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Can Content Actually Build Trust?

Last week’s #Inbound2020, Hubspot’s user conference, introduced improvements and shared success stories. But it was a conversation between CEO Brian Halligan and CTO Dharmesh Shah that really struck a chord with me: it was about trust.

PR practitioners like me know a thing or two about trust. It’s the glue that holds the institution together – whether people will work for you, invest in your company, and even impact whether you can operate.

Why trust matters

Edelman, my former employer, has measured trust for more than two decades. Their studies analyze the level of trust among specific audiences and what factors affect trust in a given year. To me, the Trust Barometer quantifies and validates some of the key principles of communications:

  1. It takes time and effort to build trust
  2. Trust can plummet overnight
  3. Traditional marketing (e.g. TV or OOH ads) is not enough to build trust
  4. Frequent and transparent communications enhance trust
  5. Communications by institutions with high trust are more successful than those with low trust

We don’t need a study to confirm that we are in a period of incredibly low trust right now. Trust in government, NGOs, and media are all down. And they certainly don’t trust companies and marketers right now, says Dharmesh.

When it comes to doing business with a company, customers look at brands with more scrutiny in the COVID-19 era than ever before. We face increased stress, the additional time crunch managing work with life, and the limits imposed by our strictly digital window on the world. All of this colours who and how we trust. Customers have “zero patience for someone else’s sales process,” says Dharmesh.

How does content fit in?

Inbound Marketing, espoused by Hubspot, is based on getting the right content to the right person at the right time. This content typically serves a functional aspect, like educating a prospect about a business problem. But I’d argue that each functional benefit your content provides has an additional outcome: it helps you build trust.

Build trust with every touchpoint

Think about it from your customer’s vantage point. They visit your site, scan for the information they want, get value in exchange for providing their contact info, and have a good experience with a chatbot. At each of these touchpoints in their buying journey, every time they get personalized, relevant content they might think, “They get me.” Or, “This company is helping me out.” And maybe even, “I’m empowered to make this purchase on my terms.”

As you continually reward them with relevant, valuable content, you get another little mark in the trust column. Your trust surplus propels the customer forward and builds the relationship. It pushes them to signup for the demo, purchase your product or service, or continue to do business with you.

Beware the trust traps

The content and experience you provide will never be perfect. Inevitably, there will be something that causes your trust to dip. It might be a late response, unclear piece of documentation, or spammy, jargon-heavy copy. The question is: are you keeping track of what’s working? Aware of what’s not? What are you doing to improve and optimize your content on a regular basis?

That’s where tools like Hubspot come in. It enables you to look at content across your buyer’s journey. You can use segmentation to ensure that you can target prospects and customers according to what’s important to them, not just to you. And you can use automation and personalization to build trust with relevant, frequent content. Detailed analytics and reporting bring it all together.

Does your content build trust with your current and potential customers?

It’s a question all salespeople, marketers, and communicators should ask themselves regularly. And more specifically, are you using technology to help you scale your trust-building efforts?

The work of building trust is never complete, and the time to start is now.

You can watch the full video of Brian and Dharmesh here.

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