Sales & Marketing

Trust – The most important currency in politics and business

6 min read

27 May 2015

Since December last year, politicians have fought hard to prove they should be entrusted with driving the UK forward. The campaigning is over now, but one key theme became apparent along the campaign trail: trustworthiness.

Politicians’ connection with their electorate is comparable to the relationship between any organisation and its customers. Trust can be understood as that unique display of ability, benevolence and integrity that we all know takes care and attention to build and maintain. Trust is a necessary component to all leadership, whether that is in business or politics.

Extensive marketing strategies are designed to engage consumers and build brand advocates. Election campaigns are, at their heart, marketing campaigns with huge financial and emotional investment. With 30m turning out to the polling stations in 2015, political audience engagement is at enviable heights compared to the average business equivalent.

So what lessons can businesses learn about harnessing trust from the scale and scope of national political campaigns?

At the core of every political election campaign is “every vote counts”. You just have to look at the age-old door-knocking approach to see how hugely effective this personal approach can be. But when was the last time you saw a business employ a strategy so directly aimed at informing customers why it is better than its nearest competitors? Politicians understand this, whilst many businesses still have a long way to go here, in delivering a truly personal customer experience.

Read more about personalisation:

The 2015 general election has been a masterclass for businesses on how to produce targeted content to create the broadest appeal to your audience. Personalisation is more important than ever before, and each year increasing numbers of customers cite a personalised brand experience as a key purchasing driver. Facebook, Twitter, Buzzfeed and catch-up TV have all evolved since 2010, and in turn, so has politics. You just need to look to Cameron’s use of Buzzfeed or Miliband’s love of Instagram for tips on how to build trust amongst a target audience online.

Politicians also really understand the importance of growing a central group of brand advocates. Core party supporters prove vital in all general elections for ‘getting the vote out’, as well as spreading the word in future elections. In the same way, customer endorsements and advocacy hold the key to future business growth too.

Gartner research shows that 80 per cent of a business’ future revenue comes from just 20 per cent of existing customers with the probability of selling to an existing customer around 60 to 70 per cent, compared to just five to 20 per cent for a new prospect. Politicians have caught on, businesses need to catch up.

There are lessons the political community can learn from business. Sometimes politicians can’t deliver on promises made during an election, risking undermining the engagement they’ve achieved during an election once they’ve taken office. Voters’ expectations are driven by their experiences outside of the ballot box and it’s the same on the high street. 

People are increasingly more demanding and less tolerant of under-performance. When someone purchases something, they expect professional service and quality goods. Exactly the same should go for politics. Trust must not only be built but also continually maintained, and politicians could take note from the business world about how important living up to expectations is for any brand.

Consumers also expect transparency on every step of the business journey. It’s inevitable that not everyone will be 100 per cent happy all the time, but our Trust Economy research shows that 15 per cent of consumers are more likely to do business with a company who has accepted responsibility and positively responded to negative feedback. By building constituent feedback into policies and campaigns, politicians can help find solutions to problems, much like the way businesses are leading the way with tools such as online reviews.

By accepting responsibility, voters or customers can be sure that they have selected an honest and transparent choice who truly values every individual’s experience. The campaign methods of politicians during election season offer plenty of food for thought for businesses, from personalisation to the role of brand advocates. But businesses are increasingly understanding the power of a transparent approach and how to learn from customer feedback. Only once politicians understand this will they be able to not only build trust during their election campaigns but also maintain it throughout their time in office.

Mikkel Drucker is VP of marketing at Trustpilot.