ENTREPRENEUR.COM predicts that one of the biggest trends this year is companies using transparency to build consumer trust.

Yet many businesses fail to understand the importance of building and maintaining trust, and the positive impact this will have on their profits, staff retention and customer loyalty.

In his video Social Media Revolution 2013, Mr Erik Qualman notes that 90 per cent of consumers trust peer recommendations, whereas just 14 per cent trust advertisements.

Yet the vast majority of businesses still channel the bulk of any budgets in marketing or promotion into paid-for advertising. Few, if any, spend time or money on developing and executing a “Referrals and Recommendations” budget.

Mr Qualman is not alone in pointing out how important trust is in influencing buyer behaviour and purchasing decisions. Findings from a survey by Concerto Marketing Group found that when people trust a brand:

* 82 per cent will use its products and services frequently;

* 78 per cent will look to it first for what they want;

* 78 per cent will give its other products and services a chance; and

* 50 per cent will pay more for its products and services.

So why don’t more businesses focus on building high-value or high-trust relationships with their clients and customers?

The benefits are huge. High trust reduces doubt, resistance and price concerns. It also increases the opportunity to re-sell, cross-sell and on-sell — not only to existing clients or customers, but to others who are recommended to you by your happy clients.

Fortunately, building and maintaining trust is relatively “E”asy. Focus on:

Emotion — As a product or service provider, logic will make you a contender, but emotion is what will seal the deal. People do business with, and buy from, people and companies they like, and trust. Engage with your customers in a way that’s emotionally positive for them and you’re more likely to win their trust and patronage.

Experience — With many consumers, almost 75 per cent of a purchase decision is based on the experience they think they will have. When all other variables are weighed up and judged as close in impact or value, the perception of a positive, enjoyable, hassle-free experience will tip the balance in your favour. Make it easy for customers to have an outstanding experience and watch your profitability soar.

Esteem — As customers and human beings, we all want to feel both valued and valuable. Treating people graciously and respectfully, before, during and after an interaction helps build trust and encourages customers to not only use you again themselves, but also recommend you to others.

Ethics — Buying from providers that behave in a way that’s transparent, fair and ethical is increasingly important for many consumers. Perfection is not necessarily expected, but transparency and honesty are. When things go wrong, acting with integrity in putting things right will help demonstrate your client-focus and commitment to making amends genuinely.

Here are other practical steps you can take to enhance the level of trust existing and potential customers have in you:

* Avoid being too different; be distinctive instead. Being different can be risky; being distinctive is valuable;

* Avoid making wild claims and promises you may not be able to deliver on. Ensure all claims are viable and realistic;

* Encourage people to try your service for minimal or no cost;

* Use suitable words and phrases — whether in written or verbal communication — that will reassure your customers and reduce perceived risk;

* Identify, and tap into, any “grapevines” that may impact you and keep up-to-date with trends and concerns among your customer base. Clarify with your customers what fears and doubts they have;

* Demonstrate you are aware of the pressures customers face and pre-empt common questions to build confidence; and

* Avoid fear-based selling; focus instead on why purchasing from you will enhance your customers’ sense of value and security.

Instead of focusing solely on meeting sales targets, focus too on meeting “trust targets”. If you do, the sales will follow.

The truth is, the currency of trust has never been more valuable. Strive to capitalise on the trust people have in you.