It’s what’s on the inside that counts, right? Maybe. But we are used to that expression as it pertains to people. We overlook the fact that it can pertain to businesses as well. As companies we often forget that the internal values that we share amongst our own employees can externally reflect to our consumer audience. At its worst, a poorly run, mistrustful environment can breed discontent for a product. But at its best, a well-run company with strong beliefs can leverage this opportunity to build trust from the inside out.
We like to talk to our clients about the importance of our PTPA ‘Circle of Trust’ which brings together factors from inside and outside an organization that strengthen the bond between leaders, employees and customers.
There are a few key ways to create this symbiosis inside and out of a company:
#1 Take a Stand
We like to emphasize the power of standing for something (and certainly work to practice what we preach at PTPA Media). Many brands today are missing a huge opportunity by only evangelizing product features rather than organizational beliefs. And even those companies that do articulate a purpose, often don't bake it into everything they do. Helping all of those related to your brand internalize a purpose will go far to ensuring customers feel it too.
A great example of taking a stand is Patagonia. A historically activist brand with low employee turnover, the company took a stand by deciding to donate the $10 million dollars it received from last year’s US tax cuts to environmental charities. Without a doubt, this is standing firmly for a company’s purpose and beliefs.
#2 Walk the Walk
It’s those at the top of an organization that need to set an example for employees to follow. A good leader puts the business into context. For instance, we have a client that makes mattresses. But their focus is not just on creating a quality product, it’s in helping consumers get a good night’s sleep. And by focusing on sleep, the brand is able to think differently about their advertising, social media outreach, offers/guarantees, customer service and even the ancillary products and services they offer.
Because we all sleep better knowing that an expensive purchase, such as a mattress, was not a mistake, focusing on the mission not just the product makes good business sense. But these nuances need to come from the leaders at the company...and with authenticity. And they need to be in all of your marketing in order for consumers to truly understand your belief system.
#3 Talk the Talk
The great thing about establishing a purpose is that your employees now have something to rally around. This needs to come from the top management and then "trickle down" throughout the organization. This is the leaders most important responsibility. Once the trickle down effect takes hold, you will find that all elements of work being done inside and outside the organization will be done so with a focus on the purpose of your business. This is where the ‘talk’ part comes in. Brands need to ensure this 'purpose' is communicated through sales calls; via customer service; on the sales floor; in warehouses; at agencies and within the halls of partners, investors and other constituents. Employees armed with the right way to communicate a company's beliefs is the most powerful, cost-effective marketing tool available.
#4 Create a Trust Team
Social media has become, hands down, one of the most effective ways to talk, listen and learn from customers. And since this type of activity builds trust, we often recommend that our clients think about their social media team as a 'trust team'.
And ‘trust teams’ shouldn't just look at their role as the first line for product questions and customer services issues, but instead as enthusiastic participants in any conversation that matters. These are your front line people, let them be more than customer support, let them be your advocates. LEt them share with consumers what causes you support and what corporate social responsibility action you take.
In some recent research conducted amongst our community of over 150,000 moms consumers, 79% of consumers said they were more likely to buy from a company that supports a cause important to them. And there is no better way to both understand and support causes than to talk to these users, with sincerity and authenticity, via social media.
As Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said: "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." In order to be effective, you need to truly listen in order to understand . That will carry you to the finish line of building trust.
Like any relationship, the more honest and authentic you are, the stronger the relationship and the longer it will last. Living by this is the secret to success in business and life.