Becoming a trusted brand is the most important advantage you can have over your competition. There is nothing else that can beat the loyalty of customers who trust your business. Forget advertising, gimmicks or pushing your brand at every opportunity – focus on these 7 steps and persist. It will definitely be worth it.
When New Zealanders vote for their most trusted brands it is obvious why the successful businesses have been selected. They are businesses which are visible and unique and which share their story so their customers feel like they know them personally.
A great example of this is Whittakers. It’s a third generation family business which makes chocolate in Porirua. They have a huge passion for making the best possible chocolate and maintaining the integrity of their ingredients. They still make products that they developed 50 years ago. How do I know any of this? Because they tell me their story in every advert they make. They use the family in the adverts at times and they promote their uniqueness as much as possible. Holly Whittaker believes being a family-run business is a valuable point of difference. “People feel a closer connection to the business because they’ve grown up with it and it’s produced in their country by New Zealanders, from a Kiwi family. That resonates with our consumers really well,” says Holly, marketing manager at Whittaker’s Chocolate Lovers.
So how do you start to become a trusted brand?
Well, first you’re going to need two different strategies; one for your existing customers and one for your potential new customers.
Let’s look first at your existing customers and then later I will cover the strategy for potential new customers.
Turning your existing customers into your raving fans
Every day on social media I see people asking for recommendations for businesses to supply product or services and there are always plenty of people willing to make suggestions either positively or negatively. I am excited for the businesses that receive a glowing recommendation and devastated for ones that get a bad comment.
That’s because the power of referral and word-of-mouth is very strong for many people when they make a buying decision – just think about the influence of review sites for restaurants, hotels and tradespeople. Your business needs to be very aware of this influence and to make sure that the likelihood is that you will be reviewed favourably more often than not. That’s the beginning of becoming a trusted brand.
Of course you will never be able to satisfy every customer every time because there genuinely are some people out there who do their best to always be dissatisfied but if the majority of your customers receive great customer service then you will be more likely to be reviewed well by them.
What is great customer service?
It will be different for every business, but the way you communicate with your customers, the way you ensure they are always treated in the same manner every time they buy from you, your genuineness in every transaction and how easy it is for your customers to get hold of you will be part of great customer service for all businesses.
Let’s start with communication.
You need to impress your customers in every transaction by under-promising and over-delivering so you always make them feel special. You can achieve this in small ways by communicating with them more often than they expect, by including small extras or by making sure they know that their business is appreciated.
The speed with which you answer calls, emails and texts is important as is your genuine desire to ensure that problems are sorted in a speedy and friendly way. Everything you do when it comes to dealing with your customers should be part of a wonderful buying experience for them so they recommend you to others and keep coming back.
And now they need to get to know you better
Another way to turn your customers into raving fans is to make your brand feel more personal to them so they feel part of your community and want you to do well. The best way to do this is to build a story around your brand which will be understood by all your customers.
When you are new to business it is easy to become daunted and think I can’t do this because I don’t have a story to tell but you can tell the story of your vision.
If you need inspiration then check out social media where you are likely to see campaigns by children to get people to donate cans of food which they then take to the City Mission or the Salvation Army. These children get an amazing response from the community because they are clear about their vision – they know what they want and why and they tell the community about it. They set themselves a high number and this is always exceeded. They either already understand the power of a vision and a story or they learn about it by the results they achieve.
To use your vision and values in your story you first need to define them clearly and then tell your customers about them. And you need to keep telling them every time you communicate with them whether it is by advertising, social media, answering enquiries or selling to them. Having a friendly, storytelling approach to talking about what your business has to offer is a huge part of becoming a trusted brand.
Think about your consistency
Another feature that enhances your customer’s trust in you is consistency. People love to receive the same type and level of service every time they buy from you. So if you decide to make a change to your customer service it is important to make sure it is on top of the service they already receive rather than instead of it. Keep doing what you do every time they buy and then add your extra service change in.
Customers want to know that they can trust the level of service they will receive regardless of the time of day or day in the week. They don’t care if you are busy, stressed, unwell or tired, they expect you to consistently treat them in the same way you have in the past. This is really important to recognise and once you employ staff you need to teach them how give consistent service too.
This is where genuineness comes in too.
Customers will always be able to tell if you are saying “enjoy the rest of your day” because it is scripted or if you really mean it because you care about how their day is going to be. Feeling warmth toward your customers and enjoying the process of engaging with them as they buy from you will make a big difference when it comes to them trusting you and wanting to buy from you again. You know the pleasure you get when you are greeted by name in a business you visit regularly because they are genuinely pleased to see you. This is what you want your customers to feel too.
Maybe you are not a naturally confident person who is happy to greet people but hopefully once you focus on how this person is helping you to achieve your vision and goals for the future and supporting you and your family it becomes much easier to feel warmth for them and to show that warmth.
Taking the time to make sure that your existing customers are receiving the best possible service you can give them and exceeding their expectations will turn them into raving fans of your business but there is one more thing you need to do to get them to fully engage in the process of telling others about your business and that is to ask them.
Never be afraid to ask for their help
In business we often overlook the simplest steps to becoming a trusted brand because we forget to ask our customers for help. We assume that our customers will know we want them to mention us when someone asks for a recommendation or that we would like them to give feedback on our product or service but actually they need to be reminded that we would appreciate their help.
Adding “please share this” to your posts or “please forward this” to your emails reminds your customers to do it just as requesting feedback or testimonials will make it much more likely that you will receive them. Just sitting and waiting for someone to say something nice about your business is much less effective than asking them to do it. And when a customer does recommend you or says something nice about your business don’t forget to say thank you.
