In the Battle For Members, These 5 Keys Can Help You With Your Biggest Business Opportunity; Earning Trust.

By: Mike Escobedo

It was great to see so many of you in San Diego this week at the #IHRSA2019 show. Thanks to all who attended our ABC Financial event and visited us at the booth. In addition to the joy of reconnecting and seeing so many gym, fitness, and health club friends and professionals, a big takeaway I had from the conference related to Rohit Bhargava’s keynote talk on Friday morning. His book Likeonomics is worth a read and the theme of his keynote at IHRSA was on how important earning trust has become to businesses in an increasingly skeptical world.

We are all apparently suffering from a believability crisis. According to Rohit, we are living in a time when it is harder to earn trust than ever before. People skip ads, mistrust brands, and believe governments and institutions are manipulating them. People disagree on what “facts” actually are.

There are many very credible research reports that attest to his views and the believability trend; check out the Edelman Trust Barometer for example. In fact, almost 80% of US consumers want to confirm the brands they do business with actually care about them and others. This has had historic implications which Bhargava pointed out in a few relevant slides including the one below:

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As a result people just do not trust businesses and if people do not trust you they are going to have a real problem becoming your customer or staying on as your customer. According to Rohit people trust who they like, which makes sense, and as the famous marketer David Ogilvy once said:
 The more people trust you, the more they buy from you.” - David Ogilvy

David was right and his quote is even more relevant today. So how do you gain trust? How do we overcome the believability crisis? Well, it is not easy and it takes some time. Trust can take years to earn and seconds to break. However, Rohit outlined the following 5 foundations of earning trust in today’s world that you should keep in mind:

  • Truth. Being transparent and showing people what is going on behind the scenes, including the good, bad and ugly, is essential for folks to start to believe in the idea that you do not have an agenda to make things seem other than they truly are. Hiding from the truth and not sharing it openly, even if it hurts in the near term, is not a good strategy today. Embracing the truth is a far better path to earning trust.
  • Relevance. Sharing purposeful stories is the foundation of transparent communication that earns trust. Being relevant today requires brands and organizations to connect purpose in real ways with their mission, vision, and values so that customers can become believers in what you do. When you tell purposeful stories people will relate to that. Here’s a secret, user-generated content that tells the story is more valuable than anything brands can ever produce.
  • Unselfishness. Acting in small and big ways that show you are not out for money alone is important in earning trust. Paul Schaller’s recent article Why Showing Your Member’s Gratitude Is Smart Business speaks to this dynamic.
  • Simplicity. If your communication and storytelling aren’t simple to understand people cannot share it well. Crafting a simple message around all that you communicate is essential to success. We can often make things too complex and therefore confusing which erodes trust.
  • Timing. Finally, Rohit shared the story of Einstein and his colleague Max Plank. You can learn more about it here . The point being that when Einstein was a patent clerk and published his theory of relativity, which argued that much of the prior thinking in physics was wrong, he would have had little success without the support of the established Plank physicist, who supported and believed in Einstein’s theories. Timing is everything.

A lot of mistrust pertains to our wide adoption of technology across all industries. This is a big opportunity if when we are considering further adoption of technologies around the customer to create better user experiences we keep the customer and their real-world sentiments in mind. Kelly Card’s recent post Why Humanology - Not Technology Alone - Will Become Increasingly Important In The Fitness Business explores this subject. Here is a relevant quote:

“Technology should be an invisible enhancer of authenticity, great service, and experiences. Humanology as a theme should be at the forefront of innovation in our industry space and driven by the experience and feelings we provide and evoke in our members, not for the sake of the technology alone. That is why “Humanology” will rule as the key driver while “Technology” should be its dutiful servant.

Kelly is on point and aligns with this theme which Rohit touched on during his Keynote. As we adopt more technology to enhance our businesses and user experiences we have to remember that being human is going to become more relevant as technologies have become more pervasive. We should use digital to be more human and therefore give people more reasons to trust us.

I cannot say enough good things about the keynote speakers at IHRSA this year and Rohit Bhargava’s message about the importance of trust in a skeptical world really resonated. If you’d like to hear a few tidbits I’ve included a video from another talk that touched on some of these points. You might find it entertaining.

So what do you think about the value and opportunity of trust in your fitness, health club, or gym business? I’d love to hear your thoughts.