Most people believe that it takes time for a user to develop trust in your brand. While true, it’s only half the story. Knowing the various stages of trust gives you an advantage as to when to act and how – during the development of trust. Timing is key here, trust (or distrust) doesn’t form until after the user has transacted with you.
Think about the power of knowing that one fact. It means if your brand (or product, store front, website, trade-show booth) is approachable enough to encourage a transaction (or sampling, walk-in, click-thru, visit) all you have to do follow through with what you said you would do and the seeds of trust are planted (validating that experience takes the most time).
The 5 Phases of Establishing Trust in Your Brand
Establishing trust in your brand is very similar online as it is offline. Let’s look at a simple offline scenario. Imagine you are traveling on business in an unfamiliar city. You need to eat and here is how it might unfold:
Phase 0 – Closed: No Risk (no will to transact)
At this point, you weigh just staying in and just munching on the free nuts
Phase 1 – Approach: Risk is Taken (willing to transact)
You visit a new restaurant close to your hotel
Phase 2 – Initiation: Trust is Seeded (transaction initiated)
Your favorite entree is available, which you order
Phase 3 – Experience: Trust is Rooted (positive experience)
You love your food, like your server, settle your bill and leave satisified
Phase 4 – Validation: Trust is Tested (story telling)
You tell your friends about the restaurant and it turns out they love that place too (validation)
Phase 5 – Establishment: Trust is Invested (positive branding)
You go back to the restaurant when possible
So…What Could Go Wrong?
During Phase 4, we humans display really uncanny behavior; that is we begin to seek out, or at least become sensitive to cues that validate or invalidate our experiences. The strongest among us become malleable lumps of clay as we go about life. How so?
If we wake up in the middle of the night throwing up, we will very easily connect, rightly or wrongly so, the food with the nausea. We are likely to reject any other possibility. If we read a bad review, we are likely to not admit going there at all. If our friends turn out to hate their food, we have a greater propensity to have our seeds of trust uprooted.
Phase 4 makes or breaks the establishment cycle. But, the good news is, we are over half way to the goal – people are using your product or consuming your services. Now is the time to act – swiftly.
Timing is Everything – Helping the Validation Process Along
What can we do to validate the experiences of our users? Do any of these sound familiar?
- Over deliver
- Go the extra mile
- Follow up
- Send a thank-you
- Re-engage them
- Send them a reminder
- Give them a new reason to visit
- Reward them with a discount
- Buy her flowers
- Do the unexpected
- Recommend another business
- Act on their requests
- Make them look like a hero
The list goes on and on right?
Fast-Tracking Phase 4
I’ll finish with a quick story. I dropped my car off at a repair shop and left with a bid for $350 for parts and labor. I got a voicemail about 2pm saying the work was complete. When I arrived to pay my bill, the total was $95. When I (delightedly) asked why the discrepancy, the serviceman simply said, “It didn’t take near as long as I thought it would to install the parts.”
Period. Matter-of-fact and with no regrets. He could have easily said 250, still saved me money and I would have been happy. I didn’t take my vehicles to a different garage until he retired. That garage figured out how to fast-track phase 4.