Trust in Marketing

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The issue of trust in marketing has come up again and again. Sometimes, it seems like we’re living in a post-trust age, when nothing and no one is beyond question or reproach. As marketers, our stock-in-trade is the trust we establish with our customers and this means we need to be thoughtful and respectful in how we reach and engage our audiences.

One of the most fundamental elements in that engagement is the data we have on our prospects and customers. As a profession, we have large and growing stores of information that we use to identify, understand, engage and persuade people. We ask people to share information with us so we can work with them more effectively. Often, that ask is made on our behalf by partners who may have closer and more direct relationships with our customers.

Over time, a feeling of trust is established and can grow. A fair trade, with benefits flowing between us and our customers, should be our goal. That trust is something we must be mindful of and nurture. We know what happens when that trust is there and our outreach is accurate and welcomed.

We also know – or at least have read about – what happens when that trust erodes. Some marketers have miscalculated that they can play fast and loose with customer data in ways that might seem clever … until they don’t. And then they – and by extension all of us – are left with a black eye and the task of rebuilding that trust all over again.

There’s another aspect of trust that ought to matter to marketers too. When we develop and execute campaigns, we’re working from the assumption that the underlying data is accurate. Understanding the value of trustworthy data is important. There are all kinds of ways to calculate the cost of a lead, but there is also a cost to be considered for lost opportunities. I’m not talking about someone not responding as we’d wish, but rather to reaching out to bad contacts, information and addresses.

Think about the cost of what you do. How much of what you do goes into a blackhole because the data you’re using isn’t accurate? How much of your marketing budget is dedicated to not reaching people because you don’t have data you can trust? It’s a sobering question if you think about the numbers in this way.

Now a meta moment for everyone. As we look to improve performance, are we doing things with the data we have that people might be uncomfortable with? Are there times when we crank up the frequency of our outreach to make up for the fact that we don’t have accurate access to as many people as we think we do? Does uncertainty about data quality lead us to cast so wide a net that prospect quality dwindles? Do doubts about our foundational customer data ever push us to alienate our customers (even if unintentionally)?

When it comes to customer data, the numbers are stark. According to research published by Deloitte in 2017, less than a third of consumer data was even half accurate. Their study looked at broad customer data, including psychographic and demographic information. Nevertheless, it illustrates the problem marketers face when it comes to trusting their data.

This is an issue that too few marketers are thinking about, but it’s having a real and measurable effect on campaign performance. And it’s a story that may seep into the ways you work that hurts more than your bottom line – it can encourage less than honorable practices that harm trust.

Do the math. Avoid the risk. Make trusted data a foundation for your efforts.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Anna, how do you think you will (re)gain trust? The Deloitte data basically says that you get faulty data because customers do not trust companies to do the right thing for them with their data? What, as a marketer, do you consider being the fair trade that you rightfully postulate? Who would need to do the initial investments, and how?

    Cheers,
    Thomas

  2. Thomas, Thank you for your questions. To really gain (or regain, the harder challenge) trust is no small task; and it’s one that has become harder as faith in institutions of all types has diminished. If you want trust, you need to ask for it explicitly and earn it constantly. That requires being a lot more transparent than most companies are comfortable with being. Make clear the terms of the value exchange you are asking people to make. You’re starting to see hints of that in the EU, where sites post black-box alerts on how and why they collect user data. Marketers, who have the most to gain from user data, should be at the forefront of pushing for this kind of transparency.

    If you visit New York, every restaurant you pass has a small placard in its window with a rating: A, B or C. The ratings are based on adherence to health code rules and regulations. Wouldn’t it be something to see a similar practice put in place to let consumers know how well a company was following good data hygiene?

    Thanks,
    Anna

  3. Hi Anna, thanks for your reply. You are right that transparency is a key requirement for gaining my trust. Another one, and that is more for getting me loyal, is showing me the value that I get by entrusting a company with my data. Even with GDPR this is not yet given. GDPR merely enforces that there is a purpose for collecting the data. Marketing, and the rest of companies’ divisions, still need to accept that targeted marketing in itself is not of value for customers and that they need to get better in exchanging value. The upcoming e-privacy regulation somewhat helps here as it enforces minimization of data collection.

    In this sense a rating system would help but is insufficient. The basic question that needs to get answered is what is the value of data vs. what is valued by the customer. These two conflicting value systems need to get aligned.

    Rgds
    Thomas
    @twieberneit

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