Return on Trust is the new Return on Investment

3 Nov 2016
Alan Martin

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Want to increase your sales?

Of course you do, right? You are in business after all! One of the reasons I think that business owners don’t sell more is because they don’t understand the concept of Return on Trust (ROT) and how it relates to the strength of the relationships that they have with the person that they are trying to communicate with.

The concept of Return on Trust can be applied to all your marketing, not just your social media and online activities. Maybe you attend a networking event for the first time and ask for an introduction to an ideal client, but nobody in the room gives you a referral.

Whichever form of marketing you are using, understanding ROT and making proportionate offers, will make a significant differnce to the resuts that you achieve.

Return on Trust

Return on Trust is about always providing value up front and only asking for micro-commitments, proportionate to the strength of the relationship.

The Return on Trust concept is a bit like dating! Not many people would accept a marriage proposal when first introduced to someone they’ve never met before. A better approach would be to strike up a conversation with a person of interest and if that goes well, ask if they would like to go out for drinks, so that both people can get to know each other and find out whether or not they are compatible, with little commitment. As time goes by trust is built up in the relationship and the level of commitments can increase incrementally until eventually it would be appropriate to pop the question.

As ridiculous as it sounds, proposing on the first date is effectively the approach taken by many marketers. They interrupt people and try to persuade them to buy something that they are not really interested in. This is an expensive and time-consuming process with a very low success rate!

How can you do things differently then…

Return on Trust Marketing

To succeed with Return on Trust marketing, you need to earn the trust of the people you are communicating with and be aware of the strength of that relationship, as you take them through your sales funnel. When people don’t know who you are or have not heard of your company before, they are more likely to be sceptical about whatever you are telling them, or simply lack the required motivation to take the action you want them to take. Why should they believe you after all? Why should they refer you to others when they cannot vouch for the quality of what you are offering?

Sales communications at this point are not likely to be effective unless backed up by a lot of social proof. Instead of asking for a big commitment straight away from someone who doesn’t know who you are, a better approach would be to ask them to read a blog article on your site, watch a video, download an e-book, Like your Facebook page, or request a free sample. What you choose to offer at this point will very much depend on your individual business, but just remember, you are trying to provide value up front without asking for a big commitment on their part.

This way your prospects can learn about your expertise without much risk to themselves and if they like what they see, they will be more receptive to the next step in the process. They will trust you more, you will be more credible in their eyes and they will be more educated about what it is that you offer and how it can help them.

Once people know who you are and you have built trust and credibility, you need a means to be able to contact them again in the future. You still need to strengthen the relationship with them over time, but you can only do that if you have permission to contact them again. The best way to do that is to get them to opt in to your email list. Once you have the ability to contact them over time, you earn the right to offer them something that you sell.

Continuing with the networking example above, if you regularly attended a networking meeting, it would be appropriate to encourage fellow attendees to sign up to your email list to receive an incentive. For more on this check out ‘Getting Started with Email Marketing: From Fans to Customers‘. You can use this approach with people who don’t know who you are if what you are giving away is appealing enough, but your success rate will be greater when you have already established a relationship with your audience.

Once a sale has been made and the prospect becomes a customer, the relationship changes and they now see you as a trusted supplier. Once they have bought from you once (assuming they were happy with the experience), it is easier to offer them something else to enhance what they have already bought. To maximise profitability in any business, it is always a good idea to have a value ladder. A value ladder is a range of products or services of increasing value, that you can offer to your customers once they have had a chance to work with you and see the results that they are getting from using your product or service.

An example might be an accountant that looks after “the books” for their customers, they could offer Payroll services thereby increasing the value that they are providing their customer, or a clothing retailer selling business suits could sell a ties and shoes.

Conclusion

I hope you can now see how this approach differs from more traditional approaches to marketing communication. Whatever communications situation you are in either in-person or online, ask yourself “What is the strength of relationship with the person or people I am trying to communicate with”? The answer to this question should inform the type of commitment that you are asking them to make.

Over to you now, how can you apply the Return on Trust concept to your business?

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