Your Marketing Trust Factors™

One of the topics I typically mention in my classes is your Marketing Trust Factors. These factors determine why your prospective customers will trust that your product or service can truly deliver on its promised solution.

I have had small business owners ask if the real issue is whether your prospective client likes you. Certainly, if a prospect both likes and trusts you, that is ideal. However, think about how you shop for products or hire someone. In my experience, the majority of people will opt first for a person or company that they trust.

For example, if you are interviewing plumbers and you like a guy but are not convinced he can do the work, are you still going to hire him? Usually, the answer to this is no. You are more likely to opt to hire someone you are convinced will get the job done properly, even if you are not entirely thrilled with his or her personality.

Similarly, if you are buying a product from a company which you have never heard of, you are likely to consider other factors, such as how well you communicate the product or service’s capabilities on your packaging, your brochure or your company website.

You need to take into consideration what I call your Marketing Trust Factors. You need to remember that, while these factors are what you have to offer, they are only significant if your prospect considers them important to their decision making process. Or, if we flip this around, what your prospect considers important information could help you determine which prospects are better fits for your business than others.

In fact, your homework assignment is to begin watching how you make decisions when you shop, whether you are looking to buy a toaster or hire a contractor. This will allow you to begin to learn how you do research for bigger ticket items and what factors you take into account when making your decision. This can be a significant part of your market research because your ideal customer usually shares some of your decision making patterns.

The Marketing Trust Factors are:

  1. Word-of-mouth referrals or testimonials

    If you are like most people, you prefer to buy through a word-of-mouth referral simply because a personal recommendation of a product or service, especially from someone who knows you, increases the likelihood that you will be satisfied with what you buy.

    However, in this day and age, where family and friends do not live nearby and more purchases are done after searching on the Internet, we cannot always get a personalized recommendation. So, what is the next best thing? Reading, hearing or seeing a recommendation by someone else who seems credible. Hence, the use of testimonials.

    If you are not already familiar with them, a testimonial is most often thought of as a positive quote from one or more of your customers singing the praises of your product/service, you and/or your entire business. In reality, a testimonial can also represent someone’s negative comments about those same things. You will see that happen more frequently when customers review and/or rate a product or service on a site such as or Yelp (or Angie’s List), as well as on retail sites, like Macys.

    Of course, some people are skeptical of testimonials, especially when the person quoted only gives their initials. One of my students, whose business was auto body repair, did not believe most testimonials were legitimate. In his case, since he was using photos of the before and after car repair work (which is the next Marketing Trust Factor on our list), I suggested that he could use testimonials specific to each set of photos. In other words, the quote might say something like:

    “ABC Auto Body Repair fixed our bumper and made it look brand new.” — Joe Schmidt

  2. Audio/visual

    For certain products or services, there is a visual or audio component, which helps the customer to trust in what is being offered. For example, as mentioned above, the auto body shop owner used before and after photos to demonstrated the quality of his work. Similarly, you might see before and after photos used by a professional organizer.

    The more obvious examples of how this can be used are an artist’s portfolio, a restaurant or bakery’s pictures of food products, a hair stylists showcase of clients’ hairstyles, and a musician’s album of digitized songs.

    However, let us look at a less obvious example from your perspective as a small business owner. Perhaps you are a yoga practitioner who has been praised for your calming voice and demeanor. Although a testimonial from one of your clients might mention this, a brief talking-head video would better demonstrate this, if your voice was part of your competitive advantage. Prospective clients can get a sense of your personality simply by watching your video.

    If you are a product developer or inventor, there might be a passionate story behind why you chose to pursue this particular product idea. The story could be told in writing, however your passion would likely be better communicated in a video.

  3. Track record

    Sometimes prospective clients value your track record of quantifiable results and/or achievements.This can be particularly true for financial consultants and sales professionals. If your client was hiring you as a independent contractor, your prospective clients might want to know that you have delivered results. For example, if you were in sales, a prospect might want to hear that you have achieved 125% of your quota. On the other hand, if you sold cosmetics, the client is probably more interested in the quality of your cosmetics brand, as opposed to your sales track record.

