Why is trust, or the absence of it, so powerful? Why do we trust one person or one brand, but not another? And what is the difference between relying on someone and trusting them?
Trust is such a powerful thing because it involves a relinquishing of control. We choose, whether consciously or unconsciously, to trust. And placing our trust in someone else involves a degree of giving up.
For this reason, trust is risky: if the promise of the trustee is broken, potential harm or distress is caused to the trustor. It makes the person who's doing the trusting vulnerable.
By the same token, trust breeds confidence: confidence literally means "with trust." We have confidence in the people, the companies, and the brands we trust.
At the heart of any business or personal relationship is trust. We trust Amazon to get our goods delivered on time. We trust Apple to produce high-quality hardware that produces leading-edge experiences.
Relying on someone does not mean you necessarily trust them. A taxi driver doesn't turn up on time. You were relying on him to be at your doorstep. You didn't actually trust him one way or the other.
As such, trust goes deep: the feeling of trust is a feeling of assurance but also a feeling of lightness. When we willingly relinquish control of something that is important to us, we feel lighter. We are relieved of something that otherwise weighs on us. It feels good.
Trust Drives Our Economy
Trust is a bet on the future, that the promise will be delivered. And the more we trust and the more our trust is repaid, the stronger the bond grows.
At the heart of our financial systems is trust. Credit is a form of trust, a promise to pay back the loan at a future time. Remember there is significantly more credit in the global economy than hard money. The financial system is literally built on credit: it is built on trust.
The cultivation of trust is not only essential for business growth but represents a significant opportunity for organizations that do it well. That's the view of the global CMO of investment firm BlackRock, Frank Cooper.
For Cooper, the need to cultivate trust in companies beyond simply their products and services should be viewed as a "huge opportunity" rather than a corporate burden.
"What I have seen across multiple industries is that if you can extend the trust beyond the product itself, there is value in that," he maintains. "People are standing up and are willing to pay a premium for companies that deliver something beyond the basic product."
Trust is Human
For all these reasons, trust is intrinsically human. And it is perhaps the most important of drivers when it comes to our personal and financial decisions.
Marketers must understand the overwhelming upsides of developing trust over the long-term. The brands, the companies, and the people we most trust are the very individuals and organizations that we turn to when we have a need.
Author Simon Sinek insists on the importance of human interaction in developing trust. "You cannot form trust through the internet. Nothing replaces human contact," Sinek argues.
Of course, you can begin to develop trust over the internet. But you seal the deal, you cement the relationship, through direct human contact.
For marketers awash within a sea of data and automated tools, here are five pointers intended to bring the human back into our businesses and to keep us firmly anchored in our commitment to building trust.
1. Your audience is composed of people - Treat them that way, one person at a time as often as you can. Put yourself in their shoes, think how you can help them. Reach out to them on a human level. Make contact.
2. Get to know people - The more people you know, and the more you share with them, the stronger the bonds of trust will grow. No person can feasibly know everyone, but the more direct relationships we cement across the globe, the healthier and stronger a world it will be.
3. Treat your customers well - Your customers have already invested some level of trust in you. Remember you are their servant. Let them know that. Make them feel valued as people.
4. Treat your prospective customers with respect - Do not harangue or pressure prospects into business. Treat people with respect. Trust that they will make the decision that best serves them.
5. Always serve - Your role on the planet is to serve, to serve the people you know now and into the future. Enshrine this principle in the core value set of your organization. Focus on being helpful in the content you recommend for your clients, both current and prospective, and the solutions you propose to their business challenges.