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Building Trust In the Meetings Industry -- Revisited

One of my favourite sources of business inspiration comes from, where you can listen to hundreds of lectures, about a multitude of topics, often leading to a few ah-ha moments. Recently I heard talk by Baroness Onora O'Neill, a British philosopher who has studied the roles of trust and accountability in public life.  And it really made me rethink how I have viewed trust as a marketer.

O’Neill debunks the claim that trust has declined over time by pointing out that research on trust has remained relatively stable in the last 20 years. We still mistrust politicians and the media, while other professions such as judges and nurses are still relatively highly trusted. The average person, she says, is still somewhere in the middle.

She argues that polls are very bad assessments of how we trust because they do not take into account the good judgment that goes into placing trust in others.  In real life people, she points out, we place trust in a differentiated way. We trust individuals based on whether they are:
  • Competent
  • Honest
  • Reliable
So we have it backwards when we think we can “build trust” because we cannot dictate what people give us.  We can only behave in such a way as to deserve trust. For marketers, therefore, the aim first should be on how to be trustworthy and secondly to give adequate, simple evidence that we are trustworthy.

In a previous post on the topic, I urged readers to build trust by:
  • being present online, with their website or social media page
  • being personal and transparent, showing us who they are, who is behind the company
  • offering value, and being helpful by nature, without the expectation of anything in return (this is especially important when you are answering questions on LinkedIn, or contributing information in any social medium).
And doing all of the above consistently.  As Ottawa-based sales expert Colleen Francis says, “Trust is built with consistent behavior over time… reliably delivering your message to your clients will demonstrate you can be trusted to deliver what you said.”

But the above is all about how you communicate your trustworthiness, the second step in this process. Now I think we need start with a deeper level of introspection, starting with whether you are worthy of your clients’ trust.  Do you really believe in your product or service?  Or are you trying to be all things to all people because you need to meet quota?

These are probably more difficult questions to answer than many of us would like to admit.  But in the “new normal,” the competition is too fierce to be marketing products, services or meetings that we don’t believe in.  Being authentic is the best starting point to being a trustworthy – and trusted – marketer.