Why should I believe you?
If you’re not asking that question – from the standpoint of your consumers or clients, both current and prospective – you should be. And for a simple reason: They probably don’t.
Consumers are jaded. They’re tired of being promised one thing and getting another. They’ve been repulsed by the Enrons of the world. They’ve watched CEOs receive multi-million dollar bonuses for running their companies into the ground. They’ve been burned by shady car salesmen.
When consumer trust is betrayed, it affects all of us. You may be the most honest, ethical businessperson in the history of commerce. But you’re fighting an uphill battle to earn the trust of the market.
But why should you believe me? Check the numbers: In his blog, The Brand Bubble, Young & Rubicam’s John Gerzema notes that the measured level of trust in a wide range of product and service categories dropped by 10% or more in 2008 alone. In 1997, the Y&R Brand Asset Valuator said 52% of consumers considered all brands to be trustworthy; today, that number hovers around 20%.
So what are we, as brand-builders, to do?
Bring Your RTBs to the Forefront
We must build, and communicate, our Reasons to Believe (RTBs). RTBs are persuasive facts that support the promise you make, the story you tell, or the difference you claim. They build credibility, they assuage fear and they overcome objections in advance. And the more RTBs you provide, the better.
In general, there are five categories of RTBs that you can apply in your messaging:
Have you been in business longer than your competitors? Have you pioneered a unique solution or knowledge base? Have you won awards for the excellence of your work? Don’t be shy; let the world know.
Why do TV ads so often rely on side-by-side comparisons? Why do ladies in aprons crowd the aisles of your local grocery store, offering samples of their products? Because if you witness the absorbency of the paper towel, or taste that delicious salsa, you’re more likely to be convinced of its superiority.
I’ve heard B2B or service marketers protest that they can’t demo their wares, and I could not disagree more. White papers, speaking gigs, blogs and the like all provide prospects with a taste of your thinking before they buy. This very column, in fact, is a demo of sorts.
Why do you do things the way you do? Are there elements of your business model, or ingredients in your product, that would lead a prospect to say, “That makes sense”? Lay out the logic in clear, simple terms.
Testimonials, Case Studies & The Three Likes
An old adage states that consumers respond best to advertising with three kinds of people: “People like me, people I like and people I want to be like.” These also apply to RTBs. Gather as many testimonials and case studies as you can; prospects will recognize “people like me”. If you’re a landscaper, get approval to share the names of your most successful and prominent clients (“people I want to be like”).
In an era of eroding trust, there are few things more potent than an iron-clad guarantee. Take the famous guarantee of L.L. Bean: “Our products are guaranteed to give 100% satisfaction in every way. Return anything purchased from us at any time if it proves otherwise.” And they back it up. What’s the boldest guarantee you could offer? What’s stopping you from offering it?
Of course, the above RTBs all focus on messaging. And while powerful, they ignore the most critical RTB of all: Performance. In other words, keep your promises. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. Or do a little better. To the extent that you delight those you serve, they’ll tell their friends and colleagues how wonderful you are. And that’s more potent than any ad you might run.
A version of this post appeared in the American City Business Journals column “That Branding Thing” on October 16, 2009, and appears here with permission.
About Matthew Fenton: Matthew helps challenger brands to focus, grow and win. Since founding his consultancy, Three Deuce Branding, in 1997, he’s helped hundreds of brands to achieve “brand clarity.” His consulting services and speaking engagements help brands to focus on what matters through positioning, strategy and ideation. Contact Matthew here. He calls Chicago home.
Copyright 2009 – Matthew Fenton. All Rights Reserved. You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the About Matthew Fenton section.