    Another form of a track record is winning an award. The award could be for your current work, such as in a graphic design competition, or even for your past work. One of my clients was a technical writer. In creating her brochure, Reva was reticent to mention that she had won several awards for being on time and under budget, when she was a corporate employee. I told her that not mentioning those awards would be insane. As a corporate employee, where money is more plentiful, Reva was focused on saving her employer time and money. Therefore, why would she not treat an independent contract in the same manner?

    If you are a product developer or inventor looking for funding to manufacture your product idea, your potential investors (who are a form of a client, in that they give you money to create your product) may want to know if you have ever manufactured anything successfully before or that you have someone on your advisory team who has. The reason is because what the investor wants delivered is their original investment amount, plus a certain percentage of return. That means the investor will tend to have more confidence if they know you have successfully managed a manufacturing process previously or you have someone on your team who has.

    I have had some clients express concern that listing their achievements feels like bragging. In fact, when I first started my business helping clients with their promotion, I arranged for one of my clients Tisha, who was a CEO, to speak at a conference. After her presentation, I mentioned that she should have discussed her company’s online training services a bit more. Tisha told me that doing so would make her feel more like a used car salesman. Yet, ironically, her company’s online service offering was totally paid for by advertisements. In other words, their services to their clients was free. So, the real issue here was that people could not make use of their services, if they did not know they even existed.

    My philosophy is “Inform, don’t sell.” If you have an achievement that might help your prospects make a informed decision in your favor (or even clear out the ones that are not a fit), then that is something you need to share.

  4. Proof of expertise

    Although sometimes having quantifiable results or displaying a portfolio of your work can be used to demonstrate your expertise, at other times your expertise is more subjective. In these cases, you might highlight your industry expertise through a written document, such as a book, a blog, a case study or perhaps a description of how you work with your clients.

    For example, in a blog, you can share your perspective on your industry. It allows prospective clients to get to know the way you think, so they can determine if working with you would be a fit for them.

  5. High-profile or well-known connections (past or present)

    Sometimes prospective customers are impressed by your credentials and/or high-profile connections, which in turn inspires them to trust you. For example, you might have gone to an Ivy League or Big 10 college or previously worked at a Fortune 500 corporation. This type of information might be mentioned in a biography or in an “About Us” website section.

    In some cases, high profile connections do not want their information used for promotional purposes. In this case, look for ways to indicate the types of experience you have in more general ways. For example, you might simply list that you have worked with Fortune 100 companies in a certain industry. Or, mention that you have worked with the mayor’s office or government officials, instead of listing individuals by name.

  6. Skill set or training

    Perhaps you have a unique skill set or possess a special certification. Maybe you studied at a school well-known for specialized training in your industry, such as medical, web design, culinary, or holistic. Sometimes that training school will be well-known in your field, so its name can inspire trust in your prospects.

    That can also be true for receiving certification training in certain skills. Your prospect might want to know that you are certified to provide shiatsu massage or you studied with a well-known practitioner in your field, such as a high profile chef.

    For example, I sometimes mention that, in my former corporate life, I attended Xerox sales training, which is well regarded. To be honest, I approach selling a bit differently than what was taught. However, if  mentioning this fact helps me get my foot in the door, I am happy to mention it.

If your business needs funding, especially if you are a product developer or inventor, you might also need to consider the following additional Marketing Trust Factors:

  1. Proof of financial fitness

    Your investor may want to be sure that you know how to manage your own finances, before they allow you to manage their money.

  2. Well-rounded management team or advisory board

    If you do not have any experience in the industry you are going into, your investor will undoubtedly want to make sure that you have one or more people on your team who does know what they are doing. Again, the investor’s objective is to ensure their loan/investment is well managed.

Consider which of these Marketing Trust Factors is relevant to your business. If numerous ones apply, then focus on the top three factors.

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