Trust me, I'm in marketing

It sounds like the first line of a comedy sketch, or maybe something Groucho Marx might have said as he held a stethoscope against a businessman’s wallet.

The joke being that people don’t trust marketers.

Which is a shame because there's actually no reason why trust and marketing can't go together, and, in fact, most of the time, they happily do. I mean, without some degree of trust nobody would ever buy anything.

You wouldn't buy something you didn't think would deliver what it promised, so why is the idea of marketing so anathema to the idea of trust in the minds of most people?

Personally I think this lack of trust, this scepticism, this, in some cases, outright cynicism, has something to do with the way we marketers think about ourselves. In general, we see ourselves as 'doing' something to somebody. It's a masculine thing. We ‘target’, 'position' and persuade - but that's is not how you create trust.

If you look at why people begin to feel a sense of trust in someone or something, you’ll see it’s not masculine. It's not manipulative. It’s not a one-way street. Actually, trust is developed through reciprocal relationships; more a series of give-and-takes nurtured by one party making promises and then keeping their word. Hardly surprising, as humans apply the same rules to brands as they do to their friends. But there aren't many agencies - or marketers for that matter - who think that marketing works in quite this way.

As Dennis Jaffe points out in his article The Essential Importance Of Trust: How To Build It Or Restore It, it was The Dalai Lama himself who said:

“To earn trust, money and power aren’t enough; you have to show some concern for others. You can’t buy trust in the supermarket."

and you don't get more authoritative than that.

The article identifies Six Building Blocks of Trust:

  • Reliability and Dependability

  • Transparency

  • Competency

  • Sincerity, Authenticity and Congruency

  • Fairness

  • Openness and Vulnerability

As a marketer, it’s useful to try to identify where you might demonstrate any of these qualities more openly and enthusiastically within your business, whether you’re in manufacturing, retail or even an agency.

To be successful, marketers first need to create a sense of trust between themselves and their clients. And I'm not talking about throwing boozy parties, or trips to Cannes. I'm talking about clients finding an agent with whom they feel shared values. Likewise, agencies need to find the clients they feel comfortable working with - not just the ones with the biggest budgets.

The agencies then need to relate to their potential customers as friends they simply haven’t got to know yet and to treat them as such.

And if you’re consistent in this behaviour you will, in time, become a trusted friend. And that’s valuable because when customers trust you they're more loyal, more interested in what you’ve got to say, and more likely to spend time and money with you. And isn't that what marketing is supposed to be all about?

And, finally, if you do all this, you might, surprisingly, also discover you like yourself a little bit more too.

Trust me.