Every year, Nielsen conducts a global survey assessing consumer trust in different mediums of advertising and messaging. And every year, marketers anxiously await the results to uncover what people are saying about the way we do our jobs. Nielsen posted a great summary graphic of their 2013 findings a few days ago, and the results are both telling and potentially impactful for your strategy.
To see the full report, give Nielsen a shout here.
For now, we'll focus on the forms of messaging which consumers are ranking "Completely" or "Somewhat" Trustworthy:
*Aside: Despite the label, a savvy marketer can easily see that these forms of communication are not all "advertising". Word of mouth (in it's truest form) cannot be bought, and a branded website is a marketing medium rather than an advertising campaign. Let's choose to mentally replace the word "advertising" with "marketing", and the results are a little easier to understand.
Alright, back to business.
In my personal opinion, none of the findings here are particularly shocking.
People trust recommendations from their friends, family and peers above marketing? Tell me something I don't know.
Nonetheless, the rate at which people trust these forms of advertising is only the tip of the iceberg. "Trust" is built via a multitude of factors from standard brand messaging to personal customer interactions.
With that in mind, simply exclaiming "I need an awesome branded website because 69% of people trust them!" is not a strategy. It's a hollow statement.
So what are marketers and business owners to do with this data? How do we leverage these "trusty" mediums to propel our brand forward?
I've set out to answer those questions below, by providing information and resources for making the most of the top three trusted forms of "advertising" (wink wink). It's no coincidence that the three most trusted marketing mediums are not paid; it's quantified proof that people are apprehensive about believing messages we pay to put in front of them.
All things considered, it makes a lot of sense to focus significant attention in these three areas of your marketing strategy. They may not be the most glamorous (no Superbowl ads here) and they may be difficult to control (the Internet is a wild jungle) but they have the potential to boost or bust your brand.
#1 Recommendations from People I Know
As previously mentioned, geniune word of mouth cannot be purchased. At their heart, word of mouth recommendations are honest conversations between friends and family about the rare experience of interacting with a brand or company that has left a positive impact.
But don't give up too easily - just because you can't pay for legitimate word of mouth doesn't mean you can't earn it.
In allignment with the foundation of Inbound, word of mouth grows out of exceptional service and strong relationship building. It doesn't matter if your "service" is computer software, marketing services, or cleaning people's houses.
Furthermore, your service needs to be oriented around more than just fixing problems when your company does something wrong, or someone percieves a situation as such. Exceptional service branches far beyond problems and builds relationships with customers upon shared interests and goals.
I know, it sounds like a lofty task to take on.
For inspiration in the service and relationship department, look to brands like Moz and Amazon. They may satisfy entirely different customer needs, but they share the common thread of consistenly providing exceptional service and experiences that earn unpaid (and ironically invaluable) customer love.
#2 Branded Websites
The lovely page above guides us nicely into medium number two, the ever important company website.
To see what's being said about company websites, I did a little digging around. I found an interesting article on Forbes identifying "The World's Best Corporate Websites".
I found that despite their diverse industries and customer profiles, these monster companies had a few traits in common on their websites:
- Imagery: From BP to Nestle, every single one of the websites listed does an incredible job telling a visual story. It's not just the pictures, it's the color schemes and layout all coming together to create a visual identity and tell the brands story. And what a compelling one it is!
- Simplicity: Even the most complex companies on this list (pharmaceutical research, anyone?) manage to boil down their key points and provide clear paths for information seekers on their sites.
These examples are nice, but you probably don't have the budget, team or resources to create the kind of websites owned by publicly traded powerhouses. Ironically, this puts you at an advantage.
Here's how: as a business owner or marketer in a smaller company, you have a smaller customer and prospect base to work with. In turn, you have a better pulse on who they are. Even better, you work with a smaller team that can implement strategic changes in a shorter time frame based on the information you gather.
To create a trusty website, start by putting yourself in a visitor's shoes. Does your current site aim to provide help, or is is geared exclusively around driving a sale?
Focusing on the later wont earn you trust, it'll just earn you a one way ticket to untrustworthy town. If that's a real place, I don't want to be there. And you don't either!
For more tips on how to create an exceptional and informative site, check out this free guide from HubSpot:
#3 Consumer Opinions Posted Online
Another toughie! But hey, nobody said marketing was easy. They just said it would be worth it.
Did I really just go there? I think I did...embrace it.
A lot of small businesses are unsure or nervous when it comes to monitoring and engaging with online reviews.
I get that. It's the same reason people like Britney Spears shouldn't Google themselves: criticism hurts, and online anonymous criticism can be exponentially more harsh.
But entirely ignoring this unowned segment of your brand is a major mistake. There are two reasons why:
First, do you know what happens when you surround yourself exclusively with yes people? People who tell you what you want to hear and skirt around the tough questions? Britney Spears, circa 2007. That's what.
If you don't pay attention to online reviews, both positive and negative, you may entirely miss a major problem within your own business that you don't know about.
Consider places like Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, etc... they all allow the public an open forum to openly discuss any interaction they have with your company.
Wouldn't you want to know if an employee were mistreating customers, or your service was falling short of the promises you make in your marketing? Even more, wouldn't you want to address that issue both publicly and internally?
Social monitoring is an essential tool for any business looking to have an honest understanding of the experience they're providing. For tips on how to handle those less than stellar reviews, check out this article I wrote on Savvy Panda.
Another reason to pay attention to online reviews and mentions is that they pose an incredible opportunity for you to show people that your business truly cares. About experiences, about service, about them.
If you seize the opportunity and respond to online mentions of both positive and negative natures, you demonstrate that you're in touch with your audience and are committed to being a trustworthy brand.
One group that's doing a surprisingly good job of embracing this concept is the airline industry. Companies like JetBlue and Southwest have become known for the quick responses to social media qualms regarding delays, service, and other issues.
In exchange for the empathy and solutions they provide, they're rewarded with loyal customers sharing their positive experiences.
Am I having Déjà vu, or does this call to mind Medium #1?
That's the thing about being a trustworthy brand: the more places and times you can prove it, the less messages you have to buy to shout about it.