Trust takes work

- 210716

Mind is the forerunner of all things. With our minds or our heart, we determine what will happen to us. - the Dammapada


A few days ago, I did what I do regularly: I edited myself out of one of my podcast interviews. This last time, it was with my friend Helen Baynes, a customer experience consultant who has worked in the fashion retail and e-commerce world, whose name may be familiar for those of you who read me regularly.

That story I told her was fine, I only cut it out because the episode was already 1h20 min long. You may have heard me say that I love long-form but I also am respectful of my listeners' time, anything unnecessary goes, hence the edit.

But in drafting my thoughts on trust, this kept on coming back to me. I can see why now: the business I was talking about had turned me from an unknown browser to an advocate!

So this may interest you, dear reader, especially if you too sell goods and services, whether online or IRL.

So I found this random online retailer during the first lockdown in Switzerland last year. My online search was driven by a need for soothing, organic body products, in particular I was looking for Ayurvedic products. I have nothing against science (on the contrary, vive le vaccin!) but I found myself more and more inclined towards ‘natural’ cocooning. And this website popped up.

Was it love at first sight? Not quite. I mean I kept on thinking about it, like a crush I'd pushed to the back of my mind, and it took me months to place my first order. A nine-month gestation period during which I evaluated whether I should trust this company and the brands it was retailing. That’s pretty much what I heard myself say to Helen.

Why is that? Like many others, I've become more and more search-savvy. Especially during the lockdown. I like to know what I’m buying and I don't want surplus; I don't want returns, even if it’s easy. When I purchase something, I want to get it right;no hassle. My goal is satisfaction guaranteed. Hmmm, I can hear you sigh on the other side of the screen. Are you saying my expectations are too high? One can dream!

The thing is that in the organic, clean beauty space, most brands are relatively (if not totally) unknown, which also means the quality of the products is unconfirmed, and some of them are really pricey. On top of that, too many companies work on vegan and organic formulas, only to then package everything in single-use plastic which is honestly unnerving, making it less appealing to purchase from them.

My initial skepticism was also directed by a decision to be mindful of not purchasing things I didn’t need. Hard to click on the check out button in these conditions.


So what happened, what worked?

Well first, I had no idea where else to find these products that I wanted in this little country of mine, so I kept on going back to check out the options with this one retailer.

Things started to work for me when I spent more time reading the copy on the website. It turns out, they have excellent copywriting. So first, the product descriptions, then there is a 'how to' write-up for each of the items, followed by an ingredients list and transparency around the features, like 'Alcohol Free, Gluten Free, Pregnancy Safe, Vegan'.

They were also consistent: everywhere I looked, the relevant information was available, the images were all high quality.

Unconsciously, this affirmed their authority and integrity: they were clear about their purpose. I could see for myself from the expert curation and the details, the care, that they were indeed a specialist in their niche.

Do they have the best website ever? No. Could they improve on their customer communication? Absolutely (and they should include the invoice in the box when they ship). But did I get what I needed? Yes! And further from that, I had a surprisingly good unboxing experience.

Helen and I had discussed this too: the famous last mile of online retail (also cut out due to time). My parcel arrived and it was neatly sized, appropriate for what it contained, rather than Amazon-like oversized.

Upon opening it, I found some packing peanuts surrounding the products. I thought how odd for a sustainable multi brand retailer to be using plastic. Right? Then I found a little printed disk amongst the peanuts. It said: 'Piff, Paff, Puff, packing peanuts dissolve in water'. Like a kid, I rushed to the sink and in a simultaneously funny and slightly gross experiment, I watched these little puffy things become gooey before disappearing between my fingers.

When I edited this out of the podcast, I was thinking to myself: who wants to hear about that? But now, I feel that lots of people should hear about my experience.


A couple of weeks ago, I was introduced to this wonderful animated recap on the Science of Persuasion by Robert Ciadini and Steve Martin which goes over the six main levers of persuasion, which can be used for good or evil, I may add, by businesses and copywriters. Really worth a watch. And a rewatch. As it turns out, it's surpringly easy to influence human beings, since we seek shortcuts for our decision making in our increasingly busy lives. And they are:

Using this lens, I could see how the online beauty retailer built its authority which influenced or persuaded me to purchase over time.

