How Much Do Consumers Really Trust You? (And What to Do About It)

Mar 26, 2013

Vya Staff

Whether it’s trust in the product, trust in the brand, trust in the content or trust in the person making the pitch, trust is the vital element upon which nearly all deals are made. But as statistics show, trust is hard to come by these days. So where do consumer attitudes toward businesses stand, and what can businesses do to change those attitudes?

Trust issues

It can be argued that consumers, by nature, are skeptical. After all, if they weren’t we as marketers wouldn’t need to do nearly as much to convince them of the merits of our products and services. This idea is backed up by the fact that 8 in 10 “informed citizens” need to hear information about a company more than twice before they believe it. That’s also probably a big reason why consumers are actively researching companies they do or plan to do business with. According to Harris Interactive, the number of people who actively seek out information about a company went up from 50% of respondents to 56% in just the past year.

And it’s not just that consumers are now doing their own research that scares some businesses – they’re sharing their results. Three-quarters of these “seekers” are telling others how a company conducts itself, and 61% of them have decided not to do business with a company because of what they’ve learned. With consumers more connected to each other than they’ve ever been, anytime that bond of trust is not established or is broken, you can bet more than just the irked wronged person is going to hear about it.

The bottom line is businesses have a lot of room to improve in terms of trust, and some more than others. For example, 86% of consumers trust small businesses in general, but only 55% trust big businesses. It’s even worse for banks and financial services. In a global survey by Edelman, both achieved the lowest trust score of any industry, with just 50% of respondents finding them trustworthy. Just how deep is John Q. Public’s mistrust of its money-handlers? Fifty-nine percent of people familiar with recent banking/financial scandals blamed those scandals on greed, corruption and conflicts of interest as opposed to external factors like the economy, size of banks and lack of regulation.

What goes into trust?

So what’s a marketer to do? First, you need to know what trust is. In last week’s Marketing Organizational Leadership series, CMO Alan See told us a formula he liked to use for calculating trust:

Trust = (Rapport x Credibility) / Risk

If we break down this formula by each of its variables, we can get a good idea of what kind of communications need to be deployed in order to build a fruitful bond of trust.

Rapport. What kind of conversations are you having with your audience, and what mediums are you using to initiate those conversations? From the content of your website to the way you present yourself on social media, rapport is the connection you are making with the audience on a personal level. You need to be engaging and helpful, aggressive or spammy.

Credibility. While rapport is built on a personal level, credibility is built on a professional level. What makes you an expert on the subject? This is where whitepapers, blogs, datasheets and briefs – educational collateral – help your business establish itself as a thought leader. If you’re a trustworthy provider of knowledge, it’s easier for consumers to see you as a trustworthy provider of goods and services.

Risk. What does the consumer have to lose by doing business with you? Could their personal information be compromised in some way? Are they putting too much money on the line to try your product or services? If you can assuage these fears (and credibility and rapport will help lessen the risk factor), the consumer will feel safe working with you.

What’s important to remember throughout the trust-building process is you control the content. Once it’s out there, it’s the public’s to share as they please. That means communications and messaging need to be consistent across the entire audience segment on every platform and in every campaign. One bad customer experience can easily work its way down the line to other potential buyers, so every branding guideline violation or poorly-worded promise has the ability to undermine the trust you’ve built.


Consumers are as skeptical as ever when it comes to the messages they receive. Businesses need to establish rapport, build credibility and reduce risk if they want their audience to buy in to what they’re saying and selling. In order to do this, messaging must be consistent across all platforms and campaigns.

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Tags: branding, internet marketing, risk, bank marketing, trust, rapport, messaging, credibility, financial services, marketing campaign

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