The Future of Marketing is About Trust

Trust is the future of marketingAdmittedly, I don’t get a lot of the new world of communication.  I notice my brother putting a post on Facebook about the status of his bathroom renovation, and instantly there are 31 “likes.”  Huh? What are they liking?  Why does he care to share this information?  Why do those in his network even care to comment?


Marketing – and sales, its joined-at-the-hip partner, – is an utterly human experience.  And it succeeds not because of an elegant user interface or efficiently written code or a succinct and catchy message.  It works when it embraces the social dynamics at play.  And its future is all about how close to the human experience it can get.


Let’s go back to those folks liking the bathroom renovation.  We are all scared and lonely animals.  We want to love and be loved.  We fear rejection and abandonment.  Mark Zuckerberg may simply have gotten lucky when crafting Facebook, but it tapped into this basic need.  “I want to feel connected”  “I want to be part of something larger, a network of people who will be there if I ever need them.”


My company once deployed a survey to our buyers, asking them about what they looked for when choosing a vendor.  What we heard (oddly, overwhelmingly by women) was this:  “If we do a project and its screws up, you’ll be there for me, right?” 


That’s also called “trust.”  Is there a more essential quality to a salesperson’s pitch?  Can marketing achieve a more compelling emotion?  Abraham Lincoln once said, “With trust everything is possible.  Without trust nothing is possible.” 


So if we’re to talk about the future of marketing, we’re really talking about ways that we can more efficiently and elegantly communicate trust.


But what’s the problem here?  On the front lines of a sale is marketing.  Marketing often does the pre-sale work.  Sending out the message and creating awareness.  Branding.  Identifying the prospects.  Informing the buyer.  All that on a battlefield littered with thieves and con artists.  The very process takes place under a dark cloud of distrust.  When someone wants you to part with your money, you assume the most sinister of intentions.


Think about your own behavior.  Let’s say you’re looking for someone to renovate your bathroom.  You call in three contractors you wish to evaluate.  They all seem equal in abilities.  But one was 5 minutes late, and lost a bit of credibility.   Two remain.  THEN, later, you run into one of them at the grocery store.  What goes through your head?  The contractor shops where I do.  Maybe you’re impressed they shop at the same time you do.  You have a shared experience and, in an odd way, you suddenly trust this contractor over the others.  They look like you.


Maybe someone will invent a reverse Linked In, where the seller (that’s you!) puts in attributes about their values that they hope a buyer will “like” in them, pieces about themselves that they feel will engender trust, and then they are matched with likeminded professionals.  Kind of like computer dating… but why not?  Or the buyer submits examples of trust – all soft – and sellers who match these attributes are given the first shot.


Until this app is developed, you can manually do this.  LinkedIn is pretty good for this now.  For example, if I want to sell to someone at Microsoft involved in marketing events, I’ll put in “marketing events” in the keyword section (you all know how to do this, right?) but it would be cool if I could also put in the trust-builders, like that I’d worked on the Obama campaign, prefer hang gliding over golf and am looking for services for an elderly parent.  If I find someone like that, BOY will we have a lot to talk about… and likely have a short path to trust.


So in an odd way, all those folks “liking” my brother’s Facebook posting about his bathroom renovation are moving closer to him, nudging towards his inner circle.  For all I know, my brother noted that I didn’t vote to “like” his bathroom, and maybe I lost some ground as a result.


Future marketing may be all about sending out these shibboleths, words, concepts, images, icons that “test” the reader or viewer, getting them to react in a way that will rapidly allow us to judge them and their trustworthiness.  Or how amenable they would be to our trust-inducing marketing messages.  What values do we both share?  Do you like my bathroom renovation?


Lonely. Scared.  Vulnerable.  Skeptical.  These are among the emotions buyers bring to the marketplace.  You can talk all day about the “buyer’s journey” and read the plethora of books about the “ten steps of a sales process” etc., etc.  You can stand on your chair and demand that prospects be qualified according to a strict set of criteria.  “Where’s the need?”  “Do they have authority?”  “Is there a budget?”  This all sounds good, but we’re not robots.  We won’t buy from someone unless we trust them.  We won’t listen to marketing if we suspect it is intended to deceive us, to get us to do something we normally wouldn’t.  We reject messages that don’t align with our values.  The future of marketing is gauging the buyer’s capacity to trust you, and how you can rapidly engender that trust.


What steps are you taking to engender trust in your marketing messages and branding?