04 Mar Establishing Trust with Values Based Branding
Trust is THE cornerstone of all rewarding business relationships. It’s the social currency through which all sustainable value creation can occur. The value of trust is crucial because it extends the time horizon over which we’re willing to receive benefit from the relationship. When trust is present, we enjoy more benefit from our exchange with others and spend less time ensuring they fulfill their promises. As trust increases, people are willing to invest more effort in the present moment because they believe things will be even in the long run. They are more likely to invest, buy, lend, engage, and get involved.
Unfortunately, the level of trust in business relationships has been declining.
For a company’s brand to stand the test of time, it needs loyal, supportive customers who are eager to buy from them and want to share its brand message with family, colleagues, and friends. Companies invested in doing good business, understand their reputation is based on many, many fulfilled commitments. It’s now clear that many people are not content with the status quo. They watch how they exhibit their real values and want meaningful change in how businesses operate.
What’s Values Based Branding?
Values based branding lowers perceived risk by answering – can this company be trusted to deliver on their promises?. It’s about building strong emotional connections with ideal customers and target markets based common interests and shared principles. Core values are deeply engrained truths that guide business actions and form the foundation of the customer-centric company culture. These commitments are placed in the center of the business operation and transcend considerations of convenience and short-term economic gain. It’s living the practice of what you wouldn’t do for money. When companies clearly live their values, it’s less effort to attract like-minded people who are a fit with the company’s culture and improves employee engagement.
The discipline of a values-based approach prioritizes authenticity, honesty and transparency in professional behaviour and commercial activity. Values set a company apart from their competition by clarifying brand identity, which means customers, employees, partners, and community stakeholders know what the business represents and what it recognizes as important. Building brand trust doesn’t happen overnight, it requires a long-term commitment to consistently delivering value while being honest and transparent.
We have brands we won’t support because we don’t agree with how they do business, don’t want to see them get bigger and eliminate our options. The opposite is also true, we support brands that we want to see succeed and contribute more value to our communities. When there’s high trust in a company’s brand, customers purchase more, stay longer, and reward these relationships with loyalty and advocacy.
Who Does it Well?
Like many people, I’m a loyal customer of Costco Wholesale. Their commitment to their core values is exhibited in every interaction. My passion for the brand is deep because I realize that I’m always assured of a pleasurable shopping experience. There’s never been a time the company has disappointed me and consequently I find ways to give them more business. My support extends to their affiliations for home improvement and travel services.
Costco is often cited as one of the most ethical companies and its mission is “to continually provide customers with quality products and services at the lowest possible prices”. Their code of ethics outlines five guiding principles: to obey the law; take care of employees; take care of members; respect for suppliers, and reward shareholders. It should go without saying, that a company should obey the law, although by defining it as a first principle, it leaves no room for interpretation and aligns everyone around a common expectation.
Their commitment to culture is endorsed by their employee compensation, which is significantly higher than any other retail competitor. Associates are treated as partners in the delivery of value to their members. And while Costco pays more, its labour costs are lower. Its workers are more productive, know how to make decisions, solve problems, and take the initiative in the absence of supervisors.
Their employees are more likely to volunteer, be in involved in their children’s school activities and engage in civic-minded activities. Employees are invested in the success of Costco as validated by their work ethic, turnover rates of less than 10% and contributions to a higher standard of customer service.
How Can You Get Started?
Implementing a values-based branding approach begins with the owner’s perspective on life. Usually there are personal reasons to own a business versus being employed someone else. It may be a reaction to or against an existing choice in the market. Many business owners want to deliver value that isn’t being offered in the market now. It can be the opportunity to give their families better advantages and the freedom to decide how they will make the world a better place. Brands are fundamentally the extensions of the founder’s or owner’s personalities, values, and market expectations. The following question frames the discovery process. What defines the way you show up in the world and sets you apart from your competition?
It’s the promises you keep to customers, employees, suppliers, and community stakeholders. The 3 to 5 moral-obligation, non-negotiable agreements that define the boundaries of business value output. At least one value should demonstrate an engrained commitment to customer-oriented behaviour. Pay and reward systems need to be aligned to promoting the cultural expectations around valuable customer relationships. Businesses shouldn’t please everyone; they exist to serve ideal customers who share their beliefs and are aligned with their core values.
Consider the good, fast, and cheap, pick any two example. It can be good and fast, but it won’t be cheap, or it can be fast and cheap, but it won’t be good. A company that cares about consistently delivering a quality service in a socially responsible way respects and fairly compensates the contributions to the value chain. While values-based branding can be a defining attribute of a successful business, it’s important to ensure delivery of a quality product or service, which is sold at fair and competitive prices. The key is aligning business principles with the stakeholders who appreciate and support the full value contribution the business represents.
Be Easy to Do Business With
Successful companies grow by consistently investing in relationships, providing reliable value, and taking a mutual approach to loyalty. Generally, when it’s easier for the customer, it’s also easier for the business owner. Being easy to do business with is about eliminating obstacles for customers to receive a good service experience. It’s about fostering a culture that makes it enjoyable for customers to interact with an organization. A good customer orientation is communicated by responding to requests promptly and helping people to navigate the buying process.
The more expensive the product or service, the longer buyers will take to comparison shop. When there’s not sufficient evidence of superior competitive advantages, buyers choose the best-known category leader or the cheapest alternative. Why pay more if it’s all the same? The purpose of digital content is to attract worthy prospects to your brand value by demonstrating alignment and a long-term investment with customer relationships.
Brand storytelling is not about selling products. If you want to foster loyal and lasting relationships, you’re selling ideas, values, and emotions. A convincing brand story illustrates a deep understanding of who the ideal customers are, what they value and what they need to receive in their mutually beneficial outcomes. Good web copy reflects an authentic brand voice and directly addresses problems of the target market and offers tangible solutions. It’s shared in a conversational style, which is intended to lower perception of risk and foster engagement.
The average person reads 10 reviews before engaging with a company. People are persuaded by strong reputational proof of competence when they read customer testimonials and employee reviews or see professional association memberships and partner endorsements. When this social proof is readily accessible on the website, it makes the research process easier for prospective customers, employees, and partners. Investment of time and energy into qualified networks can generate a deeper level of opportunity. Established channels of reputational brand authority include Google, Glassdoor, Trustpilot and business-focused social media platforms of Linked In, Alignable and Twitter.
Is It Your Time?
There’s probably never been easier time to start a business and harder time to grow it. In the crowded marketplace, trust stands out. Competitors can copy a lot, but they can’t replicate business reputation or customer relationships. Customers who have high trust in a business’s brand, buy more, stay longer and reward them with enduring loyalty. As humans were purpose-built to seek connection and inherently believe that valuable relationships are key to our long-term happiness.
A community isn’t formed because members buy from the same company, it’s created when they share a commitment to the same values. Public sentiments have shifted, and people are demanding businesses initiate change. A values-based approach strengthens brand credibility and opens doors to new opportunities with customers, employees, collaborators, and community partners who want to invest in the meaningful differences you want to create. The best time to plant a tree was 10 years ago. That’s the bad news and now the good news. The second-best time to plant a tree is today.
Is it your time to find more members for your tribe?