Trust as a Catalyst for Growth

Trust Matters

We all know trust is important to business, but how much does it really matter? A lot. Trust is a catalyst for growth. In fact, it is often the factor that makes the difference between companies that merely survive and those that thrive.

Strong relationships with loyal customers are not only a hallmark of successful businesses; relationships built on trust fuel our economy with far-reaching impact.

The Wall Street Journal reported on January 28, 2013: “Trust is an essential lubricant for economic activity. It makes investors, policy makers and consumers willing to take part in transactions with each other, which in turn drives spending, investing and growth. 1

How can your company create the level of trust it needs to succeed?

Trust as the Foundation for Growth

Relationships can’t thrive without being built on a foundation of trust. Trust – or lack of it – can accelerate purchase decisions, streamline internal operations, facilitate innovation and improve adoption of new offerings.

While trust is a concept we understand intuitively, comprehension does not necessarily make it easy to employ in the world of business.

We want to earn the trust of employees and customers who are often skeptical of corporate motives and individual credibility.

To inspire trust, we must first be worthy of trust from others. According to Dr. Graham Dietz of Durham University, trustworthiness consists of three characteristics:

  1. Ability – the technical competence to perform a task reliably
  2. Benevolence – having benign motives
  3. Integrity – acting according to acceptable principles such as fairness and honesty

Dietz explains, “Display these three attributes consistently and credibly, and you will be trusted by all but the most paranoid. Get any of them wrong, and your reputation will suffer. Trust is remade – strengthened or undermined – in every encounter.”2

The Indelible Impact of Trust

The Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual survey of attitudes about trust in 25 countries, found that 81% of global respondents in their 2007 survey refused to buy products or services from a company they did not trust.

Other results of this survey show that when consumers don’t trust a company:

  • 74% criticized them to people they know
  • 70% refused to invest in them
  • 50% refused to work for them
  • 45% ignored their attempts to communicate with them

According to satisfying trust is the new industry standard. Consumers have more power now and want open, honest information and advice.

Trust-based marketing enables you to thrive in a world dominated by a “what’s in it for me mentality.” Cultivating trust shifts and deepens the relationship between a company and its customers.

Trust enables firms to expand and enhance their economic value. In fact, research by Watson Wyatt found that high trust organizations outperform low trust organizations in shareholder ROI by 286%.

Layers of Trust

Trust in organizations is multi-dimensional. There is a difference between trusting relationships with an employee like a sales person and trust in the brand.

Depending on the nature of the relationship, one layer can trump the other. For example, people will often follow an individual such as a financial advisor from firm to firm because of a strong, trusting relationship.

Changes in sales teams can disrupt customer connections when the buyer has a tighter connection with their contact than with the company. This can be particularly challenging for business-to-business marketers who must leverage personal connections as well as product features and benefits.

Certain buying decisions like stopping at a fast food restaurant for a drink highlight the difference between affinity for the seller or the product. In Atlanta, many people are dedicated to the Coca-Cola brand. When they ask for a Coke, they won’t readily substitute a Pepsi. The trust in the restaurant does not transfer to the soda brand.

Inspiring Trust

Trust is multifaceted. It develops over time and can be viewed from many angles. Frameworks can help define the trust strategies best suited to your target segments and situations.

Strengthening trust in your organizations and teams enables them to implement strategies effectively and improve their own performance.

Techniques for developing corporate trust include:

  • Authentic testimonials and reviews.
  • Building on existing personal relationships with references and referrals.
  • Extending trust from an established brand to a line extension.
  • Taking advantage of referred trust from marquee clients or partners.

Reducing risk and uncertainly in a relationship is a key factor in creating trust. To inspire trust, remove potential risks and provide assurance signals that give buyers confidence to move forward.


Fully understanding trust’s tangible benefits can drive the level of commitment needed to implement effective trust development strategies within an organization—and realize a sustainable competitive advantage from increased customer loyalty, sales and ROI.

Marketers can turn trust into a catalyst for growth by identifying and addressing areas in which trust needs to be increased. Creating an environment that fosters a trust inside and outside the organization removes a significant barrier to business growth.

When trust is viewed as the foundation for productive business relationships, organizations are empowered to pursue innovation, increase market share and amplify their profitability.


1 How a Trust Deficit Is Hurting the Economy by Jon Hilsenrath, Wall Street Journal, 1/28/13.

2 How to Rebuild Trust in Business by Dr. Graham Dietz, The Guardian, 3/26/12.

Additional Reading

The Edelman Trust Barometer. Available at
Includes a downloadable infographic on media trust.

Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace by Dennis and Michelle Reina, 2006.

The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything by Stephen M.R. Covey, 2008.

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