The First Step In Reputation Management – Be Trustworthy

It really comes down to trust.  If you’re authentic and you develop a great reputation it’s because you’ve worked hard on developing a high level of trust between you and the stakeholders you serve.

At the same time developing a great reputation is something that takes a lot of hard work, planning and thinking about the message you want to deliver.  I’m hoping that you want to be authentic in who your firm is.  If you do, you’ll be seen as unique as well.

Here are some things I’ve learned about this subject:

Start with knowing how trust is built.

I’m a big fan of the book, The Trusted Advisor.  In fact, I think that anyone who has customers or clients should make this book required reading for their entire firm.

In the book there is a simple formula for figuring out how much trust you have with others.  The formula is:

Reliability + Intimacy + Competence/Self-Interest.

Reliability means do you do what you say you’re going to do when you say it’ll be done. Intimacy is how much you care about others as individuals.  Competence is plainly how good you are at what you do.  And, self-interest is how much you care about your needs versus my needs.  From there you can see if the actions you’re doing build or tear down trust.  If was to ask you the question about whether you build or tear down trust, what would your answer be?

Ask yourself how you build trust with your stakeholders?

Reputation management is taking specific actions that help you show stakeholders that you and your firm are someone they should be considering.

First, you have to figure out who the audience is that you want to work with.   The problem with lots of wealth managers is that they believe they have to be all things to all people.  When you do this you actually become inauthentic in your statements to everyone.  The more specific you are about what type of services you provide, opportunities you take advantage of and problems you solve the more authentic you become.

Second, look at the trust equation and ask yourself how your firm fits in with the trust formula.  You should see areas where you can make big improvements and it should become pretty obvious what those areas are.

What makes your firm different than all the other firms in the world?

I’m going to bet that if you’re like many wealth managers this is going to be a very difficult question to answer.  The fact is when I talk with most wealth managers; they don’t have a really good answer to this.  The answers I get all sound the same.

If you’re going to be different you have to narrow cast your message.  You can’t be different when you serve everyone.  You can be different when you focus on a very small group of people.  You might be surprised to find these small groups can be pretty large.

I recently ran across a wealth manger who specializes on working with military personnel stationed in Germany.  This wealth manager can really build an authentic story about what makes him different.  What’s your story going to be?

Are you willing to be brave and tell people what makes you different?

When you tell people what makes you different you run the risk of having some people who might do business with you decide you’re not the right firm.  I think you have to be willing to take this risk.  If you don’t want to offend anyone, you sound very bland and the best clients you should serve never figure out that you’re the right firm for them.

I think it’s hard to be authentic and bland at the same time.  I want you to think about being brave and letting those who you really can help know why you can help and let the chips lie where they may with everyone else.

The big question:  Are you willing to walk your talk.

Too many times I hear all sorts of businesses tell me all the great things they’re going to do.  Unfortunately, most of the time it’s just that, talk.  The issue is that for you to be real and authentic you have to do what you say you’re going to do.

This idea goes back to trust.  It takes a long time to build it and seconds to destroy it.  All you have to do is not walk your talk and you automatically get placed in the group of pretenders.  And you don’t want to be part of that group do you?

Some simple steps you can take.

Here are five things you can do to help you develop an authentic reputation:

  1. Be brave and decide you’re going to develop a narrow market segment.
  2. Review all of your marketing literature using the trust equation.  See where you can make improvements.
  3. Hold a meeting in your office and discuss both the trust equation as well as where you fall down on your promises.  You have to be honest here.  Start the conversation with honesty and your staff will follow.
  4. Put together programs that will help you fix any trust issues you might have and where your communications aren’t congruent with your firm’s actions.
  5. Be specific when you talk about your firm.  Vague platitudes never help potential clients figure out whether your firm is right for them.  When your language is vague it never makes you authentic or interesting.

What have I missed here?  Are you willing to take the first step in becoming authentic?


Topics: Creating Value, differentiation, trust equation, building trust

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