BRAVING the Customer Relationship: How to Build a Trustworthy Brand
Maybe it was her kind eyes, easy laugh or the way she could tell a great story but when we met, I immediately like her. Have you ever met someone and instantly clicked? Felt unabashedly at ease? Wanted to share your stories in return?
People react to brands and businesses the same way, don't they? Some brands quickly earn the trust of their clients and customers. While others seem to attract only skeptics or one-time users.
Building a brand that people instantly connect to and trust is essential. We don't have the luxury of a big name that everyone knows. And building trust online without the concrete sensory experience of a bricks & mortar shop can be especially challenging. So, how do you build a trustworthy brand from the ground up?
A couple of weeks ago I talked about how I'm learning to trust myself more and more every day, especially when it comes to following my heart and running my own business.
I also mentioned this talk by the incomparable Bréné Brown, who discusses the Anatomy of Trust and gives us a language for breaking down this tiny word with more baggage than a Hollywood diva.
This time, as I was watching again, and taking notes I realised how B.R.A.V.I.N.G. could be applied to any relationship.
Even your customer relationship.
Let's see how BRAVING your customer relationship can lead to a trustworthy brand.
Boundaries you get to set up before you ever get your 1st client. And you get to adjust and readjust as you go. When your life changes (like having kids) or when customers teach you there really should have been a boundary there...but wasn't. Lesson learned...check.
Set super clear expectations from the beginning. This means directing people to your terms and conditions - so they know all the legal parameters of working with you. And making sure they understand your process - how you work and what the back and forth of the project will look like. Your part, their part, what happens if it all falls apart.
Things like what's entailed in the scope of the project & what will incur more charges. Or when you'll be available and when you'll most definitely be sleeping. All good boundaries to set.
Boundaries can also take the shape of what kind of projects you'll take on (I love meatier, longer ones) and which ones you don't (I hate writing Facebook Ads - so don't ask, or ask and I'll refer you on).
Boundaries can be hard lines or flexible like which type of clients you love to work with. My ideal clients are kick-ass female entrepreneurs with service-based businesses. But if you have a product I'm not going to say no 'cause I secretly dream of writing J. Peterman style product descriptions. Likewise, I'd never turn away a client who's a guy just because he doesn't fit in my "ideal" box. That would be absurd. It just means I'm not actively marketing to those groups.
Reliability says clients can only trust your brand if you do what you say you're going to do - over and over again. This is also about being clear on your limitations so you don't over-commit.
Know how much you can accomplish. Know how many clients you can take on at one time. And how much time you need to complete a project.
Also, be clear with clients on how much you need from them. How much time they need to set aside for the project, when you need "it" by and the best way to communicate with you. Then everything flows smoothly and on-time.
If you're just starting out or introducing a new product or service some of this will be trial and error. Which leads nicely to the next point.
When you make a mistake you own it, apologise for it and make amends. It also means you allow your clients the same courtesy if they mess up. In other words, be a human being who understands that working with other imperfect human beings can get a little messy sometimes.
You don't have to be a doormat, that's what boundaries are for but you don't have to be hard-ass either.
V- the Vault
What I share with you will be held in confidence and vice versa. And I'm also not going to gossip and share stories that aren't my stories to share. Nobody trusts a gossip.
We all know about confidentiality in business. Beyond that, it just boils down to asking first. If your client has an awesome win and you want to share it on your social media - ask first. If your client mentions something nice about you in a Facebook group and you want to use it as a testimonial? Just ask first.
I love the way Bréné Brown unpacks these heavy-hitting words. Like we're doing right now with truth. She also does it with the definition of integrity. Integrity is choosing courage over comfort. Choosing what's right over what's fun, fast or easy. And practising your values not just professing them.
Integrity is part of every trusting relationship. It means both you and the other person encourage each other to act from a place of integrity.
It also means whether it's your clients, business coach or accountability partner (aka business bestie) you need to surround yourself with people of integrity. People who are willing to hold you to the standards you say you want to uphold.
This means when things go wrong you can ask for help and not be judged for it.
Let's face it, sometimes asking for extra help will come with an added price tag if you go beyond the scope of the original project. That's why we set boundaries.
But it doesn't always have to mean more money. Sometimes your client courageously asking for help can be the perfect opportunity for you to graciously step beyond their expectations and delight them.
And of course, asking for help should never come with the tag attached that says, "I now think less of you." That's what non-judgement is all about.
We all screw up. Remember what I said about the messiness of working with humans? You only get a small, single-pane window into your client's lives. Or you're only present in their lives for a short amount of time. Which means when errors in communication happen and people feel frustrated...you need to keep in mind that you never know the whole story.
Generosity means you assume the most generous things about my words, actions and intentions (especially when I screw up) and then check in with me to see what's going on. And of course, I'll do the same thing for you.
Any trusting relationship in business involves 2 people. Not every client will want to honour all of these things. Some will push boundaries, other will prove unreliable. And you can learn from all of those interactions.
But the only one who can do the work to build a trustworthy brand? Is you. Every day, with every interaction and every client.
B - establish your boundaries and communicate them clearly
R - show up and do the work everyday. And don't over-commit
A - when you screw up - own it, apologise and make amends
V - be a vault of confidentiality and always ask before you share
I - surround yourself with people of integrity who encourage you to live out your values
N - never judge and if possible use an ask for help as an opportunity to over deliver
G - always make generous assumptions about clients, especially when they screw up
And if you haven't watched that video yet from Bréné Brown go here and take 25 min to watch it. I promise it's worth your time.