Concept image of building trust

Investing in Trust to Gain Loyalty

  |  May 6, 2014   |  Comments

As the industry continues to turn toward data-driven marketing, marketers need to dedicate resources to strengthening the trust between consumers and brands.

If you want to know the state of the industry - follow the money. Marketers are spending more on data-driven marketing (DDM), with 38.4 percent percent of panelists reporting an increase in spending this year, according to the latest DMA Quarterly Business Review from Winterberry Group. Looking ahead, marketers intend to continue to invest, with nearly half, 43.9 percent of panelists, saying they expect their organization's spending on DDM to increase in the months ahead, while 41.7 percent say spending will remain constant.

I'd like to see more of that investment purposed specifically toward strengthening trust - which should be easy because trust is built from the same kinds of practices that marketers use to build relationships. The difference is to place emphasis on the reciprocal actions between consumer and brand.

These might include:

  1. Permission. The basis for all trusted relationships, but only the beginning. Trust must be earned with each encounter.
  2. Notice. Ensuring transparency around how marketers will use data and provide benefits.
  3. Choice. A preference center can be a great tool, but it's not the only way to engage customers. There are many touch points in a member journey that would benefit from a reminder or "rejoin" permission grant.
  4. Employee Training. The treatment of customers in a store, over the phone, and via Twitter matters. Make sure that everyone is trained, sensitive, and empowered to respect customers.
  5. Data Governance. Your entire marketing team should be trained in data governance and stewardship, to ensure that you have the right practices for your business to protect and responsibly use consumer data. The cost to your reputation from a breach or segmentation mistake can be onerous.

From all the behavioral data we have, it's clear that consumers WANT to interact with brands that they love and do business with - but they also want the chance to choose their preferences and channels. So the question is not really, "Do consumers tend to be loyal," but, "How can I make my program and brand so interesting, trustworthy, and valuable that customers include me in their brand relationships?"

Too many marketers trust that they have trust, without actively building trust. A recent Teradata chief marketing officer (CMO) study found that only 18 percent of global marketers say they have a holistic view of their customers. That is a real opportunity for the rest of us. While marketers are not yet there, consumers are already there. Consumers use data in all aspects of their lives to establish and build relationships.

Developing customer relationships is like going through a "dating period." Anytime you decide to connect with another person, you start to collect third-party data. You talk to people who know the individual to get a better idea of their background, personality, and interests. If you decide that person is someone you want to meet, you may accumulate more data to get a bigger picture. You also ask that person directly for information. With loyalty programs, as in life, data is the foundation of the relationship, but it's the
value you glean from the personal interaction that is the true gold.

A key to this insight-driven process is to map a comprehensive customer journey, where you identify the key touch points and how and where your owned, earned, and paid media contribute some value. You will also want to include brand experiences that you do not own or control - like third-party sites and social networks and partners.

All this data-driven activity is generating some pretty impressive results in our economy - more than $156 billion and 675,000 jobs in 2012, according to the independent "Value of Data" study recently completed by the Data-Driven Marketing Institute, which is the think tank of the DMA.

Our entire technology and marketing community - which absolutely relies on data - is dealing with a crisis of confidence right now. Consumers hear about data breaches and government spying and they think that marketers are doing something terrible with their data. All of that washes over to our businesses.

Let's not be careless here. Access to consumer data is a privilege. And marketers are facing ferocious legislative threats - like no other time in recent history. The White House "big data" report last week that includes a renewed call for national privacy regulation is just the latest. We have to protect the data or we are going to lose the freedom to use it.

We have to start by making sure we are meeting our own industry self-regulation standards, and ensure responsible use of all data in our own companies. That's job one for data stewardship - and a foundational element in building trust.

Consumer Trust Checklist

  • Audit your practices against the DMA Ethical Guidelines.
  • Train your team in data governance and talk to suppliers. 
  • Start a conversation about data stewardship internally. "Lean in" and lead.
  • Ensure your data privacy and security readiness. 
  • Increase transparency around your practices for consumer notice and choice.

Are you building trust purposefully, or just trusting that it will happen on its own? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Stephanie Miller

Stephanie Miller is a partner with brand and marketing technology strategy firm TopRight Partners, which helps customers use the technology they have today to do the marketing they want to do today and tomorrow. She is a relentless customer advocate and a champion for marketers creating memorable customer experiences. A digital marketing and CRM expert, she helps sophisticated marketers balance the right mix of people, process, and technology to optimize a data-driven content marketing strategy. She speaks and writes regularly and leads several industry-wide initiatives. Feedback and column ideas most welcome, to smiller AT toprightpartners DOT com or @stephanieSAM.

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