Monday, 3 August 2020

With a global pandemic and societal upheaval, the context for small business is fraught with difficulty.

But according to the latest Edelman Trust Barometer, that makes trust more important than ever before. Here are some key insights and tips on winning and keeping your customers' trust.

Brand trust: What your customers expect

Edelman's initial report, published before the COVID-19 global pandemic, found that trust in business, government, non-government organizations (NGOs) and media was undermined by an awareness of inequity. None of the respondents saw any of these institutions as both competent and ethical. They saw businesses as competent but not ethical; it was the reverse for NGOs.

A follow-up report on brand trust shed more light on consumers' expectations of business, especially in a post-pandemic world and with racial inequities in the global spotlight. This Brand Trust in 2020 report revealed that:

  • 70% of people say the need to trust a brand has become more important over time
  • 53% of consumers see trust as the second most important factor when deciding on the purchase of products or services
  • 81% say brand trust is more important in cases of personal vulnerability around issues like health and financial stability

Edelman's spring update showed that 67% of people believe that those with fewer resources and education bear the brunt of the suffering in the pandemic.

Societal inequities are now fully in the spotlight, and consumers want to see more than just performative action. While 85% of consumers want companies to solve their customers' problems, 80% expect businesses to do their part to solve society's problems as well. In fact, 60% of Americans will either buy from or boycott a brand based on its stand on racial injustice.

How small businesses can build trust in a new environment

So, how are small businesses to operate in this new reality? Here are some tips to help build trust with your key customers.

1. Make your mission and ideology clear.

Do you support education, diversity, inclusion or another issue? If you do, your customers need to know about it. Make sure your values are clear, both to employees and consumers, with a strong statement about what you believe in.

Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price was so committed to keeping his employees happy, for example, that he gave up his own salary and raised employees' minimum compensation to $70,000 a year.

2. Show up consistently for your causes. 

Apart from that, show up consistently and let people know that you mean what you say about the causes you believe in. For example, BBVA talks about the importance of diversity and inclusion on its website. As part of that, the company is conducting and publishing research regarding gender equity in business.

3. Learn what matters to your customers.

Aside from the causes you care about, it's important to find out what matters to your customers as well. If that aligns with your values, showcase this in your content and communication with customers. You can do this on your blog and social media, and in your email marketing.

A good example of this is Ben & Jerry's. In the wake of nationwide protests this past June, some companies posted black squares on social media and came out with statements about equality. Ben & Jerry's took such efforts a step further with a strong statement about dismantling white supremacy. In the weeks since, the company has used its social media platforms and website to educate customers about societal inequities and to share what the company is doing about them.

If your small business manages to build trust through these actions, its potential payoff could be significant. According to Edelman, trusted brands benefit from additional loyalty, engagement and advocacy.

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