4 Steps to Build Trust With Customers (Marketing Lessons From Seth Godin)

Jul 19, 2018

When did marketing get so complicated? Why is so difficult to know how to build trust with customers, especially when you're starting out?Tech has dramatically transformed marketing in the last decade. From social media to email to landing pages--now you need to learn dozens of skill sets to reach your audience. Or at least that’s what the army of marketing experts tell us.

But is building trust with customers that complex? Seth Godin doesn’t think so. Last year, I invited the legendary author and entrepreneur to join me for an interview on my podcast Everyone Hates Marketers.

How to build trust with customers - seth godin

Seth Godin has authored 18 best-selling books on business and marketing. He also writes one of the most popular blogs in the world.

If you’ve listened to my podcast before, you know I like to challenge my guests to come up with a step-by-step marketing methodology on the spot. The interview was outstanding. I find myself coming back to it often. Each time, I learn something new. So while I’ve written about the specific steps Seth Godin would take to launch a business in 90 days with only $1000, I wanted to dig deeper into some of his ideas.I noticed that most of his methods revolved around how to earn trust in marketing. It’s no coincidence that he’s widely considered to be one of the greatest marketers of all time. In this interview, Seth Godin broke down the “complex world of marketing” into four simple steps:

  • How to find your target audience

  • What separates good vs. bad content marketing

  • The best way to get your content shared

  • When you should start selling to your audience

What follows are the methods Seth Godin uses to earn trust and build a reputation for businesses with marketing.

Step 1: Find Your Narrow Target Audience First

You probably already know that content is a powerful form of marketing when it comes to building a personal connection with your audience.But let’s back up here for a moment. Before we can start working on earning trust from our audience, we have to figure out who they are first.Think small. We instinctively want to go wide with our target market. After all, our goal is to generate a lot of money with our business. It only seems natural that we go after a broader audience, right?But according to Seth Godin, the best target audience is tiny. We need to look for the SMALLEST market possible. However, this market still needs to be one that can support a sustainable business.Why should we take a niche approach?Because narrowing in on your audience helps you grab their attention (without interrupting them). They’re immediately interested in you because they can’t believe someone is offering exactly what they need.I’m with Seth on this.In fact, I think we should take it a step further and focus on the tiniest niche possible. One that might even make us feel uncomfortable because it’s so small. Find this little audience by looking for a current gap in the marketplace. That’s how you niche down and create a small offering.Start with a few questions like:

  • Is there a core audience already? An existing market means there’s already a demand for what you’re selling. This means your idea has the potential to become profitable.

  • What are the demographics of the audience? I recommend you don’t spend too much time getting wrapped up in demographics, but it’s an excellent place to start figuring out people’s interests. Are you serving people in a specific location or based on their age?

  • What makes me different from businesses already serving this audience? Think about what makes you unique. When you run your business like everyone else, you become a commodity.

how to build trust with customers - target audience

Once we have a clearly defined market in mind, it’s easier to create something of value that’s truly relevant to your readers. That leads us to the next step in building trust.

Step 2: Create an Original Piece of In-Depth Content

Develop a valuable piece of free content for your potential audience so you can start building trust by giving away value for free.Seth came up with the example of creating a PDF of the 150 Best Airbnb Places to Stay in Paris. In this scenario, he’s a middleman between travelers and hosts in Paris. There’s nobody currently filling this need in Paris (the gap in our market).Here’s the thing with content.We’re flooded with it online. Most of it is terrible. A lot of this content is usually generic. It’s not original or different from anything else that’s out there. Believe it or not--everybody is just saying the same thing.However, creating ordinary content won’t win trust from our audience.Instead, we need to put real effort into crafting this content. According to Seth Godin, your content must be information that’s truly useful and compelling to your reader.So what we do after we make this valuable piece of content?We give it away for free.This can be on Medium, where there is already a built-in audience hungry for new content and ideas. Post on forums like Reddit, IndieHackers, or Quora. The point is to leverage places where your audience already hangs out to reach them faster. Keep in mind; we can’t just give away free content and expect to win over our audience. It has to be our BEST content.

Step 3: Get Your Content Found by Your Audience

Okay, so we’ve made this great content. We’ve given it away for free online. But how do we get our audience to find it?There’s only one way. Go to where they already hang out. You already went specific with your target market. Chances are, your particular audience probably uses one more platform more than others.

how to build trust with customers - connect

Maybe they’re on Facebook more than any other website. Or perhaps they spend most of their afternoon browsing Pinterest feeds. Members of your target audience might not even have a Twitter account at ALL.This part is easy.Seth Godin believes we take that valuable piece of content and share it where our audience is. This way, anyone who searches for our content will probably discover it.If our content is outstanding--they’ll tell their peers about it too.He even wrote a blog post on this topic. Although it was written nearly a decade ago, it remains one of Seth Godin’s most popular blog posts. He explains that to spread our ideas, we share our content with ten people who need what we sell.If they love it, each person will share it with their audience.  If they don’t like it? You need to start from scratch.

