In E-Mail We Trust?

One of every marketer’s primary aims is to earn consumer trust. Judging from a recent Forrester Research survey, many marketers need to get the trust issue right. Although trust plays a role in all forms of advertising, it has particular importance for us email marketers.

Consumers (mostly female, tech savvy, and affluent) responding to this survey indicate their trust level in terms of different advertising forms:

  • Word of mouth from friends and family (hardly surprising)
  • Branded Web sites (very surprising)
  • Opt-in email (surprising and very heartwarming)
  • Text ads on mobile phones

Other forms of advertising near the bottom of the heap include banners, search, and product placement.

The survey also looks at product categories in terms of trust. The key findings:

  • Retailers: 69 percent trust level
  • Consumer packaged goods companies: 63 percent
  • Movies and fast-food chains: 54 percent

Most other products are below 50 percent, and financial services and telecommunications rank under 33 percent.

So how do these stats affect the email world? Very simple. For consumers to respond to email marketing messages, they must have some degree of trust in:

  • Advertising method (we’re OK here, as email ranks third)
  • Product category
  • Your company
  • The message itself and emailing practices

You can’t control the product category you operate in (unless you want to move to another company), and it’s difficult to change how your company is perceived. That leaves one area you can control: the email message itself and the practices surrounding message delivery, including opt-in practices, frequency of mailings, and opt-out practices.

Just a few more relevant stats from the same study:

  • 63 percent say most ads aren’t relevant.
  • 60 percent find ads to be misleading.
  • 54 percent think ads manipulate consumers.

Dealing with these last three is easy:

  • Target email so it’s relevant; there’s no sense in sending email to people who never demonstrated any interest in your product, company, or category or have no propensity to do so.
  • Never mislead. Period.
  • Never manipulate customers. They’re smart and will see right through it.

Dealing with a problem category, an unknown company or brand, or both is much more difficult. Here are some ideas:

  • Product category. First, survey consumers and find out exactly why they don’t trust advertising in your category. Uncover the reasons before you craft an effective message. You may find consumers don’t trust smaller companies.

    Let’s assume your company is one of them. Your email, therefore, should address the issue head on. Offer real-life, effective testimonials; highlight how long you’ve been in business and who some of your “name” partners are; or other trust-building messages.

  • Company name/brand. Other consumers may not trust companies without well-known, established names. If that’s your situation, develop a list of benefits and features you offer that bigger companies don’t, or what you do better than branded companies and why. If you have a well-known brand or company, build on the goodwill your brand engenders.

Let’s look at the definition of trust to see what else we can learn. According to “The American Heritage Dictionary,” trust is “firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing.”

There you have it. The best advertising is advertising we can trust. And advertising we can trust is backed up by integrity and character.

Keep on reading…

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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