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Brand Identity, Strategy

The Secret to a Successful Relationship is Simple: Be Honest

Business relationships work the same as real life relationships. Find out why

Adam Fout
February 05 2020

Just like in real-life relationships -if brands want to build trust, they must realize that trust has to be built, brick by brick.

Let’s think about this more deeply. There are certain types of trust that exist just because we’re members of a society that’s created certain rules. For example: we trust that our neighbor isn’t going to steal from us (though everyone still closes their garage door at night). We trust that the other drivers on the road are going to (more or less) follow the rules. We trust that walking around outside by ourselves is generally safe (in certain areas).

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Notice how there’s a catch to each one of these? Over time, people don’t worry as much about leaving the garage door up, about walking all over their city (even at night), about driving on the roads.

Why? Because over time if nothing bad has happened, your level of trust increases. This is why we regularly hear about small towns where everyone keeps their houses unlocked at night. Everyone is playing by the same rules.

Businesses also have an existing set of social expectations, but just like your neighbors who shut their garages at night, customers are wary. Customers expect the right to return their products without hassle and receive low cost or free shipping. The brand’s actions build or break trust. You can decrease customers’ wariness by simply meeting their expectations.

Start with expected quality

Not every brand can run with the Walmarts of the world and compete on price, and that’s okay. Thankfully, when it comes to trust, quality is most important, even above service. Trust is made or broken according to quality. If a customer orders a diamond watch, but it arrives with rhinestones, they’ll lose faith in the brand. If the brand is upfront about what level of quality a customer can expectwhether high or low—they’ll build trust.

Honest marketing

If your marketing makes claims that your product isn’t living up to, you’re in trouble with your customers. One bad interaction with a company can be all it takes for a customer to walk away forever. If you market your widget to do x, y, and z, it better do all three. This becomes far more important as the price point increases. A contractor building shoddy houses and representing his work as top notch won’t sell a lot of homes. Whatever short-term gain he made will be offset in the long run by the death of his brand.

Expected customer service

There’s a place in Philadelphia that serves Philly cheesesteak sandwiches while yelling at the customers. They’re incredibly rude—and everyone loves it. Why? Because that’s their thing—that’s what they’re known for. They market themselves as being rude and insulting. Everyone expects it, understands that they’re going to be insulted (and that it’s all in good fun), and plays along.

If a waiter at Denny’s tried this, you’d have a much different reaction.

Customers expect a certain level of service, even if it’s the bare minimum. Responding quickly, clearly, and honestly goes a long way.

The quality of Rolls Royce’s products and sales staff is going to be different than that of Toyota – and that’s fine. If you match the customer service to the level of quality, you’ll cement that trust.

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Be honest, be yourself

As in life, honesty is the best policy. Trust is built on continuous interactions which meet expectations. Businesses that try to be something they’re not kick off their customer relationships from a dishonest standpoint. That bleeds through an organization and almost always ends in disaster.

Is your business representing itself accurately in its marketing? Are you meeting the levels of quality you’ve promised, or that customers have come to expect? If you reduce quality, are you keeping it a secret? Are your employees on the front lines providing the level of customer service that makes sense? Review these basics instead of looking for quick fixes.

Good luck out there, marketer.

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Adam Fout

Adam Fout, resident content and brand sorcerer at BlueSteelSolutions, guides brands through the mystical process of creating website and blog content that enchants customers and entices leads. He also writes fiction in his free time at My Website

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