Via the extensive information and education.

Excellent curation of products and brands.

The 'how to' guides.

And then after the purchase, they showed commitment towards sustainability in the choices they made and these were really clear and obvious to me.

I should add there was a cute card in the box and that each product was delicately wrapped in a single sheet of tissue paper (which obvs I am going to reuse or recycle).

Later on, after my first purchase, I found myself interested in trying one of their nail polish brands. Again, I wasn't sure about it. What was missing? I think the story telling is what I would have wanted then, something editorial talking more in depth about some of their brands.

Lucky for them, India Knight, famed columnist in the Sunday Times Style (UK) happened to pick that very brand I’d been looking at, and on top of that, she quite literally told me (I mean all readers but I felt she said it directly to me) which was the perfect red lacquer I should get. One, two, three. My order was on its way. By the way, perfect red, great nail polish. Success!

Consistency, authority, liking and consensus. All were neatly packaged up in my experience.


Doubling up on the analysis, I circled back to Brené Brown's Anatomy of Trust and her BRAVING acronym (add link) to see what this company had done right from her lens.

Boundaries: they did what they said in the time expected.

Reliable: consistent and reliable,

Accountable: I'm not sure that there is much I can say there.

Vault: their site is secure, I am assuming they kept my information safe and private - that’s what I’d want from a business, care around my privacy.

Integrity: they showed they act in line with their values, in their choice of sustainable packaging, and the brands they carry.

Non-judgement: I don't feel this is applicable here given the lack of an editorial piece. To note, I chose not to subscribe to the newsletter, maybe that’s a miss.

Generous: with free samples in the box.

So why does this matter?

I am not a big beauty buyer. I don't review websites, I barely wear any makeup. Not that I don't like it, I do find it fun to use, but I rarely feel the need for it, unless I am going out. Which is, well, what it is right now.

What is interesting for you is that while I am a very savvy, an early adopter of online consumerism, in tech, fashion, books, sports, food, and I am a specialist at getting what I want online, clearly, I am like everyone else. When someone gives me an amazing experience, I will tell everyone. My friends, my colleagues, and my clients, my podcast listeners. And here I am, telling you all about it.


A B2C business to consumer relationship is a relationship. So are the B2B relationships. So are the internal relationships, in organisations. Our partners, our employees and customers will reward us when we show ourselves to be trustworthy. And they'll tell everyone about it.

I particularly want to highlight the accountability piece, the A in Brené's Braving. I think accountability is key, this year more than any year.

Customers need to feel that we care about them. Especially when the products have a high price tag. But don’t put customers above your employees; these are the relationships that literally make your business run.


Fittingly, this week, I finished a four week workshop with Margo Aaron, a new course with Akimbo, in beta right now, called The Copy Writing workshop. Looking back at the experience I am recounting above, the reasons why I made the purchases I did, I realise that the copywriting piece was particularly important, for someone like me, someone who needs to be given a certain amount of information and features on the product.

A few weeks back, I led the same Helen Baynes I mentioned earlier as well as John Buckley, of Me, My Customer and I (another consultant) in a workshop where we used Disc profiles to better understand the needs of our clients. This may sound naff but I'm sure you'll get the point that not all us have the same drivers, not all of our customers have the same needs when they want to evaluate whether a product or service is right for them.

My take away? Building (or rebuilding) trust requires some work.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself or take to your team. Consider it my gift or homework for the summer:

Do you or does your business communicate clearly with your clients? online, on social media, in any other kind of written copy that is addressed towards them purchasing a product or a service?

Are you clear on your boundaries, your deliverables? Could you get better at that?

Are you consistent, reliable? Are you delivering to the level that you need? If not, what needs to change there?

Are you also consistent and reliable with your team, with your service providers and partners?

Do you practice what you preach? Do you declare your values or practice them?

Are you accountable when there are failures in your systems or service?

If you are a marketer, Know -> Like -> Trust, that's the dream, right? Just keep in mind what it takes to do that. Be consistent, be generous, and maybe, just for good measure, be kind.

We don’t need to try and be everything to everyone. But we can try to understand ourselves and each other better. We can focus on building trust. We can put empathy and trust at the forefront of our minds, and we should try our best, when we show up in the world.