Why It Is Important to Grow Trust in the Marketplace

Nicholas J Price
Today's consumers have plenty of choices in what they buy and in how they choose to spend their hard-earned money. In many ways, advancements in technology have given us many more choices, not only with respect to products and services, but also in the amount of information we can access about our preferences. If we know where to look, we can get enough information about our purchases such that we don't have to sacrifice quality over price.

According to a report by First Insight, about 53% of consumers rate quality as the most important factor when they buy something. By comparison, only 38% of consumers rate price as the most important factor. Another study looked at the issue of the consumer's perspective on transparency. Over 73% of consumers felt that a company's transparency was more important than price. By contrast, almost 40% of consumers reported that they'd switch from their regular brand to the brand of a company that offered more transparency.

Today's consumers are well-informed. They'd rather have a small amount of quality information than a large amount of marketing rhetoric. Consumers are growing in the assurance off what they trust and whom they trust. Growing trust in your products and your brands yields a higher return on investment. Ultimately, growing trust in business will improve the economy and society.

Trust Is a Critical Strategic Asset

Trust and reputation are important elements of branding. That statement holds from an internal and an external perspective. Even when all other things are trending well in business, the lack of trust will slow growth to some degree. As important as trust is, it's intangible, which makes it difficult to assess.

According to The Brand Bubble, about 62% of companies are concerned about intangible issues, which is just over double what it was during the 1950s. Customers are concerned with such intangibles as branding, trademarks, goodwill and reputation. They also put their trust in companies that are in compliance with contracts and licensing.

From an internal perspective, employees and other stakeholders rate trust to some degree according to the company's organizational models, investments in software, the proprietary process and franchise rights. They also gauge trust by the company's approach to research and development, human capital and intellectual property.

To develop trust across the company, corporate boards must consider such things as hiring practices, establishing the corporate culture, enhancing the work environment and aligning all those elements with the corporate mission. The company needs to establish a reputation for treating suppliers and other stakeholders well. They have to give customers and employees the freedom to ask tough questions and to be open to new ideas.

Consumers Place Their Trust in Corporate Design and Branding

It's not surprising to consider that in the quest for quality and value, consumers put their trust in branding. Something that's new in recent years is that design touchpoints are also important to consumers.

Certain brands like Nike and Procter & Gamble stand out as brand leaders and design leaders. Advertising and promotion can enhance great design, but it can't overcome subpar design. In addition, it's essential that the brand's message aligns well with the consumer's experience with the product or service. It's easier for brands to have a global audience than in years past and the breadth of the audience makes design and branding of the essence.

Building trust from the inside of the company encourages innovation. Employees are usually eager to call out the negatives. When the environment is good, and the culture is right, employees can be instrumental in helping companies refine their product offerings and change direction when they need to. When consumers and the public express trust in a company from an outside perspective, they motivate the company to work on innovation, increase levels of engagement and make sure products are relevant.

Trust Continues to Grow in the Tech Space

Up until the Information Age, there was little interest or talk of consumer trust in technology. In recent years, consumers have evolved to the point where they rely on technology in some fashion every day. As a result, trust has become vastly more important for tech companies. According to Interbrand's 2011 global survey, we can see that over half of the top ten brands are technology companies. The leading tech companies are IBM, Microsoft, Google, Intel, Apple and Hewlett-Packard. Because of society's strong reliance on their products, these companies have needed to connect warmly with customers in much the same way that a car manufacturer or personal care product manufacturer would be inclined to do. To some extent, tech companies need to collect some personal data from their consumers to serve them well and, for that, they certainly need to ensure a relationship that's built on trust.

One way that tech companies build trust is by setting up networks, connections and communities for consumers to ask questions, get answers and share their experiences. Consumers don't expect companies to be perfect, but they are concerned about fairness and decency. For example, Apple denies apps that have pornography. With the number of children and teens who use Apple devices, it sends a message about the type of company in which most individuals put their trust.

Boards of directors also need to put their trust in the software solutions that create efficiency in their board processes. Diligent's products are fully integrated and provide for secure communications and collaborations under one platform that gives boards granular control. Over 50% of Fortune 1000 companies put their trust in Diligent Boards and the suite of governance solutions that comprise Governance Cloud. Diligent Corporation is the standard for Modern Governance ' where board directors have the right tools to thrive in our fast-paced marketplace.

Trust in business was never as important as it is today, and growing trust in shareholders and the public provides companies with a strategic advantage. Trust grows in individual companies, which nets the overall growth of trust in the marketplace.
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Nicholas J. Price
Nicholas J. Price is a former Manager at Diligent. He has worked extensively in the governance space, particularly on the key governance technologies that can support leadership with the visibility, data and operating capabilities for more effective decision-making.