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The buying habits of your customers have changed since the start of the pandemic. They are no longer seduced by the hyperbole that once emanated from brands and businesses. When deciding which company to engage and buy from, consumer focus has moved beyond themselves.
Yes, the quality of the product/service on offer and the price remain key considerations for consumers, but these two things alone aren’t enough to seal the deal. They’re now seeking assurance that the company they buy from both reflects what’s important to them and understands how their needs have changed. In other words, they want to be able to trust and respect the business.
Earlier this year, a report from Accenture found that the degree of trust a consumer has for a business constitutes 12 per cent of their decision making. So, how can PR help businesses to build trust and earn the respect of their customers?
Engage the neg heads
One simple way is to take any criticism of your brand seriously and don’t ignore it. A 2021 report found that 90 per cent of UK consumers (prospective clients) search online reviews of businesses before buying from them. Almost half (45 per cent) said they would be more likely to engage with that business if it responded to negative criticism of their product or service.
It may feel like an arduous task, but look at how quickly fake news spreads and you’ll see how important it is to address the concerns that previous or current customers have.
By ignoring them you open yourself to further criticism and a probable damage to the perception of your brand. By tackling them head on you earn the trust and respect of your target audience because you’ve shown them that you’re not afraid to be honest when things have gone wrong, and in doing so this builds confidence in the product or service you provide.
The media has been awash recently with stories about how Company X or Y is addressing the sustainability and social impact challenges we have today. Trouble is, a sizeable number (40 per cent) of these businesses are talking utter nonsense – they are guilty of green- and purpose-washing, according to the Competitions and Markets Authority.
If you’re doing great stuff to help people and the planet, shout about it. Even the smallest of actions, such as replacing all the lighting in your office with LED bulbs, switching to a renewable energy provider such as Bulb (our supplier of choice) or Ecotricity, and choosing suppliers who share the same ethical values will place you in a positive light that customers will respect.
Regardless of how large or small your investment in these areas is, be sure to communicate the impact they are having. For example, as part of Clearly’s ‘pledge’, we switched to Bulb as our energy provider and that has enabled us to save the equivalent of 5.5 acres of woodland a year.
Declaring you do this or that is all very well, but it means very little unless you explain what the outcome is. That sense of transparency garners significant consumer trust.
Show and tell
How many websites have you visited where the company has banged their own drum about how great they are, why they are the product or service provider of choice, and what makes them the leading player in their space? It’s annoying, isn’t it. More important, in most instances, consumers don’t believe a word of it.
They want proof that you are all you claim to be. How do you demonstrate that you understand how their needs and those of similar businesses you have worked with changed over the last 18 months? What full or partial solutions have you implemented for your other customers that have enabled them to overcome some of the challenges they face?
We’re talking about case studies – evidence that you can walk the talk as well as you can sing from the rooftops about it. Resist the temptation to draft a report-like piece of prose – that will likely bore the heck out of people. Instead, clearly state the challenge faced by your customer and the impact this was having on their business.
For instance, we worked with a fast-growing staffing business that had bold ambitions. Trouble was that there was little awareness of their brand beyond the city where they are located. This negatively affected their ability to attract clients (who didn’t know the company and had no sense of trust or affinity with them) and the talent they needed to scale (who, like their customers, didn’t know enough about the business and had no connection with them).
This is evidently not an exhaustive list. They are, however, three of the most powerful builders of trust for businesses and brands. And like all communications, they must be honest, transparent and true.
Consumers may have forgiven the odd faux par here and there before the pandemic, but not anymore. They have access to more information about your business than ever before – you may not like that, but tough. Get over it or step out of the ring and concede defeat to your opponents.
It’s all in your sphere of control and those businesses and brands that are trusted by the people who matter the most to them always have an edge over their competition.
If you have any questions or need a steer on your organisation’s PR, feel free to email me directly anytime: email@example.com