Trust- The Foundation of Marketing

We mentioned that we would be covering  some of the principles of Jay Conrad Levinson’s classic  Guerilla Marketing as they relate to aviation.

First on Levinson’s list is this:

  1. Your task: to make prospects confident in you.

Confidence is first because it is so essential to building relationships with prospective buyers, and because it is so hard to come by.  See our article on the Highly Evolved B.S. Meter of the 21st Century Consumer for perspective.

So our first task, once we have our prospective client’s attention, is to convince him or her that we are the best option for the product or service we sell.  How do we do that?

Collect testimonials.

What your customers, clients and colleagues say about you speaks much more loudly and credibly than what you say about yourself.  Keep (and publish!) a collection of testimonials from satisfied customers.  The more well-known and credible the customer is, the better!  (More on this later.) But meanwhile, whenever a customer says something nice about you, your product or your company in person or in an email or letter, ask if you can use their comments in your marketing materials. More often than not, they will give you permission.

Solicit testimonials (and improve your customer service) by sending out a card or letter after completing a transaction or a service. Ask if your customer is satisfied, if there are any questions you can answer or any further services you can provide, and ask if they would recommend you to other people. You will likely get many nice comments on these survey forms. Include a check box so that your customer can indicate whether you may use these comments in your marketing materials or if they’d prefer to be anonymous.

You can ask customers and co-workers for references for yourself, your company or your products on LinkedIn as well.

Once you have a collection of testimonials, you can use them in many places.

  • Publish them on your web site (you can see how we use them on our “About Us” page)
  • Include them in proposals, direct mail packages and brochures
  • Create a “scrapbook” of testimonials and customer success stories. Keep it on the coffee table in your waiting area.

Present a Consistent Identity

Many companies have merged, reorganized, or been sold or acquired lately.

Decide what is important, consistent, and unchanging about your company, from your customer’s perspective. It may be your mission, your product, or your people (if you’re a sole-ownership or very stable company.)

Many companies spend all of their marketing and time emphasizing the “new.”  We send press releases when we hire a new manager or release a new product, and that’s all fine and good. But it’s also very important to publicize what is stable, unchanging and reliable about your company.

Publicize what’s “old.”  Consistently repeat the same mission or memorable tagline in your marketing. If your people are consistent, show profiles on your blog. People feel more comfortable if they can create a relationship with a person who they come to trust. If you’ve been successfully selling the same product for 10 or 20 years, put the emphasis on the time-tested aspects of your product and how it’s helped many customers over the years.

Create a branding standard to communicate this consistency visually. Wells Fargo requires any employees that produce marketing materials, web materials, or any other public-facing documents to attend a half-day training. Among  other things, they include company history, mission, main differentiations from competitors, and visual standards. They distribute kits that include templates for documents and swatches for ensuring colors are consistent when ordering products from local printers.

Technology makes it possible for small companies to do the same.

Establish Expert Status.

If you have a life-threatening disease, you want to seek out a doctor who is a notable specialist in the particular ailment you have.  If you specialize in a particular product or service, you can establish (and get visibility for) your expert status by doing some of the following:

  • Join the relevant organizations.
  • Make presentations at conferences.
  • Publish articles about your topic.
  • Write and publish a book about your topic (or collect your articles into a book and get it published.)

Associate with big fish

Associate with Bigger Fish

My son and I were scuba diving when we discovered a long, skinny, weird little fish that was swimming along with us.  We were alarmed at first, because we couldn’t seem to discourage this persistent little friend to go away.

Wherever we went, he went right along with us.  We later learned that he was a remora – they typically swim along with sharks, turtles or other bigger creatures, taking advantage of their size, speed, and more formidable reputations.

If you are a small or new company, you can learn from this weird little fish – you can  help your credibility to create ties with larger or more established companies.

You can do this by associating your company’s name with those of larger organizations and corporations.

Opportunities for this must benefit both parties, but consider:

  • Join organizations (use their logos on your website and marketing materials.)
  • Preferentially solicit large or well-known organizations, or give preferential terms if you can use them as a reference.
  • Enter a joint venture or marketing agreement with a larger or more-established organization.
  • Advertise in respected publications, and refer to those advertisements. (You’ve seen the “as seen on TV” imprint on packages, you can do the same with your marketing pieces – See ABCI’s article in Airport Business Magazine.)

Have a process.

Publishing your process helps customers feel confident and at ease in doing business with you for two reasons – first, they know what to expect, and second, they know that you’ve done this enough times to have written down and perfected your “system.”  Nothing makes a customer more nervous than the idea that you don’t know what you’re doing or that you’re just “winging it” and hoping for the best.

ABCI publishes the process of what new clients can expect when working with us on our website.  Taylor Greenwood publishes his Checklist for a Great Photo Shoot that explains what he expects clients to do before, during and after the shoot, as well as what he and his staff will do.  Brad Harris and Shawn Dinning of Dallas Jet International published a free ebook on the Anatomy of an Aircraft Sale to educate clients about the rather complex process of selling an aircraft.

Clients gain confidence and trust when they can see where they are in the process and know what the next step should be.  And they gain confidence and trust in professionals who follow a clear process and keep them informed about their place in it.

Speak  Human

It’s natural to distrust things we don’t understand. And confused customers don’t buy.

No matter how technical or sophisticated your product is, it’s important to explain it in plain language that your prospective customers can understand without working too hard. Even if your prospective customers are Ph Ds and rocket scientists, they are still people and like relaxed, natural language.  Avoid jargon, “business frankenspeak” terms and cobbled-together phrases like “win-win” and “end-to-end” and “results-oriented.” These phrases are overused and under-enlightening. 🙂

There are many ways to built trust and confidence – these are just a few of the possibilities. What are your favorites? What helps you trust a company?


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