Step 4: Don’t Sell to Your Audience Right Away

We start a business with instant growth in mind.But according to Seth Godin, you need to focus on earning people’s trust before you ever start selling to them. This should be your only priority in the beginning. We’re gaining this trust by giving out remarkable free advice.It all comes down to this.People are tired of hearing pitch after pitch.We’re inundated with marketers selling one thing after another to us. Consider your email inbox. How many times a day do you receive an email from a business pressuring you to buy their product?Similarly, most webinars suck. They’ve become entirely predictable 1-hour sales pitches. One where some internet “guru” spends an hour going on about their credentials instead of sharing the actionable information they promised when you signed up.We can do better than this.If we go back to Seth Godin’s example of 150 Airbnb Places to Stay in Paris, we’re the middleman in the scenario. He explains that we’re looking to earn trust from both the people looking for a fantastic place to stay in Paris--, but we also want to gain trust from the hosts who want visitors to stay with them in Paris.Eventually, word gets out that we’re THE authority on where to stay in Paris.  Our audience of hosts realizes that we’re a resource to help them find the customers they’re looking for. We now become valuable to both sides of our audience. But we still don’t sell anything to them yet.We’re continuing to work toward building trust. Because once you’ve created a piece of content that’s highly targeted and jam-packed with value, people will eventually want to reach out to you. They’re confident you have the answers to their questions. According to Seth Godin, we need to engage with 100-1000 people per day online for free until we become indispensable.Does that range seem like a lot?No doubt about it. It’s natural to wonder how you can find the time to engage with hundreds of people every day.But here’s the thing.We don’t have to give away ALL of our time for free. Seth explains that it’s only free if you’re engaging with your readers for a brief amount of time.

“Most of the time, if I can engage with someone for three minutes, it’s free. But if you want me to get on a plane...or do something special for you, then let’s agree to charge for it because it’s worth it.” -- Seth Godin

If they want more of your time? You charge them for it. After you’ve delivered a ton of value through your content and are responding to their questions, you’ve become trustworthy.Once you win that trust people will happily pay your fee.They know you now. And they’re confident you can help them solve their problems.

Bonus: Why You Shouldn’t Start Advertising Yet

At this point, you’ve had a few customers. And after making some money, you’re ready to invest back into scaling your business.So what’s next?Seth Godin believes you should take what you’ve earned and invested it into repeating this process. Before you start paying for advertising, keep the focus on winning more trust from your audience. Why? Because we don’t need to reach a massive audience yet. Not when we’re a new business. You turn to paid advertising when you need a more extensive reach. In the beginning, we are still working toward reaching other people in our tiny niche. We want that audience to tell their friends about us.Word of mouth is powerful. In fact, this 2016 Nielsen study demonstrates 82% of people trust their friends and family more than advertising. When you deliver a truly incredible experience or share in-depth knowledge that your audience is dying to know, they can’t help but tell their peers about it. People talking to each other and sharing their recommendations is what makes review websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor so popular.

Seth Godin on How to Earn Trust in Marketing

Source: Marketing Charts

This is the main lesson that stood out to me from my interview with Seth Godin:To run a remarkable business, we have to create a product or service that’s different from the competition. We can’t offer the same thing as everything else and not expect it to become a race to the bottom.  

“You can’t begin by saying, “How do we make it just like the others and make it remarkable?” You have to say, “How do we make it different from the others so that it is remarkable?”--Seth Godin

When you use trust as the core component of your marketing, it becomes a race to the top.The way to earn trust is to start with understanding the core reason people use our product or service. We use those emotions to connect with people.Does this sound time-consuming? You bet. The results won’t be instant, and there’s a lot of upfront work.It’s not easy. But at the end of the day--good marketing is straightforward. I think it’s worth the effort.

Key Takeaways:

  • Don’t waste your time creating a piece of generic content. It’s not easy to be remarkable, but it’s the only way to starting earning trust from your audience.

  • Word of mouth is still the most potent form of marketing. Your ultimate goal should be to motivate your audience to share your content with their circle.

  • Work toward building a trusted reputation before you ever start selling anything to your audience. Once you earn people’s trust, they’re willing to pay you whatever you charge.

  • Invest the money you make back into repeating the process and growing your audience.


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