By: John Seroka
No matter what business you’re in, the only thing you’re really selling is trust. According to Merriam-Webster, trust is defined as “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.”
According to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer, the firm’s annual global exploration of trust by industry, “financial services” remains the least trusted industry globally.
However, according to the survey, trust deficits exist throughout many industries whether in the B2B or B2C category.
The findings presented by this survey reinforce the fact that developing trust is essential to your brand’s success.
According to Edelman, trust is a forward-facing metric of stakeholder expectation, unlike reputation, which is based on past experiences with a brand.
Property buyers want to know they can trust their lenders to give them the best advice, be knowledgeable, give them a fair deal and make it to closing — on time.
Similarly, mortgage lenders and brokers want to form business alliances with technology providers and suppliers of products and services they can trust. These vendors need to provide excellent service, proper training when needed and so forth to ensure a great experience at every level.
Who they work with and technology they use to manufacture a loan must all integrate effectively from application through closing and servicing to provide that experience.
According to Edelman, the leading factors that drive distrust include:
- Unethical business practices
- failing to keep customer information secure
- irresponsible during a crisis
- poor working conditions
- misrepresenting the company
Key trust-building attributes include such items as:
- Listening to customer needs and feedback
- Taking responsible action to address issues
- Placing customers ahead of profits
- Transparent and open business practices
- High-quality products or services
- Creating a positive impact on the local community
What steps can you take to drive trust in your brand?
- Acquire certifications, awards and participate in continuing education classes. For example, through the Mortgage Bankers Association, you can earn your Certified Mortgage Banker® (CMB®) designation. The Ellie Mae Innovation Award is given to lenders that demonstrate extraordinary results leveraging their technology platform. The National Association of Mortgage Brokers (NAMB) offers 3 levels of certification tied to experience. Each level has continuing education requirements.
There are plenty of award and certification opportunities for non-lenders in the industry as well. Examples could include the HW TECH100, the Accredited Senior Appraiser (ASA) designation, BBB accreditation, MReport’s Top 25 Companies in Mortgage and Servicing and more.
- Leverage social media. 86% of Americans believe that transparency from businesses is more important than ever before, according to a survey conducted by Sprout Social. Thanks to the many great social media platforms, brands have better access than ever to their audiences, and in turn, their audiences have unprecedented access to them and their leadership.
If leveraged properly and consistently with the right message mix, social media give a brand’s target audiences an authentic look at them so they can get that behind the scenes look that helps build trust and understanding.
- Make integrity your No. 1 priority. If your audience doesn’t feel like you’re good, decent, morally upright and truthful, it will be hard for you to build the necessary trust for a business relationship.
So aside from the glaringly obvious of running an ethical business, do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. This by itself is huge! There’s nothing worse than being in a position where your expectations are set by someone, then not met and you have no idea when they will be met.
- Establish a culture of transparency. Invite questions rather than avoiding them which leaves the impression that you’re not being completely upfront. This is another way social media can play an important role in developing trust. Don’t hide behind the fine print in a contract. Avoid big promises or overstatements.
- Become a resource to your customers: Whether it’s a car, entertainment system, a mortgage technology platform, mortgage program, compliance software or any other product or service, we all know that feeling of being “sold,” — when we feel like the salesperson isn’t genuinely listening.
So, open yourself up to truly engage with your customers and become a resource for them. Communicate with them openly and frequently.
- Leverage your brand advocates. 76% trust online reviews as much as recommendations from family and friends according to a 2019 BrightLocal survey. If this is the case, then this study holds tremendous implications for you as a lender or any other type of service provider that enables the loan manufacturing process. People simply trust reviews and positive reviews drive referrals.
Here are a few ways to encourage online reviews:
- Use incentives. For example, you could conduct a monthly prize drawing for all who leave a comment about your company on any one of your social media venues.
- Develop a quality control survey. Ask both multiple-choice and open-ended questions. With permission, these could even be published in full or in part.
- Have a plan and someone in place to react to both positive and negative reviews online. Pay attention to all, not just the positive. Negative reviews can give you an opportunity to shine if handled well. Turn to a communications professional if you have any doubt about how to handle something negative.
- Use video testimonials from both the end-user and business referrers.
- Develop case studies and publish them to your website and share in social media.
There are several more ways, but now you get the idea.
- Be consistent. Consistency in your marketing materials shows your prospects that you have a unified voice and know what you stand for. If you appear disparate or thin with communicating key messages, it confuses people and sends a poor message.
If you feel like your marketing materials and messages lack consistency or don’t adequately communicate your essence, this is a problem that could speak to the internal understanding of your brand.
If your brand is not understood internally, you can be sure it’s not understood externally. This could be a reason to conduct an internal brand assessment to get your arms around it.
- Show passion for what you do. Have you ever walked into a store and been underwhelmed by its appearance or the general lack of enthusiasm exhibited by salespeople or staff? On the other hand, isn’t it so satisfying when you feel like everybody wants to be there, are excited you stopped in and want to address your questions and concerns?
Enthusiasm is contagious! Everyone wants to be taken care of by someone who appears to truly love his/her job.
When you’re enthusiastic about what you do, it sets the tone for all of your interactions and creates better relationships with clients, prospects and business referrers.
If you feel like a culture of passion is lacking, contact us to help you build it.
Creating a culture of passion for your brand is part of our brand development process at Seroka and internal brand adoption. Having a plan in place for internal adoption of your brand is critical for creating passion throughout your team for what you do and also reduces turnover.
When trust has been lost, it’s very difficult to earn it back. Somehow, faith must be restored. Whether you’re a mortgage banker or a company that provides mortgage-related products or services, trustworthiness is the bedrock of your company and your brand. By proactively engaging and checking off each of these steps, you’ll be well on your way to developing trust with your audience, taking your company to a new, exciting level!