A Matter of Trust – what politicians can learn from entrepreneurial business

BallotBox1Research released to coincide with the recent World Economic Forum in Davos revealed that trust in business in the UK had fallen four points in the last year to just 52%. Although this still put the business sector here ahead of Government, media and NGOs, it shows that even though the economy may be turning around, our faith in our businesses is not. With average trust in our major institutions now below 50%, the report bracketed the UK in a group of countries it terms ”the distrusters”, alongside Italy, South Africa, Poland and Russia.

The question is, does this matter and how can you counter it?

The answer is yes. Although this may likely refer to our relationship with big business, SMEs must guard against suffering by association. Trust in your brand is fundamental to its success and can be influenced – and undermined – across all aspects of your business. It can be determined by product quality, by customer service, by whether you deliver on time or not, by whether the service you give matches the promise you make, whether you do what you need to do to put things right when they go wrong and, critically from a PR viewpoint, whether the messages you put out to the market match the reality of your customers’ experience.

We are a little more than two months away from a General Election and already claims and counter claims have been made as to which of the main political parties are really the best partner for entrepreneurial businesses. As the politicians hit the stump and compete for our votes, what they don’t seem to realise is that there experience of competing for our support once every five years is something you in your business are doing every day of every week. Your marketing activity is all about competing for the votes of your customers and getting them to buy your proposition rather than those of your competitors. Critically how much they trust your brand as well as the quality of your product or service is at the heart of where and why they choose to place their custom.

Trust is acquired, developed and nurtured as it is in any relationship. You cannot simply apply activity to your market and expect that relationship to be there immediately. It’s about looking at your market, understanding the issues, challenges and concerns that affect your customers’ lives – perhaps way outside the sphere of your products or services – and seeing if there is a way in which you can contribute to their world, become a trusted partner and form a relationship which will, over the medium term, translate into business and loyalty. One wonders if our politicians will succeed in doing the same.