Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
After being bombarded with traditional advertising for decades, consumers today are fatigued from facing digital advertising at every turn. As a result, their behaviors and preferences have evolved. Customers today do not want advertisements forced upon them. They seek authenticity. They don’t want to buy from a brand that interrupts them and annoys them. Instead, they want to build relationships with brands they can trust.
Unfortunately, consumers have very valid reasons to question brands, especially in digital settings. There are approximately 3.4 billion phishing emails sent daily. Rates of brand impersonation and imitation accounts are at an all-time high. Customers not only face a barrage of brands reaching out to them. When they decide to engage with a brand, they must proceed cautiously. They need to safeguard the basic privacy of their personal data and avoid clicking on fake, generic, and spammy links.
On top of the dual phenomena of ad fatigue and cybersecurity concerns, AI tools such as ChatGPT have given rise to more people creating content than ever at an impressive output pace. However, consumers are facing a growing wave of content that, while seemingly perfect in grammar and logic, tends to sound generic and somewhat robotic. AI tools do not stand for a cause, take a strong stance, or have a personality. Brands, however, should.
Related: How to Create Authentic Relationships and Build Customer Trust
Any company serious about building true and long-lasting customer relationships must focus on building brand trust. In the past, marketers often focused on gaining brand impressions, communicating brand values, and visual consistency. While these things still matter, today’s consumers demand something even bigger. The big question customers are asking brands today is, “Can I trust you?”
When companies are focused on driving revenue, perhaps building brand trust doesn’t seem vital. But brand trust can make or break a company’s top-line growth. A recent study from Edelman of 14,000 consumers in 14 countries shows that how much consumers trust a brand is significantly more important in their purchasing decisions than whether or not they love it. For this reason, the same study shows that highly trusted brands are seven times more likely to be purchased.
The time to act on building greater trust between your brand and your customers is now. Here are some simple but important ways you can start building greater brand trust with your customers:
1. Share high-quality, customer-focused content
If you always make your content about your own product or services, you are not being helpful to your customers. Today’s consumers have a stronger adverse reaction to company-centered content than ever before.
As a rule of thumb, 80% of your content should be helpful and non-promotional, while the other 20% can discuss your brand or your offering. To increase brand trust, ensure all of your content is truly helpful to your customers.
Related: From a Note to a Big Idea: How Content Supports and Promotes a New Product
2. Revisit which metrics matter on social media
In our data-minded world today, it’s easy to forget that what we’re really working to do as marketers on social media is not just to get “views” and “shares” and “likes” but rather, engagement with people and to create a positive sentiment people can take away from engaging with your brand.
Remember, these are people, not just “users.” All the social media stats worldwide cannot compensate for specific, high-value, and true interactions with your customers.
Related: How Social Media Can Build Trust and Engagement Within Your Community
3. Put your customers front and center
Influencer marketing is highly effective because people want to hear from real people who use, recommend and love a brand’s products and services. People relate much more to other people than to a faceless company, telling them why they should trust a brand, let alone buy from them. Brand trust soars when people come forward on behalf of your brand and already have relationships with your community or other customers within their followers. Endorsements, testimonials, advocacy and influencers are extremely valuable for creating brand trust in digital settings.
4. Only share trustworthy links
Because consumers distrust generic, unbranded links and regard them as spammy, it has never been more important for marketers to provide instantly recognizable and trustworthy links. Brands can simply use domains they already have or acquire new ones to generate branded links instead of generic ones. However they choose to approach it, link management has become more important than ever before. Companies that don’t manage and track their links appropriately are at a higher risk of having them misused. Marketers, especially brand builders, are obligated to ensure their connections are branded and trusted. When consumers are given links that seem disconnected from a brand, the company misses out on valuable brand impressions and the chance to gain 39% more click-throughs than with generic links.
Related: SEO Isn’t Just About Link Building. Don’t Overlook These Expert Strategies.
5. Make your values crystal clear
What do you stand for as a brand? Today, more than ever, what you stand for as a brand makes you stand out. Things are crowded out there. Marketers must be strategic about how to break through the noise. In the consumer’s mind, faced with many choices about which brands to engage with and ultimately buy from, leading with your values is more important than ever. Customers want authenticity. That means marketers cannot just get away with messaging that is “on brand.” Content needs to do more today than just align with brand values. It needs to convey your brand’s values in more compelling and clear ways than ever before so that it can have a slim chance of standing out and reaching potential customers.
Putting these simple practices into place does not require much in terms of new resources. However, it may require a shift in your marketing strategy. Place more focus on building more trust with your customers, as these trends and the importance of brand trust only stand to grow.