The Trust Return on Investment? What’s that?

If you are like most organizations, your marketing budget has been squeezed and squeezed as customers become tighter with their spending and competitors become more and more fierce. This means that more and more, the return on marketing investment needs to be measured and maximized.

As you’ve read in my previous articles, the business case for testimonials is a slam dunk. Testimonials dramatically improve click through and action rates. It makes sense: social proof makes the prospect view their action as less risky if they see that others have realized the benefit they are seeking.

What hasn’t necessarily been clear is how this return on testimonials compares to other marketing investments. And I do say return as testimonials do require an investment: the effort to collect, manage and publish them.

Enter an extremely interesting study by Nielsen who measured Consumer Trust in Advertising Channels. Essentially, they looked at the various ways that a business delivers its message to prospects, and determined the degree to which that prospect trusted that message. In other words, they measured the return in terms of trust.

At the very top of the list of the most trusted source of information is social proof – recommendations from peers and on-line opinions. Recommendations from people I know is at the very top, being trusted by over 90% (Trust completely + Trust somewhat).

What was fascinating about the report was the substantial difference between social proof and more conventional forms of advertising. I suspect there are few organizations that do not do some form of on-line advertising: banner ads, search engine ads, etc… Compare the trust associated with these marketing investements:

The trust levels of these marketing investments start at 41 percent and drop from there.

I’m not suggesting that businesses shouldn’t advertise in these channels. What I am suggesting is:

  1. Don’t put your eggs in one basket. If you are focussing your marketing investment in these advertising channels, are you ignoring testimonials? Ensure that you are taking the time to systematically gather, review and publish testimonials. If you are struggling to find the time to do this – consider a tool like Testimonial Director.
  2. You can take advantage of testimonials to improve the trust of these less-trustworthy channels. Add testimonials to your advertising and landing pages. Those will increase the trust return, improving the payback from these investments.

As the Nielsen data shows, social proof is the most trusted source of information used by your prospects to make a buying decision. When you think of your getting more bang-for-your-marketing dollar – ensure you’re maximizing your trust return on investment. The financial return will take care of itself.

Dedicated to increasing your sales,

Colleen Francis

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