Let your customers know how much you appreciate them.
Thanking someone for a great review, popping a note into a delivery saying thanks for your order, ringing a customer just to say thanks are all great ways of letting them know how much you appreciate them choosing you over all the other businesses they could have bought from. You often get so busy selling your products or services that you can forget to show gratitude to those customers who buy from you regularly.
Everyone loves a thank you so do your best to ensure that you spread the thanks around as much and as often as you can.
Now for your potential customers
This is more challenging because you don’t have your wonderful customer service to fall back on to develop the trust. So you are going to need to try some different ideas.
Let’s start with the first place that potential customers are going to have contact with you. It may be in a retail store, it may be over the phone or via your website, it may be via social media or it could be through advertising in any of its many forms. That first encounter has to be a useful experience which enables them to feel positive about your business.
So the old clichés which we hear in retail stores such “can I help you?” are not going to work but asking them if this is their first visit and offering to explain where to find everything is more likely to. We all love salespeople who make eye contact, smile and offer us helpful advice.
On the phone and on websites we want to get the answers we are looking for easily and quickly but we also want reassurance that this is a trustworthy business. The best way you can convey this is by answering calls promptly and having all the information to hand or a system for ensuring that you get their details and get back to them when you promise.
How can you build trust?
Adding real testimonials to your website is important for building trust but giving away useful information for free is even more important. Potential customers want to know that they are getting great products or services but learning more about why they are great and how to use them better will go further in becoming a trusted brand.
To achieve this you need to create and share information which solves problems that your customers have. Let me give you an example. If you are selling a product that removes mould and mildew from outdoor surfaces you might share information on how to prune or trim trees and bushes which are shading areas and promoting mould and mildew growth. Or you might give tips on painting which they may use once the mould has gone. You don’t have to be a gardener or painter you can just research online and combine the best ideas you find.
You could also ask customers to send you before and after photos (perhaps to enter a competition) and share these (with their permission of course) to provide a visual statement about your product or service.
Use problem solving content
Including problem solving content in your social media posts either in writing or in videos is a tried and tested method of developing trust. Your potential customers can check you out without having to spend money or without having to engage at first. But be careful that you don’t give all your information away without engagement (and by that I mean payment) because that’s going to get you nowhere.
A great technique is to write about a problem and solution but then to offer a further level of information through your website (and of course provide a link) which is also free but which leads to the product or service which you want to sell. It is important to be upfront and honest with people but also to catch their attention and curiosity so they want to engage with your business further.
Well done for reading this far – hopefully you can see that becoming a trusted brand is not difficult but it will take time and a strategy so hopefully the following steps will make that easier.
Here are the 7 essential steps you need to take
- Write down your current customer service process or the process you plan to use once you get underway in business. It should include how customers are able to contact you, your response times (depending on whether you sell a product or a service), how you greet customers, how you deal with problems, how you ask for money, how you thank them for their business and every other step you take when it comes to dealing with customers. Very few businesses have ever written this down but it is essential if you plan to make changes and also if you plan to teach your staff now or in the future how to do this in the correct way.
- Now you need to review it and see what needs to change or be added to. Remember, adding new parts to your customer service is better than just changing what you are doing now. Ask yourself what you could do to ensure your customers have the best possible buying experience and remember that little things do count such as consistency, genuineness and appreciation.
- Now you need to consider your whole sales process. How do people find out about you and how can you make it easier for them to do so? What are the steps you want them to take to engage with your business and how can you make it easier for them to do so? How often are they likely to buy again and how can you make it easier for them to do so? Understanding the steps it takes to get new and repeat customers and working out how to make it simpler for them to engage with your business will allow you to focus on the most important aspects from the customer’s perspective.
- Develop your story and work out the ways you will use it in your interactions with customers. If you are still feeling unsure about this I have included a template which makes it easier to work out what steps to take to write your story or you can take a few days and research how other local businesses are doing this. They may be telling a story of supporting a particular group or cause, they may be including their family into their advertising or they may be sharing their passion for the business they are in by offering ideas and tips. You will find many examples of businesses telling their story even though they may not realise that this is what they are doing.
- Now it’s time to involve your existing customers in the process by asking for testimonials and referrals. If you are involved with community groups on social media and your business gets a thumbs up respond with a thank you every time. Remember to tell your customers how they can help you and thank them when they do. When your customers feel that they are contributing to your business then they will be much more likely to tell others about it or support it whenever they get the opportunity.
- Make your business a fun place to deal with, work in and be part of. Look for ways to bring some humour and delight into your transactions as often as you can. Smile more, greet your customers warmly and personally, share a funny story or delight them with a small treat that makes them smile. The warmer your business is the more your customers will want to interact with it. It’s like the people who put up fun posts on social media – they get more attention and likes and shares. We humans like to hang around funny and warm people.
- The final step in developing your trusted brand strategy is simple yet difficult. You need to keep doing all these steps all the time. Becoming a trusted brand will not happen overnight but every time you follow the steps you are moving your brand closer and closer to achieving it. And once you achieve it you need to keep doing the same things to maintain that trust.
So where will you find the time to make sure that you can do these steps? Well I suggest you book time on a weekly basis as if it is an appointment with your most important customer and that you don’t let anything get in the way of using that time wisely. Remember you don’t need to do everything at once, take the steps and break them down into achievable activities. Two hours per week, every week, spent on becoming a trusted brand will ensure that you give your business the best possible opportunity to stand out for your existing and potential customers – but only if you actually spend the time and make the effort count.
So when are you going to start? Today is probably a great time so you can become a trusted brand as soon as possible.
The Biz Coach NZ