Our economy is struggling for a lot of reasons, but one reason that seems to get almost no practical discussion is the lack of trust. Everyone knows it exists but very few believe it is their problem because, after all, each of us knows we are trustworthy. Right? Lawyers, corporate executives, politicians and journalists know their poll numbers are in the tank collectively, but individually they all believe that they are, somehow, different than everyone else. What’s more, individually, they are appalled when they find out that, no, few people trust them.
“That’s their problem, Not mine!”
I understand that position and, personally, I believe most people are trustworthy and act ethically most of the time. Yeah, I’m naive, but if find that to be true more often than not. What I also find, however, is that very few people invest any effort into presenting themselves as trustworthy and put no thought into how they present themselves. They merely assume people trust them. What's more, they are not at all creative in how they present themselves. They just use what they have heard everyone else say about themselves… which means they don’t say things that are trustworthy. The result is the only people that trust you are those that have invested the time and effort to get to know you. Your customers are not likely to do that and that's how we get into the economic problem.
Statistically, various polls have shown that less than 1 of 7 customers trust what any company says to them. And that’s current customers. Imagine how few potential customers distrust companies trying to sell them something.
Corporations are spending an enormous amount of money on technology to distribute their current content to more people, faster and with greater efficiency. Venture capitalists are investing 75 cents of every dollar into companies making technology to advertise to the customer base. But they are using all these vehicles to say the exact same thing they have always said to their customer bases, which is the same thing that every competitor say, that most of the customers don’t believe. Why? Because it costs nothing, which is what it is worth. Moreover, the investment of nothing results in nothing.
A good example of this is the semiconductor industry. Annual reports from SEMI have indicated that while more chips are being delivered than ever, overall revenues are down and multiple companies are entering into the second year of layoffs and consolidation. Revenues are down because the companies have not provided enough differentiation or built enough trust to drive customers to do business with them on anything other than price. The companies with the lowest price always win. Only 10 percent of the companies are reporting revenue growth, though not necessarily profit growth.
Our recent independent survey of 100 leading semiconductor-focused technology companies found only two companies with a documented content strategy: Intel and Qualcomm. The rest had only invested in distribution means and more than 90 reported less than satisfying results. Do you see the correlation? Ten percent with growth, 90 percent dissatisfied.
Let me spell it out in even more direct terms. I’ve written extensively in the past about how the McLuhanesque paradigm of media was dramatically supplanted by social media; that the audience now controls the message, not the messenger. I’ve also written about the almost absolute absence of strategy in corporate communications. I’m not alone. The Altimeter Group and the Content Marketing Institute have issued extensive studies on the success of strategic content programs, but pointed out that less than 5 percent of all businesses are adopting the strategies.
If you are one of the companies that have not invested in strategic content, you are probably among the 95 percent that are not seeing results from content distribution tactics. Your customers don’t trust you and your potential customers can’t tell why they should choose you over anyone else, so they will always choose the least expensive alternative. It doesn’t matter if you have superior technology.
Trust is the currency of modern business and you are broke.
It’s time you started building trust. Shel Israel and Gale Porter are working on a book about how companies have lost trust are rebuilding it and it cannot come out too soon. In the meantime, give us a call. You will not succeed until you do.