In the hyper-competitive world of modern business, trust is the highest prize. But how do you build that trust? Small-business
guru Joel Norton has
Businesses that assume customers trust them may be making a fatal mistake. “Trust must be earned – and doing so requires hard work,” says Joel Norton, chief strategy officer at Sydney-based Boost Marketing. “But winning trust is worthwhile. It builds cashflow and lifetime value because customers return and spend more.”
Norton, who makes his living advising businesses on how to be successful, says it often takes time to build trust. “Be patient,” he advises. “A person may approach you just to ask for advice – there’s no immediate cash benefit, but if you use this encounter to make people like and trust you, they’ll be back to spend money.”
Norton adds these critical steps:
- Get customers to like you.
- Get customers to trust you because they like you.
- Know what customers want and market to those needs (since they already like and trust you).
Remember, he notes, “word-of-mouth is increasingly important in our social media age. If customers have exceptionally good experiences, they’ll recommend you to others and will also return. But just one bad experience means they probably won’t be back. They’ll tell others and go to a competitor.”
According to Norton, good service must apply at all stages of customer contact. “Staff must be trained in this,” he urges. “View every touchpoint as an opportunity to remind customers of your strengths. One bad episode destroys all your efforts.”
So, how should businesses raise service standards while protecting cashflow? Norton offers these tips.
- Highlight points of difference from competitors.
- Provide great value and a friendly, knowledgeable environment at all touchpoints.
- Be clear about your strategy, knowing your customers’ needs and how to meet them.
Two businesses that Norton says have successfully followed this advice and, consequently, have grown rapidly are Sydney Writers’ Centre and fitness gym CrossFit Athletic, in the Sydney suburb of Brookvale.
“Sydney Writers’ Centre went from one person and two courses five years ago to six staff and about 30 courses today,” says Norton. “Creative writing courses range from novel-authoring to news, feature articles, travel, business topics and others. They offer plenty of free content to help build trust. Many people who use this high-quality free material later sign up for courses.”
Norton says the centre operates both on its own premises and online. “The online presence allows it to have customers internationally. I’ve researched them and found that word-of-mouth from happy customers brings plenty of business. And, because people have had good experiences, they sign up for additional courses themselves.”
Norton says CrossFit Athletic has progressed from a one-person start-up a year ago to a highly successful business with six employees.
“Their own research found that 80 per cent of business comes from word-of-mouth, which is extraordinarily good,” he says. “What’s more, they aren’t the cheapest. Customers are aware of less expensive gyms but are prepared to pay more for CrossFit because they like them, trust them and know they’re good at their job.”
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and the interviewees, and not of Australia Post.
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