This is the 17th edition of my New Regular series, devoted to helping your small business successfully navigate the uncharted, post-pandemic economy. When normal tried to pass as “new” on Twitter, the cancel culture came apart and the account was immediately suspended.
Protomarket was born 10,000 years ago when Og and Gog dropped their clubs and said, “Let’s stop fighting and do business.” At that same moment, something else was born that became the second most powerful human force: Trust. Only a mother’s love is more awesome. Everybody knows that.
Fast-forward to 2020 and trust is still the abiding nexus of every human interaction. Arky Ciancutti, M.D., my friend and co-author of “Built On Trust,” says, “We are a society in search of trust.”
In life, the expectation of trust is non-negotiable. Humans may be illogical about love, but we’re not confused about trust – we require it.
As a small business owner, you’ve accrued a rare pandemic present arising from the increased velocity of the New Regular economy: Trust is now more valuable, and therefore, more powerful than ever. And since small businesses are the best at delivering trust, this greater emphasis may become your only advantage over Corporate America. Happy birthday.
But the trust advantage isn’t self-actuating – you have to claim it, protect it, and leverage it.
Not long ago, when we were merely in the Digital Age, everything was under extreme pressure from the breathtaking, speed-of-light velocity of change. No big deal, right? A new social media platform popping up every other day? Bring it on. An explosion of online buying? We got this. More prospects doing business on a mobile device? No prob. Ama-Kong and Wal-Zilla chomping giant gouges out of the Main Street marketplace? Do your worst.
But then, we were visited by an unprecedented pandemic. No one living has ever witnessed so many abrupt shifts, most of which aren’t foreign or unfamiliar, just thrust upon us one or five years early. And almost all those shifts are associated with technology. Digital leverage. High tech.
Naisbitt’s Razor: “The more high tech we have, the more high touch we will want.” Guess what customers call high touch? Bingo. And the faster the velocity of change, the more valuable trust becomes. Or, as Arky says, “The harder trust is to find, the more precious it is.”
Here’s how your coronavirus gift works: As we continue to discover pandemic-altered and accelerated customer expectations, seeking trust will become less subconscious and more intentional because their acquisition process has become much easier.
A customer, to herself: “I can get exactly what I want, at pretty much the same deal, from three different companies. Now, which one do I trust … the most?” This hyper-handy process allows customers to focus on the last remaining consideration, which happens to be the only thing you offer that isn’t a commodity. Yep, it’s that trust thing.
More Arky wisdom: “An organization in which people earn the trust of others has a competitive advantage.”
In the marketplace, trust isn’t just doing the right thing – it’s a best practice. The more customers trust you and your business, the less likely they are to seek options elsewhere – that’s always been so. But post-pandemic – especially in the B2B sector – customers will increasingly narrow their vendor list to the most trusted, not the least expensive.
Here’s the ROI of your trust gift: the more customers trust you, the more they will pay you, which means higher margins. And that trust justifies your margins because delivering it saves customers time and drives quality to their customers, which defines value.
So, what does trust look like to a customer?
- Trust looks like ethics. In his book, “In Search of Ethics,” my friend, Len Marrella wrote, “Ethics is devotion to the unenforceable.
Bill to you: “It looks like that last deal point I wanted was left out of the contract we signed last week.” You to Bill: “Well, I agreed to it, so let’s put it back in and make it so.”
- Trust looks like integrity. From French Nobel Laureate, Albert Camus, “Integrity has no need of rules.”
One of your employees to Mrs. Johnson: “It looks like the manufacturer’s warranty has expired, but don’t worry. You bought that from us, so we’ll take care of it.”
- Trust looks like consistency. From Socrates, “Be in reality what you appear to be.”
Two-and-a-half millennia later, trust doesn’t hide behind algorithms. Your instructions to website developers: “We don’t abuse customers whether they come in our front door or our online doors.”
Customers expect trust to be seamlessly integrated into every contact with your business, not just from you. And since trust isn’t self-actuating, organizational trust cannot be presumed or taken for granted. You have to say it out loud to your team. Train employees on how to demonstrate trust in ethical situations, do what was promised even if it was only implied, and consistently deliver on the values you say your brand stands for – even when it hurts.
Here’s a quick trust training list to get you started and to use in role plays.
- Tell the truth: Even delivering bad news is a form of trust. The truth is not only moral, it’s efficient and simple.
- No surprises: In the marketplace, surprises erode trust. Surprises are for birthdays.
- Distribute trust power: Empowering trust all the way down the org chart – trust responsibility and authority – creates customers you can’t run off.
And this one’s for you: Like leadership, trust illuminates itself. Walk the talk.
Last thoughts from Arky: “The competitive advantage that trust gives your small business is waiting to be harvested. It’s not even low-hanging fruit – it’s lying on the ground.”
Write this on a rock … Trust is now more prominent and precious, and it’s the single most powerful advantage your small business has. Claim this rare pandemic present and let the cha-chinging begin.