Brand Strategy, Customer Obsession, Revenue Growth

The Key Ingredient to Creating Sustainable Business Growth: Trust

As I’ve been writing my book, I sometimes need a change of scenery. I decided to pack up for a few days and spend some time with my parents. On my drive, the ‘check engine light’ flashed on. All I could think was, “Seriously, now?” I have so many other things to deal with and no time to go get it checked out. When I arrived at my parents’ house, I mentioned it to my dad who pragmatically replied, “Never mess around with a check engine light. You need to get that looked at right away.” Before I could respond he said, “I’ll take it to Rand’s.” 

Rands 625For decades, my family has entrusted Rand’s Automotive with the care of our cars. My mom even drives past at least 5 other gas stations and over to the next town to fill up the car with gas at Rand’s. Their unwavering honesty, transparency and quality service has earned our trust. They’re not in the business of selling gas, parts and service – they’re in the business of people and building trusted relationships with customers like my dad. And it’s this trust that fuels revenue for Rand’s:

  1. Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): By earning the trust of people like my dad, Rand’s fosters valuable customer relationships. Like my family, loyal customers trust the brand. They return time and again, bypassing competitors and contributing to CLV. A study by Edelman shows that people with high brand trust (75%) will only buy products from that brand, even when the product isn’t the cheapest, and would immediately consider buying new products from that brand without considering a competitor. 
  2. Referral Revenue: Trustworthy businesses like Rand’s thrive on word-of-mouth referrals. Satisfied customers, confident in Rand’s reliability, readily refer friends and family, generating invaluable referral revenue. Nielsen’s research affirms that 92% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know.
  3. Profitability: Trust directly impacts the bottom line. A study by Edelman found that companies with high levels of trust are 21% more profitable than companies with low levels of trust. Think of what 21% more profitability means to a business like Rand’s! And, trust increases customer retention rates. Research by Bain & Company shows that increasing customer retention rates by 5% can increase profits by up to 95% over the long term.
  4. Sustainable Growth: Trust isn’t just about immediate revenue – it’s about building a foundation for long-term success. Trustworthy brands like Rand’s foster loyalty and advocacy, laying the groundwork for sustainable growth. According to the Salesforce “State of the Connected Customer” report, 92% of B2B buyers are more likely to purchase again from a trusted vendor, highlighting the crucial role trust plays in scaling growth.


Buying is risky business

The reason trust is foundational in creating revenue is because the B2B buying decision is risky. A recent Gartner study showed that 77% of buyers say their last purchase was veryScreenshot 2024 04 04 At 6.05.16 PM complex or difficult. Combine that complexity with the number of vendors and products swirling around your target buyer and the decision process becomes ladened with risk.

Your target buyer is thinking: 

I don’t have all the data to prove this is a good decision. What if I buy this B2B product and it’s a disaster? The onboarding sucks, implementation is a complicated mess, training is little to none, the service team is too busy to take our calls. Or worse yet, the product doesn’t deliver the value I was told it would and I can’t prove the ROI.

This happened to me recently with one of my B2B clients. They had purchased buyer intent software from a well-known vendor. I was leading the implementation and company roll-out. After months of a long implementation and more months using the software, I was digging in on the data to surface ROI metrics to share with the team and board. I couldn’t tie any pipeline or deals to the software and couldn’t show ROI. I dug in deeper with our Ops team and still, nada. When I called a meeting with our account rep to look at the data together, figuring I was missing something, he confirmed there was no pipeline to be had and no deals to be counted. Worse yet, the rep danced around my questions and, instead of rolling up their sleeves together with me, glossed over it and left me with no answers. 

Suddenly, I look bad, my boss (or in this case client) looks bad, the company looks bad and could suffer a financial loss or risk – it could be career-ending for your customer.

The stakes for your buyer are too high

Without trust, buyers aren’t really buyers. They might stall conversations or go dark all together. Trust de-risks B2B buyer decisions by removing the fear of making a bad decision and creating confidence that your company is the best choice. 


Trust fall or fail? 

In my work, I often see companies race to the sale and skip the foundational steps that create a trust fall for the target buyer. According to a survey by Edelman, 81% of B2B decision-makers cite trust as a key factor in their purchasing decisions. In order for a buyer to trust you, they need to see you Screenshot 2024 04 05 At 9.06.24 AM(aka awareness/attention) and believe you (aka consideration/validation), which increases the buyer’s confidence in their decision. When they can interact with people at your company, engage with content, see how it works, try it out, learn from customers’ success and gain a clear understanding of why you are their best choice – on their terms, when they are ready – they start to believe you. Once they believe you, they are ready to trust you. Once they trust you, it’s easier to buy from you. Buyers want easy. As Steve Krug said, “Don’t make me think!” Our job as people in businesses is to reduce the risk for the buyer, which greases the skids for the sale. 

