Trust-based marketing: 4 ways to up the ante


Trust Equation

We are delighted to present a guest post from our friend and client Andrea P. Howe, co-author of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook and founder of The Get Real Project. She is a thought leader in the world of trust and business development, and we love what she has to say. What does it take to generate trust through your marketing?

Traditional approaches to marketing, business development, and sales too often create an adversarial relationship between buyer and seller: one does to and the other is done to. The trust-based view of these critical business functions centers on creating relationships and being of help. As Sonja and Sharon say in Valuable Content Marketing, “If you want success from your marketing, stop ‘selling’ and start helping instead.” Here, here. Read on to discover four ways to up the ante on your marketing efforts and results.

First, an attitude adjustment

Trust-based marketing begins with attitude and ends with action.

Trustworthy behavior is far too complex to fake without beliefs and values behind it. The actions you choose every day are really just outcomes of the attitudes or beliefs you hold. The way to become trusted is to act consistently from the trust principles. This applies to business interactions in general, and applies to marketing in some very tangible ways.

One principle governing trustworthy behavior that’s worth calling out when it comes to marketing is this: A focus on the other for the other’s sake, not just as a means to your own ends.

In business, the terms client-focus or customer-centric are commonplace. But these terms are all too often self-serving—they intend to be of economic benefit to the seller. Ultimately all successful relationships must be equally valuable for both parties, which will happen when you start with the interests of the other party and maintain diligent focus on what is best for your customer—even when that may not appear to be what is best for you and your organization.

Bona fide other-focus requires mindfulness, compassion, patience, and generosity.

Then practice to become natural

Looking for a quick and easy way to cultivate a focus on the other? Make it a regular practice to drop coins in someone’s parking meter or pay the toll for the person behind you. It’s cheap behavioral training for other focus. And it makes two people feel good.

Looking for specific ways to apply this principle to your marketing efforts? Here are four strategies to employ—all of which provide valuable content:

  1. Share ideas. Whether you are a solo practitioner, an account manager, a value-added reseller, or a small business owner, you probably have a lot of great experience and ideas about how your approach can really help your customers. Don’t sit on those ideas; share them in ways that may help your potential customers.
  2. Share information. It can be tempting to hold information for ransom. This is particularly true on websites—it may seem appealing to hold back certain information from potential customers so that you can deal with it in real time. Instead, be free with information that the customer is going to receive eventually. If you have a cancellation policy, then provide information about the terms. If you think the customer cannot handle price without understanding value, then work on more clearly articulating value instead of hiding your price. If you think the customer cannot comprehend a key idea in print format, maybe better copywriting is called for.
  3. Give away free samples. There is no better way to communicate your value proposition than to give away a sample. The impact of samples is even greater for the complex and intangible services that make up so much of today’s business. And if you’re wondering how much to give away, consider Sonja and Sharon’s guidance: you can’t give away too much. In fact, they suggest that if it doesn’t hurt at least a little, you’re not giving away enough.
  4. Tell your prospects why they don’t need you. Be willing to walk away from business if it is not right for the customer. If there are reasons why your prospect may not need you, let her know. You have not wasted each other’s time, you have established initial trust, and you are one step closer to a future productive relationship.

Build your marketing approach on valuable content powered by the principles of trustworthiness and you will be well on your way to a strong brand, a full sales pipeline, and client relationships that stand the test of time.

More valuable content from Andrea Howe

Portions of this article are adapted from The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust (Wiley, 2012), by Andrea P. Howe and Charles H. Green. You can read our review of this book here.

  • Click here to receive a free download of Chapter 1 along with six free eBooks.
  • Andrea very generously offers Valuable Content’s readers PDF or Word versions of all the hugely valuable worksheets in the book! Email Andrea at if you’d like to receive these.

Andrea P. Howe is president and founder of The Get Real Project. She works with Charles H. Green as a lead consultant for Trusted Advisor Associates. Andrea lives in Washington, DC.

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    I am a great admirer of Andrea Howe and all she stands for. I have seen her in action and she puts her money where her mouth is. Trust-based selling and marketing is a huge relief from the stress of hustling, manipulating, and politicking one’s way in business. I urge anyone interested in how to build trust, and how to avoid undermining trust, to read The Trusted Advisor and Trust-Based Selling. They are both great books and Andrea is a great spokeswoman for the cause of trust.

    By the way, in the spirit of full disclosure, I am writing this with my Valuable Content Badge pinned to my purple sweater, having just sent you a photo of myself along with a short tip about creating valuable content–a tip I’m not sure Andrea would approve of.



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