It starts with your first encounter and within the first few seconds you begin to assess whether you can trust one another. If a level of trust can’t be established early on in a relationship, the relationship falls apart. Or maybe it never gets started. This is true with brands to consumers, people to people, and organizations to employees.
As a marketer today in our digitally connected world, trust has taken on new meaning. The ways I can collect, obtain, or purchase information about an individual and use that information to build a profile is pretty staggering. Take that further and that’s how marketers are determining what messages you see, how you are communicated to, and how we personalize content. It is pretty astonishing and only getting more powerful every day as technologies are connecting together, and as organizations get more savvy. As Uncle Ben from Spider-Man said to Peter Parker, with great power comes great responsibility.
It is with that responsibility where I think some marketers, and organizations, have started to fall down. We’ve had trust issues with keeping data secure. Take any day of the week and you will see some report about a security breach and data about customers is stolen. Hello Yahoo!, Centene, and even the Dept of Homeland Security. We’ve had trust issues with just the blatant marketing messaging in email such as “we noticed you haven’t completed XXX process.” While one might construe as a “convenience” message, we can do better with context. There is even the ridiculous retargeting happening. I’d even go as far as the creepiest when I am viewing something on the web and now I’m seeing ads in my apps on my phone. As a marketer, I know exactly how this happens. For the everyday consumer…it can be frightening. I can’t tell you how many times when I’m in social settings and someone will ask me how some of this works because it freaks them out.
Let’s Go Back to the Basics & Stop Being Creepy
So what are we to do. Well, first I think we all need a reminder in permission based marketing. Almost two decades old, in my opinion, every marketer needs to read, or re-read Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers. It all starts with trust and what permission do we have to communicate, act, and engage with customers. So going back to my opening statements, in today’s digitally connected world, you are seconds away from a great (or horrible) first impression and when a consumer feels like a brand, marketer, or organization is messing with their data to go into “creepy” mode, they can delete an app, never visit a site again, and give you a bad review instantly online. Digital customers are now the most fickle customers and they are not afraid to switch.
We Marketers Need to Be Better
Now, there are challenges for us marketers as well. We have pressures to convert prospects to leads to customers. And fast. That timeline varies depending on the industry you are in. However, for many of us, we live quarter to quarter with Wall Street driving expectations. However, relationships aren’t built on a specific timeline. Some take longer than others. If you push the relationship too fast, trust becomes a center point of contention. So as marketers, we have to be smart, understand our customers, and nurture our relationships wisely. With the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence, we can be more savvy about how we do this. So there is promise. Certainly there are brands who are doing this well. There are a whole bunch who aren’t though. So let’s go back to the basics. Remember that the customer is in control and we need to build the trust, the permission to talk and engage with them. Not the other way around. If it’s been a while, pick up a copy and re-read it. It won’t take you long. Otherwise, you might end up misusing the power that you have and lose that customer forever.