They’ll buy when they trust

Here’s an equation that every business owner needs to understand.

Know + Like + Trust = Buy.

Whether you sell toothbrushes or multi-million dollar medical equipment and everything in between — until a customer:

  • Knows who you are
  • Likes who you are
  • Trusts you

there is no purchase.  The depth of the trust required varies but there must be at least a base level of trust in place before anyone will spend a dime.

One of the things I love about social media/content marketing is that it is hard-wired to help savvy business people maximize this equation.

Know = search.  If I can’t find you, then I can’t know you exist.  Understanding how potential customers are using search when they want what you sell is vital to your business success today. Do you know what key words and phrases you should be mindful of? Are you creating content that will leverage that?

Like = social networks/blogs. When I hang out with you, in person or online, I get a sense of who you are and whether or not I like who you are.  When I read your blog, I begin to learn who you are and what you believe.  Are you out there, creating conversations and relationships?  If not — when are you going to start?

Trust = consistency online and off.  It’s easy to fake being nice, smart or helpful once or twice. But that’s tough to pull off on a consistent basis. We know that when it comes to our offline world.  And we’re learning it’s just as true online as well.  One of the greatest elements of having a digital presence is that it can quickly provide someone with a long term view of who/how you are.  That builds trust.

That equation lines up perfectly with how content marketing/social media is supposed to work.  When you create great, helpful content that aligns with how people search — you create that long tail effect that drives people to you. When you share it through your social networks and it’s done without being pushy or sleazy, people will come to like and respect you. Like and respect evolves into trust when you behave consistently in the same way.

Whether you actually sell online or you have a brick and mortar presence – using content marketing and your social media presence to move prospects along the spectrum of know, like, trust is just good business.

I’m curious — how are you building trust with what you do online?

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4 comments on “They’ll buy when they trust

  1. Caleb Page says:


    Great reminder of the fundamentals of building customer relationships. It seems to me that the way to build trust online is similar to offline – engage in conversations, share information, and be of value to others.

    What is interesting are the huge businesses like Google and Facebook of whom many are skeptical about privacy policies yet continue to be so popular. Does the KLT model fall over at some point?

    1. Caleb,

      I’m not sure if KLT doesn’t scale or if some companies are successful despite their disregard for it. I think Google does try to have a personality (think about how they customize the search page on certain days and peeks into their workplace etc.) but they’re also so huge it has to be challenging.

      FB, on the other hand, seems to completely disregard their customers. But we don’t use FB because of FB. We use it because the people we want to connect with are there and there’s no where else to find/connect with them in the same way. So maybe when a company/product becomes that mainstream AND have a monopoly — they can stop worrying about the KLT equation.


  2. Sharon says:

    This is an extremely important message for nonprofits, particularly those who consider themselves “grass roots” despite being part of a much larger organization. 501 (c)(3) s are corporations, but boards of the grass roots kind at the local levels are likely working boards of volunteers who want to do “good things” and don’t have paid staff. They likely also think of marketing as an “unwanted person/organization,” calling to sell them something they don’t want. Board members bristle at the term “marketing” and thing it’s NOT necessary. Fundraising languishes. If one-time advertising doesn’t bring in bags of money, members, or partnering opportunities, that’s all the proof their boards need to determine that “marketing doesn’t work.” There’s little turnover in these boards, and altruism prevails; but the organizations fall very short of serving the numbers of people they could.

    1. Sharon,

      Having served on many boards — I could not agree with you more. Many think that simply because they’re doing good work — that should be enough. But there are lots of organizations out there doing good work. So the organization who is smart enough to really reach out and regularly and consistently communicate their mission and their message wins the day. In the Des Moines market — few do it better than the Animal Rescue League.


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