Relationships Matter – An Introduction to a New Trust Equation

community-engagementThings make us happy, people make us even happier.

Why? Because relationships matter. In a Swedish research study titled A Collective Theory of Happiness: Words Related to the Word 'Happiness' researches analyzed words that appeared online with the word happy and it's synonyms. Words that represented terms for things, such as iphone, appeared much less than words such as grandmother, friend, and personal pronouns such as you/me and us/them. This proves one thing, relationships matter more to our happiness than do material things.

Why am I telling you this? Because it's important that you allow for the creation of relationship with your customers. In social science there are two main types of relationships, primary and secondary. Primary relationships are based on ties of affection and loyalty, they involve many aspects of our lives and are more closely focused on feelings and care than they are on specific goals. Secondary relationships are more goal related, such as the relationship formed between a salesperson and a customer. These are very narrowly focused and typically only revolve around the goal, even if loyalty is created.

In order to create happiness with your customer you must work to create more primary relationships. Easier said than done but through the adoption of caused based marketing, you are able to open the focus of the relationship so that the transaction isn't the only focus. If, as a business, your able to move past the transaction, past the secondary relationship and into one that is more primary, then you have a much better chance of creating customer loyalty and rampant word of mouth.

There are a lot of reasons why caused based marketing works, and trust me I'd love to get into it here, because it's something I enjoy talking and writing about, but I wrote a post called Playing with Peoples Emotions that you really should check out. For now, lets talk more about primary and secondary relationships and how they equate to your bottom line.

Loyalty is all That Matters

Customers matter, right? Right? I know I'll get nobody to disagree with that, but lets take it a step further. If customers matter, then a customer who keeps coming back matters even more. Even further than that? If customers who keep coming back matter, then customers who keep coming back and create other customers matter the most. Right?

Think about it, we all know that referrals are best. They cost nothing except good customer service but what if you made referrals more intentional? Lets me ask this, are you willing to spend more time and energy with a customer that has bought from you a handful of times to ensure that they buy from you a handful more times? Of course you would, and no I'm not saying that you should treat new customers any less, I'm just making the point that repeat customers should be the goal. Scratch that, repeat customers that create other customers should be your goal. But, how is that done?

Most importantly, don't stop at the transaction. In fact, don't think of marketing as just a way to push your message. I feel strongly that any kind of marketing plan should include a way to dialogue. For far long we've thought of marketing our businesses or ourselves as a monologue, as a way to push our message out to as many people as possible. In today's new relationship economy it's imperative that we give credence to the voice of the consumer.

In other words, don't think of marketing as just a way to get new customers, but as a way to keep and multiply current customers. That's where social marketing comes in and if used the right way will help you to create a social brand that gravitates people towards it.

The New Trust Equation

Trust is something that I think a lot about. It's a word that can be a bit ambiguous at times. A word that is very hard to define. No, I'm not referring to the actual definition, rather how it's achieved in relation to a brand. There has been many formulas, or equations, created in relation to trust but all of them fall short. I hope that didn't come across as too presumptuous. That's not to say that I feel that I have the answer, but I do want to propose a new Trust Equation. One that I will define more in coming posts, one that will in no doubt change from what you see here, but I want to get it out so that you can help me with.

First, one of the most well recognized trust equations is Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy / Self Orientation.  It's defined at length in the book The Trusted Advisor by authors Green and Howe and while I have nothing to say against it, I do feel that it doesn't go far enough as it relates to the SMB.

First, it's missing engagement, enchantment and attunement. Now, before I tell you what the new Trust Equation should look like, I want to point out, one more time, that this is a work in progress. I feel that it will change over the coming weeks, months and years but I want to put it here, in print, so that it can be torn apart and reassembled.

On purpose I'm not creating a stand alone post for the Trust Equation because to be quite frank, I don't feel that I'm ready to do that just yet. But, this is a perfect post with which to introduce it to you. Why? Simply put, in order to create lasting customer loyalty you must first obtain a certain amount of trust, within your consumer base, that allows for the creation of more primary relationships. Okay, enough prelude, the Trust Formula:




  • Attunement - Is about bringing your brand into harmony with your local community/ consumer. It's about connecting around a social object and defining a purpose that's in tune with your consumer base.
  • Integrity - Retired Wyoming senator Alan K. Simpson once said, “If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.” Many consider integrity as the single most important quality of a business, without it a business is short lived, with it, a business can have a long and healthy life.
  • Credibility - Credibility is closely related to trust, with some people saying that the two are synonymous. But in the Trust Equation I want you to think of credibility as your ability to be believed at face value. Being credible comes from being able to convince people that you know what you're talking about and that you truly do care about what they care about (purpose).
  • Customer Enchantment - There is a huge different between customer service and customer enchantment. Customer service is what you have to do to stay in business, customer enchantment is an intentional part of the way you do business. It's all about going so far beyond what people expect  that they cant wait to tell others about it.
  • Engagement - This is the easy one. Remember earlier when I said that any marketing campaign should have dialogue baked in? That's what engagement is. It's all about creating a back and forth.

I'll be writing more about the new Trust Equation in the coming weeks but for now know that in order to bring loyalty back, you must work to become trustworthy. In order to be worthy of trust you must work hard to prove that you are.

Remember: work to create more primary relationships by being more transparent and working toward building trust. If you do that you are well on your way to becoming a business that creates customers that creates OTHER customers. See what I did there? More on that later... I know, I know, always later!

So, what are your thoughts? Is the new Trust Equation complete? What can you add?