Umm… We need to talk. What have you done for your brand lately?

Stick figure with heart

Value is a feeling.

by Marc Rust

Value is a feeling. Our relationship with transactions is a sentimental one.

When you make a purchase decision, a small negotiation goes on in your head. Your future self is negotiating with the present. “Does it make sense to buy this?” is the question. “This packaging looks really nice for this organic pasta from Italy… I can almost taste it… It deserves to taste good with packaging like that! But, will it taste good at home in my kitchen?” It doesn’t matter if it is pasta or a service you purchase from a website, we still negotiate with ourselves, and it isn’t always easy. Many times I’ve crossed back through the whole supermarket to switch products again and again for fear of making the wrong choice. Why is that? Is it because we are indecisive beings or is it because we don’t always get a feeling of trust from the products we choose?

Trust is something that is looked for.

Sometimes, we put the idea down, choose another idea or come back to it.  We’re looking for reasons to trust that we are making the correct decision. Trust being a crucial word in the vast world of marketing is something that allows the scale to tilt in the direction of a sale. The button gets tapped, the contract gets signed, a transaction happens!

Both you and Sir Paul McCartney know that the long and winding road is the one that leads to trust (some might refer to this as a funnel, but it is far less musical and inspiring). In marketing we discover that value and engagement translate to trust. We all get it, this makes sense, the more value I get from a person or a brand, time and time again will make me eventually count on or expect more value. In my mind there’s been a shift, I can now consciously or unconsciously look forward to, or count on things being the way they were last time. That’s trust! When you have trust as a marketer, you’ve made it.

So, you’ve gained your audience, customer, prospect, friend, partner’s trust. That’s great and all but watch out, there isn’t anything worse than the betrayal of trust (cue the dramatic music, bump, bump, bummmmmm!). Trust is something you maintain and nurture. You nurture any relationship by caring and bringing value every single time you interact with the other side. Think of some of your favorite brands and how they’ve maintained your trust.

Now to reel this article back in… When trust is broken, boy does it hurt. It may sound funny, but I’ve been bruised by having my trust broken by a brand. I’m not saying that some brands are bullies, but they can come close if they consistently don’t care and there isn’t any other choice—I’m looking at you cable/internet provider! At the beginning of this article, I said that negotiation goes on in your head, but when you start to trust a situation, it goes on in your heart. Do you know why? Because somewhere you were putting feelings into value!

Who should know what direction to choose when facing a decision, when both seem like viable directions? It can sometimes come down to a gut feeling.

Your decision and engagement into a particular direction is an investment, often an emotional one. Especially if the individual consumer has a direct influence on the decision. Feelings dissipate in B2B situations where a team is involved in a negotiation. I would still argue that feelings are still in there somewhere, especially when a decision can lead to a promotion or a demotion.

Many of us have nightmare customer service stories. When we don’t get value when we were expecting it, we feel duped, hurt, angry. When trust is broken, a bad review is one thing, but the repercussions from stories that thrive and get retold can be devastating for a brand. I recently had to replace the router in my home because customer service over the phone deemed that it was defective. It was annoying to install the new one I got in the mail free of charge only to find out that it was in even worse shape than the one I was replacing. It was totally broken and didn’t work at all. I was furious! Any ounce of trust and confidence was shattered by the company’s carelessness. I was counting on value and I felt duped. Strong internet is crucial for anyone. It is like running water at this point.

So, what’s the point?

The point is that you must relentlessly care about the experience your audience is getting. Your experience and your feelings are your reality. That needs to be acknowledged in any situation and taken seriously. Have a plan, for how you make deals happen (gain trust) and how you maintain relationships (consistently deliver value). It is often in the maintenance phase of a relationship where people feel neglected. That “feeling” comes from our sense of value.

Acquiring a new customer is an expensive investment. An investment that turns into a relationship. The customer trusts you, so you need to provide value to nurture that trust. However, too often that customer is put on hold for 45 minutes while saying “your call is very important to us”. Why does this happen? Because it is cheaper. This is not maintaining a sense of value, and customers know it. Isn’t it worth honoring the expensive investment it took to get that customer in the first place? Better yet, give value all the time… because hey, it matters, and it feels good.