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March 15, 2022

Local Marketing Insider #029 // 3 Steps to Build Trust in Your Next Great Idea

To build trust in a new idea you must find a better-understood reference point, find the selfish benefit, and find surprising advocates. Use these three building blocks to help your prospects bridge the gap between unknown and known.

Trust in a new idea drives adoption. But what coaxes us into trusting new ideas?

At some point, to at least some of your prospects, what your business offers will be new or different. For example, a renter that has always lived in older apartments will be wary of other options. In order to sell them on your newly built apartment complex, they need to first trust the idea that the experience of a new apartment is worthwhile.

Successfully building trust in a new idea is not accidental.

In fact, there are specific psychological and emotional hurdles you can control and overcome as a marketer to help drive adoption. 

How to build trust in a new idea:

  1. Find a better-understood reference point
  2. Find the selfish benefit
  3. Find surprising advocates

Use these three building blocks to help your prospects bridge the gap between unknown and known.

Find a better-understood reference point

These days it’s hard to get away from crypto. The tech world is abuzz. Matt Damon is making commercials. 

For me, it’s foreign. A new idea that I don’t quite understand. At least not enough to partake. It’s sort of like stocks, but I’ve yet to have an “ah-hah” moment. 

I don’t have enough of a reference point to help me bridge the trust gap.

So what have I done about it? Nothing. Moved on with my life. Instead, I’m writing this newsletter.

This is generally how your prospects think when they don’t understand what you have to offer. They need an easily accessible reference point to help them build trust and understanding.

The Early Days of Sushi in America

Sushi was first introduced in the US in the late 1960s. Its adoption was slow, underwhelming.

At the time the thought of eating raw fish was strange. To some, possibly dangerous.

That is until LA-based chef Ichiro Mashita took the less understood ingredients of sushi and combined them with familiar ingredients like cucumber, crab meat and avocado.

Further, putting the rice on the outside helped American restaurant-goers understand and adopt sushi more readily. And the California Roll was born.

Today, the sushi restaurant industry is worth $27.5 billion in the US. Tweaking the ingredients to help draw a degree of familiarity from a reference point contributed to explosive growth.

Apple’s Skeuomorphism

It’s no coincidence that the “trash bin” on Apple’s computer desktop looks exactly like a real-life trash bin. Or that a computer folder looks like something pulled out of a filing cabinet.

This approach is called “skeuomorphism,” using inspiration from physical objects to make digital functionality more understandable.

Instead of forcing users to learn completely new concepts, Apple and other early computer operating system developers designed the functionality of a digital action, for example deleting a file, to mimic throwing a piece of paper in the trash–a concept well known by all.

Side note: interestingly, Apple moved away from skeuomorphism as its primary design philosophy in 2012 because some references, such as a tape reel deck for the podcast app icon, were outdated and confusing in the eyes of younger, digitally native smartphone users.

How new users understand Airbnb

Airbnb is really a trust masterpiece. It's a wonder it works at all. 

That said, I would guess that the majority of the people reading this have experienced an Airbnb stay.

According to Judd Antin, Airbnb’s Director of Research, it’s common for first-time users to wonder if Airbnb owns all the homes on the website and rents them out. This is a known and trusted model for vacation, whether it's staying at a hotel or a bed and breakfast.

Interestingly, when perusing the site for the first time, rather than searching for a vacation destination, instead users will start by looking at what’s available near their home. 

The familiarity is a useful reference point - maybe they will see a place listed that they know. Through this reference point, they are able to put it together, understanding the rentals are all private residences.

Find the Selfish Benefit

Self-driving cars

As reported by the Atlantic, self-driving cars could save 300,000 lives a decade in avoided accidents, accounting for an estimated $190 billion a year in saved healthcare costs.

These are incredible metrics, but attempting to convince drivers to trust and adopt self-driving cars based on this grandiose vision is likely to have limited impact.

To drive the adoption of something new, “what is in it for me?” is usually a better question to ask.

The American commuter spends 52 minutes a day in traffic, adding up to 4 billion hours of wasted time which could be used in better ways. Working, eating, talking to family, watching movies - any of these more desirable activities become possible in a self-driving car.

While the greatest benefit to humanity will be safety, and a major hurdle to jump will undoubtedly be widespread trust that the technology works in fringe cases, the key to mass adoption will likely be driven more by what passengers stand to gain.

Or maybe we will just all work from home. Who knows.

Find Surprising Advocates

Early adopters are undoubtedly important to the mass adoption of new ideas, but they are not necessarily the most influential. 

Author Rachel Botsman talks about the concept of “trust influencers”, which she describes as coming in two forms: social proof from a crowd or “people who inspire change because they are assumed to be the people least likely to take the trust leap.”

Trust Influencer: Social Proof, Crowd

In 1968, social psychologists designed the “Street Corner Experiment.”

The first day, a single person stopped on a street corner to stare at the empty sky for 60 seconds. Only a small fraction of passers-by stopped to see what the person was looking at.

The next day they repeated the same experiment, this time with five people. The result, 4x as many people stopped to see what the group was looking at.

On the final day, 15 people stopped on the corner. This time 45% of all pedestrian traffic looked up to see what the group was looking at. The impact was so dramatic that traffic was interrupted.

From the study, the consensus takeaway is that a crowd becomes more influential as it grows.

Trust Influencer: Surprising Advocates

TransferWise, a financial technology company based out of Europe, helps people abroad transfer money into accounts in other countries for much lower fees than traditional banks.

It pulls this off by identifying two individuals in separate countries attempting to transfer money into an account in the opposite country, and, instead of sending the money internationally, the funds are swapped by the two individuals within the same country.

According to the TransferWise founders the most influential users have not been fintech know-it-alls, but instead, retirees living abroad - say British people living in Spain. Regularly transferring pounds to euros can eat up an impactful amount of a retiree’s budget in banking fees, making this community motivated to see an alternative solution. 

When first-time users heard about retirees endorsing TransferWise it had a significant influence on their decision to trust the method of transfer.

Wrapping up

As you market your business, first consider the idea you are asking customers to trust. 

Maybe that idea is buying a car online. Or renting an apartment in a new community a little further outside of the city.

As you brainstorm how to drive adoption, remember three things:

  1. Find a better-understood reference point
  2. Find a selfish benefit
  3. Find surprising advocates

The first step to driving growth is building trust in the idea you are selling.

A shoutout to the book Who Can You Trust by Rachel Botsman where the bulk of these ideas and examples were sourced. 

I definitely recommend it as a way to better understand trust and its impact on business.

On the back of the book is an endorsement from Marc Benioff (Chairman & CEO of Salesforce), and I could not help but notice Matthew McConaughey talking about trust in Salesforce’s big game commercial this year.

“It’s time to build more trust.”

It's not a stretch to imagine this book influenced that message.

See you in 2 weeks - Jake, Marketing 

P.S. - Thanks to all the Widewail customers that stopped by the Widewail booth this weekend at NADA. It was great to meet you in person and we hope to see you again next year!



Jake Hughes

I’m the Director of Marketing here at Widewail, as well as a husband and new dad outside the office. I'm in Vermont by way of Boston, where I grew the CarGurus YouTube channel from 0 to 100k subscribers. I love the outdoors and hate to be hot, so I’m doing just fine in the arctic Vermont we call home. Fun fact: I met my wife on the shuttle bus at Baltimore airport. Thanks for reading Widewail’s content!

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