The more successful you help your clients become, the more successful your agency can be, from getting great referrals to being hired for more projects. Sometimes that means taking on the role of educator to teach clients not only the importance of the services your agency offers, but also how they can get the most out of the work you do with them to improve their bottom line.
My favorite topic to teach clients is trust. More specifically, the role of trust in commerce. Trust is the precursor to sales. Without it, every campaign will either fail or fall short. I’ve always told my clients that they can’t skip straight to “all the revenue” with their products if there wasn’t a component of trust baked into their emails before they asked for a sale.
Trust has to be earned. It’s built through open and honest dialogue—and over time. Luckily, automation series are the perfect vehicle for building trust and then asking for a sale.
Being a credible business with transparency isn’t a quick growth hack. It’s a long-term path to growing an audience that buys what your business creates for them.
Trust needs to happen in the following 3 areas for your clients:
Their brand: A company’s brand is how their company is perceived as a whole. How do their customers see them? What is their messaging like on the website and in email campaigns/automation? What’s the voice and tone of onboarding emails?
Their authority: Sharing information builds trust. The simple effect of writing a how-to guide or an article, making a product demo video, or teaching through content is that your client establishes a relationship in which they’re the teacher and their audience is the student. In business, it’s not enough to just tell people that you’ve got authority. You have to actively demonstrate it. Authority is built not by building yourself up, but by building up your audience and consumers so they learn, understand, and succeed.
Their solution: The final area where trust is built is the actual solution your client is selling—their product or service. Products and services exist to solve problems, so a business can’t just pitch the features or tell people to buy—it has to illuminate the reason why what they’re selling should be trusted. This can come in the form of testimonials or client success stories in emails, a free sample, or even a quick video case study from a previous customer.
What research says about trust and e-commerce
“Trust-based companies have higher customer retention and more stable revenue streams” -Dr. Glen Urban, MIT Sloan School of Management
Dr. Glen Urban has been studying trust as it applies to consumers and online business for 20 years. The rise of the internet, with digital purchases and the sharing of consumer reviews of those digital purchases, has given consumers a great deal of power. As agencies helping clients sell via email and the internet, we have to take that into account.
All of Dr. Urban’s research has found that trust highly correlates to a person’s propensity to consider, try, or buy a product. This pre-dates the internet, back to family-run stores where 1-to-1 relationships were built and trusted—they kept their promise of a good product at a fair price, turning purchases into multigenerational business transactions built on personal relationships. The internet has amplified these relationships through the use of tools like social, software, and newsletters.
"Trust is the precursor to sales. Without it, every campaign will either fail or fall short."
Hand in hand with trust, empathy is also required. Empathy means walking in the audience’s shoes, understanding their motivations, problems, pains, and then the language they use. When an audience feels like a business understands them and their struggles, they’re more likely to trust them with their business.
Empathy happens when you listen and notice your audience—not just what they’re saying, but the reasons why they’re saying things.
“Empathy is feeling with people.” – Dr. Brené Brown
Marketing is simply building trust and empathy with a specific group of people by consistently communicating with them. When an agency can show its clients why that’s important and then how to implement a strategy to accomplish trust, both parties win (and your client will probably hold parades in your honor).
If we dive a little further into that idea of what meaning is, we get to:
- Trust: Being yourself and being transparent
- Empathy: Listening and noticing, so you can feel with your audience
- Specific group: You can’t market to everyone, after all.
- Consistent communication: Two-way dialogue is how relationships are built.
Your client’s marketing efforts can fail if trust isn’t factored in. That’s because those efforts will be seen as cheap pitches instead of providing value at a reasonable price. When trust is involved, people believe that what’s being sold to them is worth it.
So how do we specifically help clients ensure that trust is part of their marketing efforts and emails?
The 3 aspects of trust
In studying how trust is built between companies and consumers, Dr. Urban has found that there are 3 aspects of trust: confidence (“I believe what you say.”), competence (“I believe you have the skills to do what you say.”), and benevolence (“I believe you’re acting on my behalf.”). He’s found countless instances of companies who advocate for their customers, seeing their customers then advocate for them. It’s a long term investment in honesty and transparency, and it’s a strategy every agency can help its clients employ from the start of a campaign.
Let’s expand on those 3 aspects a bit.
1. Confidence: Consumer confidence in a product isn’t built on grandiose claims or too-good-to-be-true offers. So when creating campaigns or automations, make sure the language and visuals stay true to the actual results, benefits, and outcomes of the product being sold. By peppering emails with testimonials, case studies, previous consumer videos, and success stories, the pitch becomes less “Here’s us saying to buy our product” and more “Here are lots of people talking about how good our product is.”
2. Competence: Just like you wouldn’t want to get surgery from someone who learned about removing spleens on YouTube, a consumer wouldn’t want to buy from a company unless they had demonstrated that they’re skilled at what they do, or that their product was great at doing what it was supposed to. By adding explanations in campaigns, or video walk-throughs, or even demonstrations of real customers using what’s being sold, competence can be shown and trust can be built. Even adding messaging around how many customers a client has or how many times a product has been purchased can go a long way in building trust around competence.
3. Benevolence: If your client’s business becomes a source of unbiased information to help its audience make informed decisions (even if the decision is not to buy from them), your client is giving customers what they need to make their own choice. This type of education, like a resource email in an automation sequence before a sales pitch, can be a perfect way to promote both your products and trust in them. It takes the psychology from “Hey, buy our thing!” to “Let’s make sure our thing is the right fit for you.” It may seem counter-intuitive to sales, but it builds the trust a consumer needs to feel like what’s being sold is right for them.
So before you help your clients simply sell their products or services, make sure you teach them how important trust is and how huge a factor it can be in the success of their email marketing campaigns. Once that happens, I’ll look out for your float in the next client-appreciation parade.
Illustrations by BoneHaüs, an illustration studio of northeast-located, cartoon-watching, skateboarding, illustrator, animator and printer Kirk Wallace.