Everyone gets humbled now and then. Before I started Influence & Co., I attended events for entrepreneurs that were full of people who could help my career. At one event in particular, I didn't know anyone, but I figured my sales experience would allow me to turn on the charm, communicate effectively, and make some solid connections.
Turned out, I was wrong. Not only did I not make any connections there, but every person I met stonewalled me. At first, I wondered if I was trying to break into an industry devoid of opportunity, but that wasn't the case. The more I thought about it, the more I realized my problem: No one trusted me.
Why would they? These people already knew one another. Some of them had done business together. To them, I was a human spam email. To be successful in this industry, I first needed to earn the trust of the people within it.
Trust barriers like the one I encountered are present in every industry. When people don't know who you are or what you do, they are (understandably) hesitant to talk to you, much less do business with you. These barriers prevent individuals and companies from building relationships with their audiences. To overcome them, brands must learn how to develop trust from scratch.
The Truth About Trust in Business
Brand connections -- whether for personal brands or company brands -- bring in customers. No one is willing to trust a nobody at a networking event, but someone who's built his or her thought leadership and is contributing to the conversations in the industry? That's a different story.
Some brands use their brand connections to attract investors or big leads. They use content to establish themselves as authorities in their field, and then they point to that content during conversations with prospects. It's one thing to ask someone to take you at your word: It's another thing to point to your recent article on Inc.com to back up your claims.
People who develop strong personal brands also improve their ability to form new network connections. Perhaps if I had worked more to establish myself before attending that networking event, the attendees might have heard of me and wanted to meet me. Instead, I went in cold, and my lack of existing connections prevented me from forming new ones.
Brand connections aren't just for entrepreneurs and companies, though. Personal brand connections can even lead to new employment opportunities for people looking for work. All it takes is a bit of effort to break down trust barriers and show people why you deserve their attention.
How to Make People Trust You
You can't force people to trust you -- you have to earn it. Follow these tips to bring strangers and distant audience members into your inner circle.
1. Sell your story.
The best branding campaigns are rooted in great storytelling. Apple became the king of consumer electronics through captivating stories. Steve Jobs gave legendary presentations, and a brilliant marketing campaign made the customer the star of Apple's story.
In an age of irrelevant pop-ups and interruptive ads, great stories stand out from the branded crowd. Be honest about the value you can offer your audience and what your company stands for. Not everyone will be attracted -- some may even disagree with you -- but that's OK. You can't win the trust of everyone, but by taking a side and telling your story honestly, you can win the authentic trust of your target audience.
2. Remove barriers to action.
Make it easier for people to do what you want them to do. Show them how your simple processes make follow-through easy, so they can connect to your end goal -- your mission --without struggling along the way.
Fundraising website GiveHope, for example, doesn't charge platform fees like many other fundraising sites. GiveHope's business model relies exclusively on optional donor tips to generate revenue from its campaigns, ensuring fundraiser dollars stretch as far as possible. This authentically helpful process brings every user closer to the brand's mission "to empower positive change to people's lives."
3. Play to your strengths.
What is the one thing that sells your company or services and differentiates you from your competitors? Leverage your talent and focus only on what you do best. Keep rerouting your audience back to your main value add.
My company, Influence & Co., focuses on written content marketing. Even as we expand our service lines, we always ensure they support our core service mission: creating content that drives results. Content is our specialty, so even our offerings like public relations and SEO are all founded on our content expertise.
4. Be good for goodness' sake.
Don't get so tied up in your business goals that you forget about the real people around you. Reserve time and dedicate resources to creating positive change, whether that's for your local community, the whole world, or just one person.
Try goodness for its own sake -- without worrying about the financial end game. Make helpfulness part of your identity, and then it will organically become part of your brand story. Only when your desire to help is authentic can it reward you with new connections that enable your mission's success.
After Gloria Horsley, Ph.D, lost her 17-year-old son, she determined to empower other people in similar situations of grief. She founded the nonprofit Open to Hope, a virtual community offering multimedia resources, from books to podcasts, for people who have lost loved ones. Dr. Horsley asked how she could help, based on her experience and expertise as a grief expert, psychotherapist, and bereaved parent. Her reach has extended to 26 countries.
Don't ask what people can do for your brand. Instead, ask about how you can help them. By establishing relationships based on trust, you increase the odds that your good nature will come back to benefit you.
Even though it wasn't much fun at the time, I'm glad that networking event went as poorly as it did. The experience taught me the value of trust in a way that I never would have discovered without a little discomfort. If you want your brand to successfully engage your audience, follow these tips to plant a seed of trust that will grow to reward you many times over.