9 Ways to Gain the Trust of Members and Customers

For 18 years running, nursing has been the most trusted profession in the U.S. In a Gallup poll, 85% of Americans rate the honesty and ethics of nurses highest among a list of professions. Next, on the trust scale, are engineers at 66% and medical doctors at 65%.

If your members, customers, and prospects had to rank your association on the trust scale, where do you think you’d come in compared to your competitors? Pretty high, you’d assume, especially with members. But how can you be sure? If you were the most trusted, wouldn’t you have more members and customers? Wouldn’t you dominate the market?

Trust is a marketing asset. Take a few moments to understand why nurses are so trusted and how your association can demonstrate the same characteristics.

gain the trust of members

Why nurses are the most trusted profession

Nurses are patient-focused advocates. They’re primarily concerned with the patient’s care and best interests. Patients trust and count on nurses to stand up for them, plead their case, and lobby for their needs.

Nurses are motivated by their mission and sense of duty, not their egos. They don’t have ulterior motives. They just do the right thing.

Nurses deliver on expectations. They don’t overpromise—they will tell you, “This will hurt.” They’re always there in a patient’s time of need.

Nurses are caring communicators. They’re perceptive listeners who spot problems and address concerns. They have a compassionate bedside manner and know what to say to ease worries.

Nurses are competent, reliable, and credible sources of information. They act as interpreters who help patients understand the situation.

Have you noted parallels to associations as you read this list? Associations stand out from many of their competitors because they are:

•    Member- and learner-focused.
•    Advocates for their constituents’ best interests.
•    Driven by mission and an ethical sense of duty.
•    Striving to meet expectations and be there in time of need.
•    Perceptive about member and learner needs.
•    Competent, reliable, and credible sources of information.

Standing out amidst a crisis in trust

Trust is a market advantage these days since we’re in the midst of what a Harvard Business Review cover story described as "The Trust Crisis."

Numerous polls and surveys have documented a decline in people’s trust of businesses and institutions. The annual Edelman Trust Barometer found only 57% of people trust non-governmental organizations, 56% trust businesses, and 47% trust the media. Only one in three respondents said they trust most of the brands they buy and use.

Some of the culprits responsible for the trust crisis are:

•    Data breaches
•    Employee working conditions
•    Executive compensation
•    Corrupt or misbehaving CEOs
•    Minimal corporate tax payments
•    Fake news

Brands know how the public feels so they’re jumping over each other to prove how socially responsible they are. This ‘trustwashing’ isn’t working that well. 56% of Edelman respondents say brands are using their stance on social issues as a marketing ploy, and 53% believe brands are less than truthful when talking about their impact on society.

A surprising response to the trust crisis came from the Business Roundtable. Since 1997, the Roundtable has stated that corporations exist principally to serve shareholders. In August, a new Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation was signed by 181 Roundtable CEOs. They committed to leading their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders—customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and shareholders.

Although grandiose, this action will hardly encourage people to trust these corporations more than they do now. After all, words are just another example of trustwashing unless they’re backed up by action.

gain the trust of members

9 ways to gain the trust of members and customers

Trust is your association’s differentiator in a crowded marketplace. Here are nine ways you can demonstrate that your association and programs are worthy of your members, customers, employers, and prospects’ trust.

#1: Emphasize your focus on member and customer needs. Your marketing messages must emphasize how you have your members and customers’ best interests at heart. Prove how much you care about the impact your programs make on a person’s career or company.

#2: Lead with your mission—that sets you apart. Remind the market that your organization is mission-driven and member-led. You’re not just in it for the money.

#3: Do the right thing, every single time. Choose honesty over profit. If you’re not the right fit, say so. If you make a mistake, fix it.

#4: Exceed expectations. Go the extra mile every now and then. People seek connections, so help them do that. Provide advice on the optimal learning pathway. Offer extra value in your learning programs.

#5: Ask for, listen to, and act upon feedback. Tell poll and survey participants how you put their feedback into action. Set up advisory boards for different career stages and specialties, as well as employers.

#6: Provide social proof. Your biggest advocates and influencers are existing members and customers. The Edelman report said that 63% of respondents from ages 18 to 34 trust what influencers say about a brand more than what a brand says about itself. Their most trusted brand spokespeople are “people like me,” experts, and brand employees.

Word-of-mouth marketing builds trust. Gather and share testimonials and success stories. Show how an educational program or membership has made a difference in someone’s life.

#7: Provide digital proof too. People make assumptions about trustworthiness based on your website. Does it demonstrate authority, credibility, competitiveness, and competency? Your website must:

•    Load quickly.
•    Be mobile-friendly.
•    Be easy to navigate and search.
•    Have updated information.
•    Look modern.

Optimize your website architecture and copy so it ranks high in search results.

#8: Address fears and doubts. Making a purchase or registering for a program is an emotional decision. You must convince people they’re making a smart choice, especially if they’re spending their own money, not their employer’s.

They’re thinking: “Will this program really make a difference? Is it worth the money? Will I learn enough? Will I use what I learn?”

Preemptively answer those unasked questions: “Let’s see what your peers say”. “Here are some pros and cons to consider.”

#9: Act like a human. Abide by the Golden Rule: treat members, customers, and prospects as you want to be treated. Think in terms of relationships, not transactions. Evaluate your policies. Is the short-term result worth the long-term consequences? Keep in mind that empathy and benevolence are factors influencing trust, per Pew Research.

Trust is a hard-to-earn, precious asset. Once lost, it’s not easily regained. Associations have all the advantages in the trustworthiness marketplace, but can’t be complacent about it. Through words and actions, you must continually remind and prove to people that you’re worthy of their trust.

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