Imagine you’re Grog, a caveman. You killed a boar and are carrying around a huge chunk of meat, but now a storm is coming and you need to find shelter for the night. You see a cave in the distance and decide to make your way there. Now you’re outside the cave. You can hear voices coming from inside. The storm is near, so at this point, you can either
- enter the cave and offer some of your meat as a “peace offering”
- enter the cave and start clubbing its inhabitants
I imagine that, sometime in our ancestors’ past, someone needed to make this decision. And if they decided to offer a peace offering, they probably lasted longer. This is because they developed trust with others.
Trust, as it turns out, is a huge, recurring aspect of life. And by understanding it, we can understand why people choose to buy (or not to buy) from companies.
A guy takes a girl on a date. He brings her flowers – a thoughtful present – because he wants to show her that he’s invested. This builds trust. In the same vein, a hooded man who approaches a woman in the middle of the night is seen as creepy. No trust is built.
Trust is the reason we have dogs. We domesticated wolves by giving them food, and in return, they offered us protection while we slept. Over time, we bred them and spread them to different continents, and now we have “man’s best friend”. We built a mutually beneficial relationship out of trust.
Trust is how we make friends. It’s how we win over others. And it can be applied to business.
Amazon built their empire on trust. If you don’t like something, you can send it back! If your package is stolen, Amazon will send you another for free and eat the cost. Their review system even highlights the most critical review – something their competitors are too scared to do.
Another example: let’s say a regular guy designed a hat and tweeted about it. He might get a few dozen orders if the design is good. When Elon Musk does the same thing, he can sell $700,000 worth in a few days. It’s not that people trust his fashion sense (which is, I admit, remarkably good), but rather that they trust him.
Even Kylie Jenner’s brand is built on trust. While any other makeup would work, younger girls buy Kylie’s makeup because they watch her show, they follow her on social media, they read her website… They’ve seen the results from her, and they want to be like her.
Every relationship we opt into – business or otherwise – is built on trust.
How to build trust
I like to think that everyone is worthy of being trusted. But most of us don’t know how to show others that we deserve their trust. Building trust is simple when you break it down:
1. Produce things of value
Trust is built by producing valuable things over time. If you’d like to be trustworthy, find an industry you enjoy and produce valuable things in it. Write. Build. Vlog. Tweet. Podcast. Create. Promote all of this and make sure it gets in front of others’ eyes.
And when I say, “produce valuable things”, I’m leaving it vague on purpose! It’s different in every situation. I’ll give a few quick examples:
- Pieter Levels makes his products in public. Now, he can poll his audience to validate new products and features. He even makes his revenue public.
- Paul Jarvis has released content about design and business ownership every Sunday for years. He now sells courses, software, and even lands book deals because of his audience.
- Felix Kjellberg (the YouTuber PewDiePie) started his career by making videos of himself playing video games. Now he can leverage his audience of 64 million people to do charity work, start clothing companies, and land sponsorships.
- Randall Pich (LVFT), Christian Guzman (Alphalete), and Ben Francis (Gymshark) built niche audiences and leveraged influencers’ audiences to build huge athletic apparel brands. (Gymshark grew to $100 million in just 6 years!)
- Andy Frisella spent thousands of dollars of his own money to send self-help books (like The Magic of Thinking Big) to every one of his early podcast listeners. I can confirm – I was one of them. He grew an audience on social media and built his business from nothing into a $200M sports nutrition empire.
- KingGothalion is a Twitch streamer who diversified into B2C high-end coffee. Think about that: thousands of hours of video gaming content helped him build a luxury food brand. After people get to know the “real you”, you’re free to experiment in other industries!
- Wendy’s and MoonPie have hilarious Twitter accounts on purpose. It’s brilliant guerilla marketing: just strange and sassy enough to show that there are people behind the brand:
Sometimes the 1st bite of MoonPie is the best bite other times it may be the 2nd bite anyway Linda if you’re listening I’m sorry please tell me what I did wrong— MoonPie (@MoonPie) January 4, 2018
Contrast this with IBM, whose corporate-speak Twitter has a whopping ~460,000 followers and they can’t even get 100 likes/retweets on some of their posts! MoonPie can pass that in seconds with half the follower count. Yes, they serve vastly different markets, but you’d be blind not to notice a lesson there.
2. Add multipliers
In addition to producing meaningful things over a long period of time, there are also multipliers to help us build trust faster. We tend to build trust more quickly with those who:
- look like us
- talk like us
- act like us
- share our interests
- have similar goals
- spend time around us
- spend time in our communities
- are people we’d like to be
- have helped us achieve our goals
- have been recommended by people we trust
Most of these are self-explanatory, but the last three are especially interesting:
- We build trust with people we’d like to be. These are the people who have the career, appearance, relationship, or health we want. We want to be like them, so we emphasize their advice over others’.
- We trust those who’ve helped us achieve our goals. If someone has previously gotten you results, you’ll trust them more. You’ll return to the store that treats you well. You’ll buy from the person who has given you great advice. Some books even follow this principle: in the Four Hour Body, Tim Ferriss starts the book with easy tips that produce rapid weight loss before introducing harder solutions that take more effort. Readers quickly see a benefit to following his first recommendations, so they become invested in completing the rest of the book.
- We trust those who’ve been recommended by people we trust. This is how influencer marketing works. It’s also how many people meet their partners: my parents met this way, as did several of my friends. Much of the business world runs solely on recommendations. That’s why organic growth through “word of mouth” is so magical!
People buy from those they trust. Therefore, if you want to sell something, you need to first build trust. Gain trust by producing things of value, and add multipliers to build it faster. Once you’ve gained trust, selling will be easy.