When a customer or specifier is deciding whose product to select Trust is a key factor in the decision making process. Chris Ashworth, founder of Competitive Advantage, explains how the product manufacturer can reinforce the influences on Trust.
I have long promoted the concept of the Trusted Advisor as part of my teachings on specification strategy. This states that product manufacturers and their individual sales people need to build a position of trust with customers so that they become the Trusted Advisor and hence the first point of contact when information is needed about their area of expertise. A view which is supported by an architect’s quote in the CPA’s Construction Product Information Survey “To some extent you have to rely on the information, but if one finds out it isn’t reliable then (I) tend never to go back to them”. So not only is building trust important, you do not get a second try.
Building trust is about how your organisation and its representatives – that’s sales, marketing, technical and senior management – behave. At the macro level this might be actions a company has taken towards its customers or staff. For example, during the Coronavirus pandemic airlines lost a lot of trust because of the way they made it difficult for customers to get refunds and by how they cut their staff. It will take them many years to earn back that trust. At the same time, some travel agents gave their customers full refunds, even though they had not got all their money back from suppliers – earning them credibility and trust in their business.
At the micro level it is about the Character and Competence of your organisation and the individuals. Character means that there is consistency and accuracy across the organisation’s websites and third-party directories or hosted specifications and BIM objects. This also includes ensuring quoted standards and certification in CPD seminars are current, an area which is often allowed to remain out of date.
Competence is primarily about the depth of technical knowledge displayed. From an organisational perspective this is the breadth and depth of information available on your website, the quality of content in catalogues and webinars. But is also about how you contribute to the knowledge of your audience concerning key industry issues; speaking at conferences, participating in industry working groups, offering CPDs and publishing technical articles. For the individual, it is the depth and quality of expertise, but also being part of this knowledge delivery at conferences, CPD seminars and by giving advice on an individual level.
Increasingly, the approach should be that marketing builds the trust in the organisation, allowing the individual sales person to benefit from this reputation, making it easier for them to initially engage with customers and specifiers. However, they must also have the personal and technical skills or they will undermine the whole process.
It’s a good idea for Marketing Managers to measure the level of trust on a regular basis, as part of a perception study. This not only provides a metric to measure progress in building trust, but also identifies areas where there are opportunities for improvement.
Competitive Advantage can conduct perception studies amongst your audience, provide training on skills such as building trust but also review marketing collateral such as websites, product literature, product specifications and CPD seminars, identifying inconsistencies and making recommendations to improve their impact.
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