If I had to rank Brand Managers’ responsibilities by importance, building brand trust would be at the top.
Brand trust is slow to build and easy to lose. The best Brand Managers can hope for is to position the brand in the most favourable light by consistently delivering on its promise at every interaction with the consumer.
The Journey of Discovering a New Brand
Let’s think of our approach as consumers to a new brand.
We first discover it though an ad, a promo flyer, or notice it on the store shelves among a myriad of other brands you’re already familiar with. Our first instinct is to probably ignore it, unless there is something special about it that raises our interest, a hook. Otherwise we don’t usually bother to investigate further, since there are so many alternatives you’re already comfortable with.
Generally speaking we are hesitant to try something new, especially when the existing solution works just fine, and there is no perceived new need that needs to be satisfied.
We may also come across a new brand via a recommendation from a person you trust, be it a friend, co-worker or relative. Suddenly, the trust level in the new brand increases exponentially, as the recommendation comes from a trusted source.
At this point we decide to look into the brand more closely. We visit its website to learn more about the products, availability, warranty, returns, customer service, etc. If the information inspires confidence, we then expand our by “Googling” the brand and its products, read customer reviews, consumer opinions, and direct comparisons to brands you already know.
Finally, if the research raises no red flags, we are willing to give the new brand a try and look for an incentive to do so. Ideally the incentive will make our purchase risk-free.
Our hands-on experience with the brand goes along way to influencing our future attitudes and perceptions towards it: dislike, indifference, happiness or loyalty.
Building Brand Trust-the Brand Owner Perceptive
Now that we’ve mapped the customer journey to discovering a new brand, it’s time to list the elements brand owners have to put in place to turn as many customers into brand ambassadors. Remember, trust is making people believe the brand is reliable, and will deliver on its promise.
New brands often try to impress customers with grandiose statements, mostly centred around their vision, mission and values. While I strongly believe in their importance, in the initial phase of brand discovery these elements should be used as internal guidelines, rather than key brand differentiators.
While visions such as making the world a better place, eradicating world’s poverty, saving the environment, empowering and inspiring people are very motivating, brand building process starts differently.
5 Steps to Building Brand Trust
Brand trust is built by making small promises that benefit customers directly and are fulfilled rigorously. Below are some practical steps to building trust in your brand:
Get your house in order-think of the many times you rushed to clean the house before the guests arrive, to make a good first impression. Just like your house, you have to make sure your brand is ready for prime time, with a reliable product that does what it’s supposed to do, enough stock to satisfy the demand, timely delivery and strong customer support.
Customer support is of paramount importance for a new, unknown brand, as customers will probably have a lot of questions before and after purchase. Your brand’s functional and operational performance affects the customers directly, and sets the path for success or failure.
Educate your market about your product-a step often overlooked by brand owners, who are deeply involved in product design and manufacturing, that they often “forget” to capture and present this valuable information to the consumers.
Depending on the product, market education includes everything from practical information such as product functionality, warranty, pricing, and availability to branded content (establishing brand credentials, what makes the brand different and better than current alternatives).
I met many manufacturers who believe people should just buy their product because it’s available. In fact, brand preference goes beyond price and availability. Making as much information as possible available to consumers proves you are a serious player and positions your brand as a viable alternative.
Seek reputable distribution-your brand’s distribution channel plays an important role in establishing its reputation. What brand would you trust more: one sold through the back of a truck, or one sold by an established retailer?
Securing a distribution agreements with an established retailers goes a long way to penetrating a new market for two reasons.
First, the retailer lends its credibility to the new brand, thus offsetting the fear of the unknown.
Second, the new brand can instantly tap into the retailer’s established customer base, gaining exposure and trial.
For these reasons, linking the brand with an established retailer is worth every concession you can make, and should be treated as one of the most important marketing investments.
Encourage trial-there is no better method to validate your assumptions than to facilitate the direct consumer interaction with your brand. The second most important marketing investment you should make is giving consumers easy access to your brand.
Remember, consumers are reluctant to try something new, especially if they are happy with the current incumbents. In order to encourage trial, your strategy should be identify the perceived risk factors associated with trying your brand, and overcome these factors one by one, thus guaranteeing a risk-free purchase. Some factors are simple and inexpensive to overcome, others not so much.
Start small, learn and adapt– a good strategy to launch a brand is to target a narrow segment of the market, before executing a full-blown implementation.
This strategy allows brand owners to collect feedback, learn and adapt-another advantage of a small-scale approach is the opportunity to gain insight into how consumers interact with your brand, and turn their positive feedback into social proofs that will further validate your brand.
Most importantly, this is a chance to use the negative feedback to make product improvements, clarify your marketing message, and fine-tune your offering, before reaching the critical mass.
You will undoubtedly have unhappy customers for reasons you can justify or not. Regardless, use these interactions to raise your game, be transparent and provide a solution your customer is happy with.
Tackle all misconceptions early and you will and turn these customers into brand ambassadors.
Remember, brand trust is achieved in baby steps.
Photo credit: jbosari on Flickr