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Can Your Customers Really Trust You?

Trust me...I knew a girl in college who always dated “bad boys.” You know the type. Guys who lived dangerously, excited her—and occasionally scared her. So I was surprised when I ran into her not long ago and found she’d married a classmate of ours we’d always thought of as, frankly, kind of boring (actually, he used to say the same about himself). I asked her how married life was treating her and she responded, “Awesome! He’s such a good man and a great father. He treats me and the kids right, every day.”

What’s that got to do with marketing? Well, consider the following:

I get how actions like these might help these companies, at least in the short term. But, seriously, what benefit do these actions provide customers?

Peter Drucker’s “The Essential Drucker”
—one of my favorite books and an essential part of any business leader’s library—states as one of its core concepts that the primary function of a business is to create a customer.

Not exploit the customer.

Not deceive the customer.

And certainly not impersonate the customer to confuse others into thinking that customer thinks more highly of you than they might actually do.

Obviously, you want to make money from your customers. That’s OK. I like making money and highly recommend it to all my clients, too. But I mentioned last week that your customer really is king (or, if she prefers, queen). And the traditional response from kings and queens who feel they’re not being treated well usually goes something like, “Off with their heads!”

Trust plays a central role in any customer relationship, regardless of whether your value proposition focuses on customer service, technical leadership, or price. Customers don’t give their money to companies they don’t trust. Full stop.

Google dominates search activity among Internet users. But the AGFAM companies (Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft, along with Google) offer potential alternatives, as do offerings from IBM, Foursquare, Yelp, TripAdvisor and countless others. ComicCon attracts a passionate group of attendees, deeply engaged with their “fandoms.” But so do DragonCon, Otakon, and many smaller venues.

But being on top today guarantees nothing about the future.

The Internet changes customer behavior and mobile accelerates that change. Customers can find whatever they want, whenever they want, buy from whomever they want and can share that information with their friends, family, fans and followers, pretty much always.

So go ahead and impersonate your customers, use their private information as you will, spread messages in their name whether they want you to or not. The may enjoy the excitement you provide and may want a walk on the wild side, at least for a while. But, just like my college friend, no matter how much they might like dating the dangerous ones, their long-term relationships always will gravitate towards the ones who treat them right.

If you’re interested in learning more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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