Customer trust in business is eroding: 69% of customers do not trust advertisements, and 71% do not trust sponsored ads on social media, according to a nationwide poll.

Customers used to trust salespeople and advertisements to guide them in their buying decisions. No longer: today, we trust colleagues, friends, family, and third-party reviewers.

It may sound impossible at first, but certain practices can restore the glaring lack of customers' trust in sales and marketing.

Let the Seller Beware

A business concept called caveat emptor—"let the buyer beware"—states that it is the buyer's responsibility to perform due diligence. However, it is the seller's responsibility—caveat venditor, or "let the seller beware"—to provide full disclosure to the buyer by not lying, concealing defects, or advertising with misleading or ambiguous statements.

An advertiser can easily state half-truths and thus allow a customer to come to the wrong conclusions. But, as they say, "A half-truth is a whole lie." The seller has an obligation to be honest and transparent. And when a seller is honest and transparent, sales and marketing win customers' trust.

Trust-Based Marketing: Measuring Your ROMI

Is there a way to calculate your "return on marketing integrity" (ROMI) in relation to increased sales?

It is difficult to track integrity investments, because many factors, such as product demand, distribution, and competition, can confuse the calculation. But as Lynn Upshaw, a member of the marketing faculty of the Haas School of Business, makes clear, the metrics of ROMI are worth the effort because they...

  • Help you learn why customers stay loyal
  • Yield new ways to attract new customers
  • Develop competitive strategies
  • Reduce expenses
  • Protect brand equity during times of scrutiny

The bottom line is that marketing integrity increases profitability.

The Payoff of Full Disclosure and the Right Attitude

In early 2020, I read about a specialty magazine practicing ethical advertising. I was impressed by their values:

  • Constantly monitoring ad-to-content ratio
  • Promotional materials never presented as content—no advertorials
  • No false or inflated claims
  • No nebulous testimonials
  • No negative references to competition
  • Verification of the advertiser's reputation and financial stability

Ruthlessly check the accuracy of your product claims and aggressively pursue trust-based marketing. Your customers will appreciate learning the truth about what you are selling without resorting to exaggerations or disparaging your competitors.

The Importance of an Honest Picture

I remember a story about the importance of telling the truth by not omitting facts. A wise teacher who founded a learning center in New Jersey acquired a small building for the purpose. The walkway leading up to the building was lined with trees, two on one side and three on the other.

A photograph of the building was taken, and a graphic designer felt that the picture would look better if another tree were added to the walkway so that there would be three trees on either side. An extra tree was inserted into the picture.

When the teacher saw the finished image, he was disappointed and exclaimed, "This is not a true likeness of this house of learning!" He ordered that the picture be discarded and a new one prepared.

He declared: "I'm building a house of learning based upon the foundation of the principles of truth and honesty, so I do not want even a small trace of misrepresentation or dishonesty to be involved in the foundation of this institution!"

That was over 75 years ago. Today, the house of learning has more than 4,000 active students, and five trees still stand in front of it.

Advertising With Integrity Builds Customer Trust

If you scrupulously practice sales and marketing with integrity, you will gain...

  • Repeat business
  • Referral customers
  • Larger and more profitable orders

As Warren Buffett famously said of businesses, "We can afford to lose money—even a lot of money. But we can't afford to lose...even a shred of reputation."

More Resources on Trust in Marketing

Five Ways to Build Trust—and Tipping Points for Choice

Transparency and Trust: The Key Links Between Data Regulation and Customer Experience

Three Ways to Create Trust-Building Content

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Why Honesty and Integrity Pay: The Benefits of Truth-Based Marketing

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image of Joel Malkoff

Joel Malkoff, AKA the Ethics Giver, demonstrates that ethical business decision-making isn't just the right thing to do—it's the profitable thing to do. Selling Ethically: A Business Parable Connecting Integrity with Profits is his debut book.

LinkedIn: Joel Malkoff