure that your online marketing strategies involve all your staff – if you can get one blog post from one employee a year think about the impact that can make and their sense of ownership
- Customers – ensure that you have multiple points of contact with your customers throughout your organisation
- Suppliers – bring them into your online marketing and customer communication strategy. You want them to believe that you are one of their most important customers
- Competitors – use Social Media monitoring tools e.g. Google Alerts, to keep track of what they are doing, how and when they are doing it and measure the impact if you can. You can learn so much from them and repurpose their strategies for your own means.
- You – be online, write content, contribute to the conversation
- Management – ensure that your whole team buys into the online marketing strategy, get them behind you all the way
- Staff – get them involved, particularly in helping answer customer questions
- Customers – make sure your website is consistent with the Conversion Cycle principles, include contact details and calls to action on every page, engage with them, obtain email addresses to build your list
- Suppliers – work with them to involve their marketing strategies in yours,
- Competitors – sign up for their mailing lists (on a personal basis) and see what they send you
- You – make sure that you keep yourself up to date with everything going on in your industry, listen to podcasts, read blogs, follow influential people on Twitter
- Management – draw on their experience and ensure that they are contributing to the thought leadership position you want you and your company to assume
- Staff – keep your staff informed of all significant developments in your company; have an internal blog, a newsletter, emails and intranets
- Customers – provide timely and helpful information in more than one format (see content creation), make sure that your website contains information for them and not simply material and information about you and your company – ask yourself why do they come?
- Suppliers – ensure that your suppliers know how you are doing and share your triumphs, there will come a time when you need an order fulfilling quickly or you have a short term problem that will be more easily solved with their support
- Competitors – gather intelligence about your competitors – make sure that you take and hold the postion of industry authority and thought leader and do not surrender this to any of your competitors – you want to be the “Go To” person in your industry that potential customers can find and come to trust.
- You – learn everything you can; there is a mass of information available through the internet and in books. If you are going to be a Trust agent, you must become a recognised authority in your subject area.
- Management – encourage your management team to follow your example. Share your links and material with them. Spend time with them explaining the importance of building this authority
- Staff – Continuous learning should be a habit and you should definitely encourage your staff to embrace this. You can provide time and opportunities through your internal website to do this. Make it part of your assessment and reward structure.
- Customers – Educating your customers is about sharing your expertise with them to help them make an informed buying decision. If they come to you to learn and you provide them with the information they need, who do you think they are going to turn to when they are ready to buy?
- Suppliers – share your eductation and information with your suppliers. By working with them, perhaps some short videos shot at their factory showing how their excellent product/materials are produced will be informative for your potential customers.
- Competitors – Educate yourself about them. Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted. If they are doing some smart things in their online marketing strategy that you can adapt and adopt, do so.
- You – Don’t be dull. You must be yourself, but you should teach yourself communication skills whether standing in front of an audience, a microphone or a video camera.
- Management – there is nothing worse than faceless management. You must encourage your management team to be open and accessible to your staff and your customers. Again I am not suggesting they put on a show, but simply be personable and genuine.
- Staff – While work is a serious business, you will get much more productivity from a happy team than a bored one. Find ways to provide opportunities to relax such as a well organise canteen or gym.
- Customers – Finding opportunities to socialise with your customers is a critical part of marketing. It is worth spending time finding out what their interests are and trying to include these in your customer entertainment programme. I recognise that in difficult times, such market spend has to be kept under control
- Suppliers – there is no reason why you should not find time for your suppliers although, hopefully, they will also find opportunities to entertain you. If nothing else, go and have lunch or dinner with them.
- Competitors – Study the enemy and their practices – are they doing original things online and offline. You may find your customers relating stories to you of their activities. Listen and learn.
To learn more about John Colley, the Six Minute Strategist, you can visit his website at http://jbdcolley.com. If you would like to contact him, email him at jbdcolley[at]aol.com. Also, John has recently published a free iBook in iTunes entitled: “How to Think Like a Six Minute Strategist…in Six Minutes”. The book is his gift to you for taking time to read this post. You can find it at http://jbdcolley.com/6MSiBook