What makes us trust a brand? I know, hard to put your finger on, isn’t it? It somehow feels so… subjective and intangible. Yet, trust is one of the key ingredients in building a successful brand. If people don’t trust you, they won’t buy from you. But how do you build that trust?

TL;DR — episode links:

Last week I learned something that I wanted to share with you. I attended a business related conference, and one of the keynote speakers was Anita Krohn Traaseth, who is a brilliant and very well renowned Norwegian business executive, speaker, and author. Anita shared about a tangible way of determining your trustworthiness: the Trust Equation, that I believe should be attributed to David Maister, Charles Green, and Robert Galford. It’s a tool that you can use when evaluating your strengths and weaknesses as you work to earn the trust of your people — whether it’s your employees, or your dream clients.

The Trust Equation combines four objective variables to measure your trustworthiness: 

  • Credibility
  • Reliability
  • Intimacy
  • Self-interest

These variables are combined into the following equation:

T = C + R + I / S

Trustworthiness equals the sum of Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy divided by Self-interest. (I hope I didn’t mess that up, I’m no mathematician.)

By quantifying trust in this way, we turn what is initially a pretty abstract concept into something practical that we can evaluate and assess. Let’s dig into each variable a bit more:

  • Credibility
    This one’s easy: do you know your shit? Does your level of expertise match the promises you make? Can people trust that you know what you say you know? Are you believable?
  • Reliability
    Do you keep your promises? Do you deliver results when you say you will? There’s a lot of truth in the old saying “never over promise and under deliver” — because if you do, it will send people running for the hills. And rightly so.
  • Intimacy
    How do you make people feel? How safe do people feel when they trust you with something — like when someone hires you to write their sales copy, or your employee shares something confidential with you, or in my case: when I design someone’s brand identity? We can strive to be objective as heck, but try as we might, trust is and will always be a human thing. As humans, we will inevitably make decisions based on emotions. We rely on our gut feeling. Intimacy is established when you can make people feel safe in your presence, and this is why building honest and relationship focused brands will never go out of fashion!
  • Self-interest
    Are you acting from egocentric or selfish motives? Are you more concerned about how you will benefit, or what you will get out of a situation — or do you care about something beyond your own success? How self-centred you are will directly impact the trust people feel towards you.

So, the idea is: when you want to assess your brand’s trustworthiness, grade each of the four variables on a scale from 1 to 10. Are you an asshole who cares about nothing other than lining your own pockets with cash, and who doesn’t care what you have to do to achieve your goals? Congrats, you score a 10 for self-interest. (That’s not a good thing!) On the other hand, you’re probably not running a charity either, so let’s be real: your self-interest is likely not 1, however much you may want it to be 😉

So be realistic, preferably even go out there and ask some of your clients how they’d score you for each variable, and then check what your total score is. The maximum score is 30 btw.

But the most important thing this tool does, is that it allows you to identify any areas where you have room for improvement.

Want to improve your credibility?
Show that you have the necessary knowledge and expertise to complete the job at hand. Communicate your message clearly so that you come across as knowledgeable. And no matter what you do: don’t lie about your qualifications. I hate to break it to you: you’re not a qualified expert in anything after a 4-module self-study course!

Want to improve your reliability?
Be reliable! I mean, do what it says on the tin. Keep your promises. Show up to meetings on time. Deliver what you say you will, and when you say you will — and if something happens that means you’re likely to miss a deadline (we’re human, remember!) be open and transparent about it and let your client know as soon as possible.

Want to improve your intimacy?
Be real. Be crystal clear about what you stand for and what your core values are. Show up as you, let your personality shine through, and show up consistently. And by consistently, I don’t mean showing up a certain number of times per week on Instagram, but be consistent in the way you present yourself to the world. If someone meets you in person, you don’t want them to think “Oh, that person is so different in real life!” — that’s just confusing. 

Want to be perceived as less self-oriented?
Shift your focus to be more on the other person and how you can collaborate to reach a mutually beneficial outcome — not just the best outcome for you. When you decrease your self-interest you automatically increase your level of trustworthiness.

What it all boils down to is: don’t pretend to be someone you’re not — and don’t be an asshole. And if you are an asshole: do better 😉

Until next time,

Petchy xx

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