‘Transparency’ and ‘trust’ are buzzwords in marketing. Although there are dissenting opinions regarding their effectiveness, it remains true that openness and honesty are foundations on which real relationships are built. This is the case in business as well as real-life relationships.
In this article, we’ll discuss how being transparent builds trust with customers and makes them more willing to engage with your brand. We’ll also discuss four tips for implementing this practice. Let’s get started!
What It Means to Be Transparent in Business (and the Relationship Between Transparency and Trust)
Social media has made it extremely easy to keep tabs on others. We freely share our personal and professional lives and wonder what people have to hide if they avoid platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. A lack of an online presence tends to trigger a vague sense of unease.
The Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks reveals have been influential in making the current generation associate a lack of transparency with corruption. However, instituting openness can be challenging without some clarity on what it truly involves.
Although it can mean different things to your customers, transparency, first and foremost, entails keeping the public duly informed of how your business is run. This means being honest and accountable to your customers and other stakeholders. In practice, this might involve:
- Revealing how your products are made
- Sharing personal stories from your brand’s founder or employees related to how the company started
- Giving honest responses regardless of how tough or sensitive the questions your customers ask are
- Encouraging honest discussions and suggestions for improvement
In a study by the PR firm Edelman, the most influential factor in determining a company’s trustworthiness for 83 percent of U.S. consumers was whether or not it had transparent and honest practices in place.
This only makes sense. After all, real-life relationships are built on transparency. To quote Dr Brené Brown, a vulnerability researcher and storyteller who studies human connection, “In order for connections to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen—really seen.”
However, just like criticism, transparency needs to be constructive. If revealing information won’t bring anything to the table for you or your audience, you don’t have to share it.
4 Tips for Building Trust With Transparency
It’s one thing to understand what it means to be transparent and the benefits of doing so. However, building this practice into the fabric of your company’s culture can be challenging. The following tips are effective jumping-off points for getting started.
1. Build Trust With Transparent Business Practices
Transparent business practices involve everything from how you handle users’ data to day-to-day workplace culture. A New York Times article on Amazon’s unhealthy workplaces illustrates this. Your customers expect that your brand should embody the same values they hold dear.
To build a transparent company, you’ll also need to hire employees who are authentic. You’ll want to engage with them by doing on-site visits, encouraging them to speak up, and providing incentives to promote honesty. In other words, your brand may need to undergo a complete cultural change.
As mentioned earlier, transparency can involve being open about how your products are made. For example, if your target customers include eco-conscious and sustainability-minded folks, sharing behind-the-scenes video of how your products are made using business practices in tune with those values can gain you their loyalty.
2. Create Avenues For Communicating With Your Customers
Transparency is the backbone on which relationships are built. Being honest and accountable involves communication. One way to achieve this is by creating channels for your customers to reach out to you.
This can include contact via email, live chat, phone, social media, and more. However, it’s not enough to just create these channels; you’ll want to ensure easy access and prompt responses, too. As your business grows, the size of your customer care personnel team will need to grow with it.
You can take this further by posting regular updates on your blog about relevant decisions that affect your customers. Communication also needs to happen around what your brand stands for, both internally and externally. Your values should be apparent in how matters are handled, even when this involves addressing sensitive and tough issues.
To illustrate, on February 16, 2016, Apple CEO Tim Cook published a message to customers regarding an order by the FBI to unlock the phone of a terrorist. He explained the company’s refusal, stating that doing so would set a dangerous precedent of compromising the security and privacy of their customers.
3. Implement Thought Leadership In Your Content Marketing
Thought leadership ties in with transparency as another way to communicate with your customers. The accumulation of all the knowledge your company possesses is one of its most valuable assets. These insights are built over time and are unique to each individual.
This is a differentiating factor for your company, and you’ll want to encourage each employee to create personal brands and share these insights in the form of thought leadership. This can help you connect with your customers and gain their trust.
Something to note here is the need to limit narcissistic self-promotion. You’ll want to encourage authenticity and adherence to your brands’ overall goals. The point of this strategy is to create real relationships and bonds with customers.
Your thought leadership should also deliver real value, as your customers can easily tell if all you’re publishing amounts to no more than fluff. You’ll also want to discuss real, sensitive issues—but only when you’re knowledgeable about them. Otherwise you’ll just be adding to existing noise.
Something else to consider is consistency. Your customers need to know what to expect and when to expect it. This enables them to stay engaged with your brand and provides you with ongoing opportunities to connect with them.
Lastly, you want to distribute content through the right channels. This means going where your target audience is. If you market primarily to teenagers and they’re spending time on the newest social media platform, start publishing there, too.
4. Leverage Technology to Uncover New Insights
One last tip for instituting transparency in your company involves leveraging technology. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning have given us the ability to dig through more and more data to uncover new insights. For example, data from hiring or payroll can be mined and analyzed to uncover issues such as gender pay gaps or a lack of diversity.
This builds on our previous point regarding thought leadership. Depending on the scope of your business, data gathered from your processes, management, and customer relations can be analyzed and shared with customers and your industry at large if it exposes practices that need to be stopped or methodologies that could be improved.
It takes time and effort to build relationships, especially in business. However, to successfully engage with your customers, it’s imperative that you form authentic connections with them. To do so, you’ll need to be transparent about your practices, create avenues for communication with your customers, build thought leadership, and leverage technology to uncover new insights.
Do you have any questions about building trust with transparency? Let us know in the comments section below!
Image credit: Pexels.