Building Digital Customer Trust

As a long-time business executive and mentor to entrepreneurs, I see a definitive shift away from customer trust in traditional business messages, and the executives who deliver them. People no longer trust scripted messages and marketing “speak”. Today’s digitally distracted consumer is led to trust only things that they see with their own eyes. They want the raw data versus a polished message. This distrust for the scripted message has led to a new demand for unfiltered marketing, and the emergence of business credibility heroes, like Elon Musk, with his bold statements. I believe that the sooner every entrepreneur and brand builder adapts to this emerging trend, the sooner they will find success. I summarize the key elements of the transformation as follows:

1. Customers are seeking control in a run-away world.

All of us are struggling to keep up in this age of technological acceleration, where we learn every day that we can’t trust links in our email, marketing guarantees, or phone requests from people we don’t know. We want to eliminate the intermediaries. In addition, I see consumers taking more control, using the technology to converse with each other, & assert their position through reviews & forums. The result is a shift from business-to-consumer (B2C) to a consumer-to-business (C2B) control trend.

2. Unscripted communication builds trust & credibility.

Unfiltered means first-person delivery without enhancement so you can apply your own experiences & point of view to what you are shown, allowing you to use your judgment to form opinions. Brands & executives that are willing & able to do this become the most trusted & credible. Unscripted is the same concept, applied to a marketing communication. Customers these days are turned off by timeless safe messages, delivered repeatedly on traditional media. For trust, they look online to see how you handle real support & satisfaction issues.

3. Real-time in-process updates vs after-the-fact stories.

Every consumer today wants to be an insider & development contributor to the finished product, or at least feel connected to it throughout the process. This breeds loyalty, trust, & advocacy, as opposed to skepticism or downright distrust of everything you say or do. Back in 2016, when a fire at the Delta Airlines center took thirty servers offline, stranding thousands of customers around the world, CEO Ed Bastian built great credibility by using Twitter for frequent status updates. He didn’t wait for the well-crafted recovery story later. Of course, you can lose that credibility just as fast like Delta did with the CEO’s voting rights law statement made this year.

4. Experts & in-context facts substantiates credibility.

Using recognized experts & social media influencers (think third party endorsors)  turns the marketing context into teaching as opposed to selling. Consumers today want the raw “how & why” behind what you say, so they can align their own emotional needs & interests with yours, generating trust & confidence. Many lifestyle & cosmetic brands have already learned that media influencers (think third party endorsors) are much more effective in building credibility than traditional marketing.

5. Heroic credibility requires bold statements & values.

Credibility & trust require values beyond “making money” and “shareholder return.” Align your values with your customers, & societal needs, without moralizing on issues on which you have no authority. Be bold, even to the point of being uncomfortable & showing vulnerability. Blake Mycoskie, for example, began the model for building heroic credibility by giving away close to 100 million pairs of shoes since founding Toms in 2006. His buy-one-donate-one model has since been adopted by socially conscious imitators, & is a model for business success.

A related challenge in this age of information overload is simply to get people’s attention. You can’t get their credibility & trust if they don’t know you exist, or your message is lost because it sounds like all the rest. The principles outlined here will highlight your intention in a very real way, & help you stand out above the crowd. Be sure to recognize that the technology available for marketing has changed. It is important to use it, including instant messaging, streaming video, & interactive real-time feedback, but success is not all about technology.

It’s also about building trust and truth in your content marketing. For more thoughts, sign up for a free mentoring session.

Copyright ©John Trenary 2021

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