Wednesday
July 23, 2014

5 Ways to Build Trust in the Digital Age

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5 Ways to Build Trust in the Digital Age

A consumer’s decision on whether to work with you is ultimately based on trust. Here’s how you can get the inside track on gaining their confidence — and their business.

There was a time when the decision to do business with someone was based on the number of known options and the availability of information about that person or company. If you saturated your local market with advertising, or if you were the only game in town, there was a pretty good chance that you would be top of mind when the consumer was ready to buy or sell.

Things have changed dramatically. Consumers today are empowered with unlimited access to educational resources and information about every topic, product, or service they can possibly think of. The evolution of hyperconnected consumers in highly networked markets has forever transformed how we earn the trust of consumers and how we advertise or market our businesses.

The decision to hire a person or company depends less on the availability of options and more on the degree of perceived or actual trust that is earned during the shopping or research stages of the buying process. The April 2012 Nielsen report Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages tells a very clear story about which forms of advertising are considered trustworthy and which are not.

Respondents were presented with a list of advertising media and asked to rate their level of trust as either “Trust Completely/Somewhat” or “Don’t Trust Much/At All.” Let’s take a look at the top five most trustworthy forms of advertising and promotion:

  1. Recommendations from people I know (92 percent of respondents said they trust these endorsements).
  2. Consumer opinions posted online (70 percent)
  3. Editorial content such as newspaper articles (58 percent)
  4. Branded Web sites (50 percent)
  5. E-mails I signed up for (47 percent)

Now, let’s analyze how to apply this knowledge to amplify a Mayorism campaign.

1. Recommendations from people I know

Tapping this high-trust source of information has always been the absolute best way to grow your business, because these are referrals that know and trust you, and in turn they are trusted by people who know them. Ultimately, getting these recommendations involves a simple two-step process:

1. Do a good job for your clients.

2. When the transaction is over, ask them to refer people they know to you.

It’s amazing that more real estate professionals don’t do this. While you’re asking them to spread the word, see if they’d be willing to share their positive comments online, either in a text testimonial or a promotional video.

2. Consumer opinions posted online

You might be thinking about Yelp or some other online review service, but there are even more powerful ways to earn the trust of this consumer.

Answering questions and comments on your Web site and answering questions on other consumer-focused sites is a fantastic, free opportunity for you to show your expertise and experience. Great resources for this strategy are Zillow.com Advice, Trulia.com Voices, and Realtor.com Q&A.

Best practice on these forums is to openly share your experience. You will see many of your competitors using these services to troll for leads by responding to questions with answers like this one from Realtor.com Q&A. It took me all of 30 seconds to find this response to a consumer’s question:

“Hi Mitch,

I would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have; feel free to contact me directly.”

I’m thinking a nice Cabernet might best be paired with this cheese. (In other words, don’t be this guy.)

3. Editorial content such as newspaper articles

The best strategy here is to reach out to the local newspapers and circulars in your neighborhood and offer to provide advice, information, and market statistics about your home town. These contributions need to be completely consumer-centric and not an advertisement for you or your company.

Newspapers will not publish you if they feel like you’re only out for yourself. You will find the return on investment for this strategy will pay off in multiples if you approach it as an educator and consumer advocate. The best-case scenario here is that you simply republish articles you’re already writing for your own Web site or blog, as this should be your approach to your own blog as well.

4. Branded Web sites

Similar to the strategy above, if you consistently publish answers to the questions that consumers have about your area of expertise on your Web site, you will earn their trust and — if Nielsen is right — you’ll have a 50-50 shot at earning your reader’s trust.

5. E-mails I signed up for

Never underestimate the value of building an opt-in list of people who trust your message. Give consumers the ability to “stay informed” through e-mail after they leave your Web site, visit your open house, or read your articles.

The strategy I use on my site is to send a weekly e-mail of the articles I wrote during the previous week. This not only helps hold me accountable for writing at least a couple of articles a week but also allows the reader to get to know me through my posts. I find consumers from my opt-in e-mail list who call me about have already made the decision to do business with me.

Most of the strategies I detailed above focus on online consumers, but offering to keep folks up-to-date and informed is just as effective when meeting with buyers or sellers in person. Big picture–focused, savvy Mayorism “candidates” will see that all trust-generating strategies can be woven together into a sales funnel that will produce consistent, long-term results for you and your business for years to come. Be trustworthy, and they will come.

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