Business is built on relationships.

“Businesses and their representatives often attempt to convince people that they can be trusted and counted on and that you should send your business to them.

If you were a customer what would it take to convince you that you could really truly trust and count on a business and ultimately feel comfortable enough to do business with them?”

This was posted on Facebook by local small business owner. 

My initial response to him, which I shared on LinkedIn, stated that 

You cannot convince someone to trust you. Trust is earned over time through a consistent voice, message, and action. 

While I addressed the question asked, there is a bigger concept at play here. As a business owner he was focused on trust as a way to generate business. 

Trust is not exclusive.

Your customers can trust you, your closest competitor, and any/every other brand offering a similar service or product. 

A consumer can trust Lowes, Home Depot, and two or three smaller local businesses. So what impacts their decision to spend their money at, or recommend one versus the others? 

A brand needs something far stronger than trust alone to earn and keep someone’s business.

Know and like.

When I speak on this topic, I typically hear ‘know and like’ brought up as that ‘something stronger’.

This is an obvious reference to the quote from Bob Burg’s The Go Giver. It’s memorized and repeated as a mantra by every marketing and salesperson – the belief that the way to earn someone’s business is to get them to know, like and trust you. 

There are two problems here:

  1. Know and like, as with trust, aren’t exclusive, so business isn’t guaranteed once they are earned.
  2. They have the quote all wrong.

As with trust, there is no exclusivity. Consumers can know and like more than one competing brand. Yes, for someone to give you their business, they need to know, like, and trust you. No, having earned all three doesn’t ensure you will get (or keep) it. 

Brands need to be careful to not fixate on this ‘know, like, and trust factor.

‘All things being equal’

As for the quote, everyone forgets, or ignores, the first four critical words, so it is often quoted as:

“People do business with, and refer business to people they know, like and trust.”

Reading it that way, it is easy to see why there is so much emphasis on the ‘know, like, and trust factor’ (and why the question was posted on Facebook).

Include those 4 missing words in the complete quote:

“All things being equal, people do business with, and refer business to people they know, like and trust.”

Now the ‘know, like, and trust factor’ has a clarifier – ‘all things being equal’.

All things are not equal in business.

There are dozens of reasons for this being the case, but three in particular have a significant adverse impact on the ‘know, like, and trust factor’:

The price ‘inequality’.

If two well-known, trusted, and liked brands are selling a comparable item or service (more so if it is identical), who earns the business or the referral? Unless there is something else at play, it will usually be the cheaper brand. 

The convenience ‘inequality’.

Consumers don’t like to go out of their way. This means that even when the price is not a factor, as with insurance providers (one State Farm Agent can’t charge more than another for the exact same policy), consumers will tend to purchase from (or refer to) the closest or most convenient brand.

Convenience and price add another element to many purchase decisions. For the right deal or time savings, many consumers are willing to shop at places they do not like or particularly trust for the right deal. While this tends to be more applicable to products which require little support, consumers, especially when funds are tight, are more apt to take a risk or accept inferior service.

The curiosity ‘inequality’.

New brands, especially restaurants, have a huge advantage. They are new and consumers are naturally curious. Simple human nature. People are quite willing (if the marketing team did its job well) to try a new place instead of heading to one already known, liked, and trusted. While they may go back to their old favorites, those favorite brands still lost business. If the new place is more convenient or better priced, even if the food/product/service falls a bit short, many likely never go back to their old favorites (or do so less often).

The relationship factor.

If you want to set your brand apart from you competitors, to mitigate the ‘inequalities’, you need to think beyond the ‘know, like, and trust factor’ and work on building relationships with your customers.

Businesses which work to establish, grow, and nurture relationships with their customers will remain more insulated from competition, more likely to survive economic downturns, and more likely to grow over time.

Establishing relationships.

Relationships require knowing, liking, and trusting, but they go deeper. There is a bond or a connection. Often times it’s intangible – a feeling. Other times it’s a shared idea or activity. Whatever that piece is, the bond created is powerful. Maintain it and you have loyalty. 

Long before the internet and social media, I built relationships in person, one person at a time. I joined networking groups, attended networking events, went to corporate and sponsored outings from dinners to golf tournaments. I met people and got to know them, not what they did. I figured out who among them were in my target audience and who I could connect with on a deeper level. I learned about them by taking the time to actively listen to them. Then, when appropriate, I responded. I became part of THEIR conversation. I added value to it and promoted them. 

When it made sense, I started discussions. I stuck to topics that would interest those I had met and were my audience. There was an effort made to not only show I was credible, but genuine. I shared personal stories as well as discussed business. I was focused on connecting with them as people and not seeing them as clients.

I developed and nurtured those relationships. 

Business was no longer transactional. My product/service was no longer a commodity subject to cheaper prices, convenience, or curiosity. My customers were purchasing from me and loyal because there was a relationship, a friendship, a connection and a bond which extended to my brand or the brand I represented.

Relationships in the digital age.

The approach is no different!

  • Network and identify your target audience.
  • Listen and interact over post. 
  • Contribute rather than preach.
  • Connect over promote. 
  • When you post, show credibility and authenticity

Chose to publish less content and engage more in social networking. Opt to interact on the content of others more than you post to your pages. Add valuable comments to the content of others as your brand. Support and promote others.

When posting to your brand pages and profiles, content should be valuable, actionable, and show credibility, not be overly promotional (though the occasional promotion is a good idea). Content should be relational. It needs to let your audience connect and bond. Let others see the faces and people behind the brand. Open up. Be personal. Humanized your brand. Cultivate relationships.

The end result – long term clients who aren’t easily tempted or lured by cheap prices, the flashy new brand, or something a bit more convenient. 

Social media isn’t a sales tool.

It’s a relationship tool. 

If your social media marketing isn’t generating results, it isn’t the fault of the algorithms. It’s your approach (or your social media manager’s). 

Consider using social media marketing as a relationship development tool rather than as a sales tool.

Not sure where to start? Let’s have a conversation.

And yes, a bit of promotion – we help our clients effectively use social media marketing to reach their audience, educate them, create relationships, and improve the bottom line.

Updated 2019 Sept

6 replies
  1. Rhonda Negard
    Rhonda Negard says:

    “Know and like, as with trust, aren’t exclusive, so business isn’t guaranteed once they are earned.” I 100% agree! We don’t have know the person behind the business to purchase. We just have to *trust* that what we purchase will satisfy our need and meet our expectations or that we can get a refund if it doesn’t.

  2. Clement Lim
    Clement Lim says:

    Hey Robert

    This is a timely post for me, I’ve recently made two connections on Twitter with people in my field of B2B marketing. In both instances the conversation was sparked by personal interests unconnected with my professional life. Namely guitar playing and boxing. I’ll certainly be more conscious of leveraging my hobbies for business in future.


  3. adamfout2
    adamfout2 says:

    My first blog post on my website was this type of post—it’s gotten more engagement than any other.

    Here’s the post:

    I think the greatest value I’ve gotten out of that post was internal—I know that I don’t have to let a setback get me down or keep me from focusing on my goals. And other people seem to be attracted to that, the realness of it. Stepping back, being real, and doing some serious self reflection is healthy, but it also connects with people.

    It’s all that pesky human stuff—you miss it a lot throughout the day, but writing can let it come out.


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