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The Trust Wars: How to Build a High-Trust Business in a Low-Trust World

The Edelman Trust Barometer, a metric that tracks the level of trust in society, says in their 2022 Report that “Distrust is now society’s default emotion.”1

Think about that for a second.

Distrust is now the DEFAULT.

And if that feels obvious to you, then you’ve likely been paying attention to what’s been happening in the world over the past few years. What I want to talk about today is HOW we got into this situation, why it matters, and what we, as business owners, can do about it.


The Vicious Cycle of Institutional Distrust

It starts with institutional distrust, and you see it with distrust in governments. Much of it stems from how governments have handled the pandemic, but the deep distrust in government has been growing for a long time.

There’s distrust in the financial system – the feeling that the system is rigged, the Wall Street Protests, the institutions that are “too big to fail.”

And the media ecosystem has amplified this distrust: all of the fake news, misinformation, everyone in their own “silo” of news, where sometimes it feels like we’re living in different realities based on what news sources we consume. The media has also become a source of distrust as a result.

There’s distrust in public health and medicine – whether it’s Big Pharma, antivaxxers, or questioning decisions around the pandemic.

The world we live in, 2 years into a pandemic where people have been interacting from behind a screen instead of face to face, is a world where we are isolated and disconnected.

We’ve lost the daily human connection needed to sustain civil discourse. Ever notice that you can type something in a comment that you’d never say to someone’s face? Multiply that by millions, combine it with the fact that that commenter online might not even be a real person, and you have a sense of the scope of the problem.


Distrust in Big Tech

Which brings us to distrust in Big Tech.

Big Tech (specifically the GAFA companies of Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon) got so big by making our lives easier.

If you’ve ever checked a “Terms and Conditions” box without actually reading the fine print, or chosen to use your Google or Facebook login to log into another site, or asked Alexa to tell you the weather, you’ve agreed to this tradeoff of privacy for convenience and gotten yourself entangled in the web of third party data.

We didn’t think twice about sharing all of that information, and now, in this current moment of distrust, we’re beginning to question what Big Tech is doing with all that data we’ve been feeding it. It’s a little scary, right? You say something ONCE at the dinner table and suddenly ads are following you all around the internet.

There’s a joke that if you’re looking for something, just say it next to your phone and suddenly you’ll see ads for it – and every time it happens, it’s just as creepy.

It’s no wonder the pendulum is swinging the other way.

Now, people are starting to actually slow down a little bit and say, what are the terms and conditions behind this thing?

Do I actually need to use my account to sign on here?

Do I actually need to use digital banking apps?

Do I need to give my data free reign across the internet?

We’ve overextended our trust, and the market is moving in the other direction.

We’ve gotten to a place where people are saying, “You’ve got to earn my trust, I’m not going to give it to you just carte blanche anymore. You’ve got to earn it from me over time.”

And that’s having a huge ripple effect across the world of small business.

Apple is meeting the moment, trying to earn back people’s trust by rolling out its updates to iOS 14 and iOS 15, essentially giving users back control of their data.

And we’ll get to what small business owners like you and me can do to establish and earn trust when all the other players are burning it.

Because what happens when you go into every interaction in a state of suspicion, distrust, and fear? What is the COST of all of this distrust? And what real cost is it having on your business, right now?


Why is Trust So Important?

Stephen M.R. Covey, author of the bestselling book The Speed of Trust, says that

Trust always affects two measurable outcomes: speed and cost. When trust goes down—in a relationship, on a team, in a company, in an industry, with a customer—speed decreases with it. Everything takes longer. Simultaneously, costs increase. Redundancy processes, with everyone checking up on everyone else, cost more. In relationships, on teams, in companies, that’s a tax. I call it a low-trust tax where literally everything is being taxed off the top. Where trust is low, everything takes longer and costs more.

The opposite is true as well. When trust goes up in a relationship, or on a team, in a company, in an industry, with a client, with a customer—speed goes up with it and cost comes down. Everything happens faster and everything costs less because trust has been established. That’s a dividend, a high-trust dividend. It’s really that simple, that real, that predictable.”2

So trust is literally the currency of connection. And if we’re in an age of isolation and distrust, anyone who can earn and build trust has a competitive advantage. But we have to work harder for that trust than we did before.

We have to shift AWAY from the world of third party, cookie tracking, algorithmic personalization into a NEW paradigm of zero party, permission-based personalization. Where you open the conversation from a “helpful human” perspective of, “Can you tell us a little bit about yourself so we can help you find the right solution for you?” And the sooner we accept this as an opportunity, NOT a liability, the sooner we’ll be able to move into the future with that first-mover advantage.

We have an opportunity to start conversations in smaller, intimate spaces. Places WE own where people we want to serve and sell to feel safe, and can trust what they share isn’t going to be used AGAINST THEM.

We are rapidly moving from a world that had thousands of unique data points on each one of us in an open graph that was pixel based, to a world where more and more people are saying you know too much about me. I don’t want to play with you anymore. I’m taking my data and going home.

UNLESS…You can show me that you really get me… and you earn back my TRUST.

What that means is we as marketers have to lead with empathy, we have to lead with better messaging, and start conversations in smaller, intimate spaces we invite them to…places WE own where people feel safe, and can trust what they share isn’t going to be used AGAINST THEM.

We can “move at the speed of trust” by being real, transparent, helpful people behind the screen. We can be the kind of business owners that we as consumers want to do business with.

And we can do this by asking people what they want, let them volunteer information about themselves, and offer the right solution for them not based on invasive data points, but on the information they’ve offered transparently.

Our ASK Community Members and Partners have successfully used QUIZ Funnels as the “great unlock” to quickly build a high-trust business in a low-trust world. Subscribe to the KickASK Podcast below to hear just how some of these businesses, across industries, have done it.

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