Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

Mixed messages perhaps? Exploring how marketing joins up with other elements of your business may shed some light on this.

Your Customers

We know that our marketing efforts are best served when we are trying to develop trust with our customers. It’s our Holy Grail. People who trust us trust our products and services and are more likely to buy them. Our marketing efforts support this – with helpful blog posts, FAQs, and other messages, all designed to show that we are trustworthy, and we have solutions to their needs.

We’ve talked about this approach before in Never mind the script. But so often it doesn’t quite work. But what if it’s not our marketing?  What if it’s actually us that’s the problem?

Your Teams

We’ve also talked about team engagement at length, and how important it is. We’ve talked about how companies get this wrong. We’ve talked about the low levels of engagement around the world in big businesses and the efforts they have made to address this, usually unsuccessfully. We have suggested that you find out what your team’s objectives are – that is the individual person’s own life objectives – so that you can understand and incorporate them into your business. Part of your understanding is realising that business objectives are merely a subset of personal objectives and not the main drivers of business performance. This sort of engagement with your people is a high trust model.

Trust is the key

But in both these engagements with your team, and your customers, there is the possibility of mistaking what trust really means. Unfortunately, one that happens far too often.

So, your marketing efforts are showing your customers that you are trustworthy by giving them information, transparency, authenticity and content that they can benefit from whether they buy from you or not. You are giving and giving again before you get. It’s just like real life – because it is real life! You are showing that you are trustworthy and your customers reward you by showing their trust and buying from you.  But trust means mutuality. If I trust you, then you trust me. Missing this is how it can go wrong, unintentionally.

How to mess this up

You have 2 opportunities to do this.

The first – Your marketing implies trust, but you assume that some of your customers are ill intentioned and are out to rob you, so you put in procedures for all customers to prevent that. Yes, you will avoid the occasional loss from that type of person. But you will annoy just about everybody else you are trying to persuade to buy from you. We’ve mentioned this before in Stop annoying your customers. You have said one thing but done another. You won’t build trust that way.

The second -You assume the same for your team. In the last century people were treated more like human machines. We checked people in and out to make sure we were getting our full day’s work from them, and make sure they had not stolen anything on the way out by checking bags etc. And unfortunately, that mentality is still prevalent today. A recent Harvard Business School Gender & Work study on a global mid-size consulting firm had these chilling quotes: “The general problem these employees face is the demand that they have no identity other than as a labor commodity” and “ These other identities—being a good parent, life-partner, citizen—are contingent and expendable for the ideal worker. Yet for real people, these identities—particularly the parent one—are compelling.” Again, we treat our people as commodities or as though they are either idiots or brimming with ill will. We try to improve our engagement scores, demanding that they trust us whilst, at the same time we prove to them daily that we do not trust them!

Words of wisdom

Time for a Peter Drucker quote “Your first role . . . is the personal one,” Drucker told Bob Buford, in 1990. “It is the relationship with people, the development of mutual confidence, the identification of people, the creation of a community. This is something only you can do.” Drucker went on: “It cannot be measured or easily defined. But it is not only a key function. It is one only you can perform.”

A perfect storm

Now put both these issues together. And consider who deals with your customers. Is it you, or is it your team? Most of the time it’s your team, of course. Those people you demonstrably don’t trust and who, given that trust is mutual, don’t trust you. But you do “trust” them to deal with your customers who are trying to trust you, sometimes despite your procedures.

Do you see how your actions have conspired against you? Do you see how your well intentioned and costly marketing has been thoroughly confounded by the way you deal with potential problems? Are these real or imaginary issues? Have they ever caused you loss? And if they did what was the cost? Is that loss higher or lower than the mismatch you are creating daily?

What can you do?

You can start by eliminating barriers for your customers. Have a grown-up conversation with your team, telling them that your (that means your, not their) previous mistakes will not be replicated. Make sure you ask them about their experiences with customers first and what internal procedures hinder them. Remember how to ask for feedback  Tell them that you do trust them to do the right thing by you and by themselves. Listening to your team members about their experiences with the customer will help to gain trust. And maybe it’s high time you had proper individual conversations with each of them about their goals and how they fit with yours.

We’re doing it too

Our client G Sait, having read our blogs asked my colleague whether Hixsons, as a team, are actually like this. He said yes! And to our surprise and delight she produced this quote Since reading Nick’s blog and putting some of his techniques into practice I have seen a positive change in attitude and office culture. Our team shows greater levels of empowerment and creativity which increases the likelihood that our business will be able to respond to change and activity levels.” Do you think they trust one another?

What could you do? Let us know so we can share your good ideas and everyone can benefit.