Trust Is…

Handshake
Image by Aidan Jones via Flickr

Who do you trust? Why? Who trusts you? Why? Do you trust people because of who they are or what they do? Do you trust them based on what they’ve done in the past or what you expect them to do in the future?

Your answer to these questions might differ from mine or anybody else’s. Trust is a very simple concept, and yet it can be experienced in many different ways. For example, I might trust you to lie to me – which sounds tautologous, depending on your reading of the sentence. The point is that trust embodies several elements that determine its specific meaning. Your history of previous actions, your honesty, your competence.

TRUST EQUALS THE PRODUCT OF ACTION AND TIME

Whatever definition or attributes you assign to trust, when it comes to marketing – be it a non-profit, a political movement or a for-profit enterprise – two necessary variables are key to establishing trust: a valued action and time. Thus, as a practical rule of thumb we could say the following:

Trust = Valued Action x Time

The more actions that I value which you execute and deliver to me over time, the more I will trust you. Building trust, therefore, requires energy and time: and lots of it.

Of course, entropy works in the opposite direction but much faster: while it may take a long time to earn your trust, it only takes one or a few blunders or betrayals in one moment to wreck your trust in me. This is especially important in social media since the subjective experience of Online Time tends to be faster than Offline Time. So perhaps it’s technically more appropriate to say this:

Trust is variably proportional to Valued Action x Time.

Common sense. It’s obvious. Of course, attention to the obvious is the hardest kind to maintain. So what’s the point? you may ask. What’s not so obvious?

ALL ROADS LEAD BACK TO CAPITAL

All investments involve the same two elements as trust: I expect a valued action (Return) over or at the end of the investment cycle (Time).

Which brings us back once again to the core of business, Capital. For Capital depends on Accumulation and Accumulation depends on Investment. Which is to say that Capital depends on Trust.

Moreover, Capital not only depends on Trust – and is not only an act of Trust – it is Trust – at least insofar as the contexts of social relations are concerned (more on that later).

This inter-relationship between Capital and Trust is foundational to all Marketing. It means that you must invest in trust in every portal of capital flows. Revenues are manifestations of the social relations between you and your customers. Expenses are the manifestations of social relations with vendors and employees. Which means: Equity is the manifestation of social relations with everybody, not just owners.

Capital without Trust is a corruption. It’s an acid and, if not buffered in time, consumes itself until nothing good is left (or, to put it more ominously, nothing left is good).

So in the story that you tell your various customers, how are you underwriting their trust? You must know the answer to this above all else, because that’s where you’ll find your Capital.

You have little time and much to do.

Capital is Trust, Trust is Capital.

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