A recent Bain & Co study surveyed 1,208 people at U.S. companies who were involved in buying software, cloud hosting, hardware, telecommunications, logistics, marketing, and industrial equipment. They conducted extensive interviews and looked at habits at each stage of the buyer’s journey — from awareness of products that could address a need, to discovery of which vendors qualify, to consideration of the competing vendors, to the final decision. What is so interesting about the analysis is what it surfaced in terms of buyer behavior: 80%–90% of respondents, depending on what they are buying, have a set of vendors in mind before they do any research and, just as important, 90% of them will ultimately choose a vendor from the day one list. The day one list is the trust list.


Trust fails are revenue killers

Every day, our trust gets eroded, making it harder and harder to know who to trust. I messed up some travel arrangements recently. Total bonehead move as I was juggling my calendar and too many other things. As soon as I realized the mistake, I tried to fix it. The airline’s app wouldn’t let me change it. After an hour on chat with their service team, I was told I needed to cancel and rebook. They said the full amount would be refunded as a credit. Sweet! A few hours later, I still didn’t see it in my account. I went back to the chat and was told: “I’m sorry, ma’am but the ticket was based on a credit and that credit expired when you canceled the flight.” Wait, what? I scrolled up and read the previous chat conversation I had with the other chat agent to the one I’m speaking to now. I tried to explain that the person I spoke to confirmed the credit would be applied – show the proof – and I tried to appeal to the human side of messing up. Nada. He said there was nothing he could do, nothing anyone could do, that was that. “Is there anything else I can do to help you, ma’am?” <me: speechless>

This interaction chipped away at my trust.

I went into the chat with the service team thinking: “I trust this brand and I know they are going to help me fix this!” Instead, an opportunity to reinforce and validate my choice to give this airline my business and loyalty turned into a trust fail. I had to rebook the travel at a significantly higher ticket price and, guess what? I chose to book with a different airline. A decade + of loving this brand and in one day, trust eroded and loyalty gone.


Monetizing trust

I was the in-house CMO for a tech start-up. I was leading the company’s CRM choice and in charge of the decision – I had to get it right. As I started the process, I already had a short list in my head – companies I knew of and saw in my digital travels. I turned to my network to vet the options and pressure-test pros and cons. I was finally ready to set up a demo with each to dig in on the product and ask questions. HubSpot emerged as the top choice. They were everywhere I was – creating Surround Sound – and wrapping me in helpful, insightful content and experiences. I began to understand them more and believe they were the right choice. My interactions with their brand and their people created trust and, soon, I became the champion for HubSpot within my company. They were different from other companies and created a connection with me – they really understood me and what I needed. They treated me like a person, not a number. Ultimately, they won my business.

Screenshot 2024 04 04 At 1.47.38 PM

CRMs are commodities. Your product is likely a commodity too. Technology widgets and features are easily replicated. HubSpot knows this and, as Amy Marino, their Global Head of Brand Marketing says, “The fact is that a B2B purchasing decision is a massively emotional one. When all the options look the same, the emotional connection that your brand elicits can be a differentiator.” 

Trust creates an emotional connection with your company through your people, who represent your brand. Your brand gives your buyers a different experience than all the other companies in your competitive set. Think of your brand as the snow plow that is moving snow out of the way during one of Boston’s famous Nor’easters, making it more efficient for the right buyers to become your best customers. 

Just as Rand’s has secured my family’s trust, your company can cultivate trust with your customers. Prioritize trust in your buyer and customer journeys. Forge trusted relationships and consistently keep your promises. The result? Trustworthy brands that win engaged buyers, earn loyal customers and create sustainable business growth. It’s a matter of trust.

Some love is just a lie of the heartThe cold remains of what began with a passionate startBut that can’t happen to us‘Cause it’s always been a matter of trust

– Billy Joel


Michelle Heath is the founder & CEO of Growth Street. She is a former in-house CMO turned founder, CEO and fractional growth leader. She built brands and led high-performing teams for Fortune 500 companies including J.P. Morgan Chase, where she grew the active trader business, BrownCo, which was acquired by E*TRADE Financial for $1.6B. She went on to lead marketing for several start-ups, including Currensee, which was acquired by the largest Forex broker in Canada. She founded Growth Street in 2013 to give CEOs, CMOs and growth leaders the fractional brand and marketing expertise when they need it to move the needle. Michelle’s expertise is steeped in an early indoctrination in usability, user-centered design and customer experience, which shaped a unique way to tap into customer-obsession to drive business growth. She works with her B2B tech clients to build go-to-market strategies and tactics that create explosive business growth. She is writing her first book, Unrivaled (publish date: Q1 2025), and shares her advice, experience and curiosity on LinkedIn. Giddy up! 

Hero photo credit: Aleksandr Barsukov
Tags: brand strategy, giddy up, growth strategy, revenue growth
Previous Post
The CMO’s Guide to Strategic M&A: Unleashing Customer Obsession to Maximize Value and Unify Brands
Next Post
Debunking Buyer Assumptions: Customer Perspective is Reality