Building customer trust doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years to build and only seconds to destroy. (Remember former BP CEO Tony Hayward’s comment, “I’d like my life back.”?) So, it’s no surprise that gaining trust with key stakeholders is a top priority for CEOs.
A recent Pricewaterhouse Coopers survey of CEOs shows that the lack of trust in business is a major concern and that they see it as a threat to their growth. Whether it’s with investors, customers or employees, building trust is embedded in what successful company leaders do and say everyday.
Ultimately, trust starts with communication. Through honest, transparent, and frequent communications, CEOs can establish a rapport built on assurance and respect, and deposit bucks in the trust bank. But it can’t be done alone. By working closely with marketing and corporate communications, CEOs can empower multiple ambassadors of trust and goodwill.
Since branding and marketing is at the center of building trust with customers, CEOs can’t afford to look at these disciplines solely as the office suite responsible for selling products and services. Instead, it’s an opportunity to build lasting and profitable relationships by connecting with consumers in authentic ways. Just as internal communications builds rapport with employees, a brand that is able to make a real customer connection builds a bridge to loyalty and trust.
The average consumer is exposed to hundreds (if not thousands) of advertising messages each day.
With that in mind, here are four principles to consider when working with your CMO.
- Educate and provide unbiased information. In all industries, but especially in complex industries like the ones my own agency serves, marketing should be used to inform customers on the path to purchase. Incorporating online tools for greater transparency and information, facilitates the decision-making processes and builds relationships.
- Know the difference between telling a story—and inspiring someone to tell theirs. When it comes to message development, people trust other people’s personal narratives more than a logo or a tagline, so use memorable people delivering unvarnished stories in your communications.
- Tailor marketing/communications to the audience. Ensure your organization is using customer data to communicate in meaningful ways. For example, a health insurer shouldn’t send a 30-year-old an e-mail about healthy aging intended for seniors. In the same vein, messages to Millennials should be delivered via digital platforms, since this is where they live.
- Commit to content and consistent messaging. In today’s distributed media world it’s important to support the marketing content engine with adequate resources. By delivering engaging content that can be replicated across platforms, the organization will enhance positive internal alignment and external reputation. Also a consistent narrative across platforms – from advertising to your website to customer service, builds trust.
An organization’s reputation starts at the top, but CEOs who are committed to building a culture of trust know it can’t be done alone. Partnering with your brand and marketing communications teams is an excellent way ensure long-term loyalty and generate significant business outcomes.
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Author: Rich Levy, CEO of PARTNERS+simons.
Image: Beth Comstock, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at General Electric.