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BLOGInsight: Marketing Beyond Commitment with the Trust Chain

by Randall CraigFiled in: Blog, Insight, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Marketing, StrategyTagged as: , , , ,

The Trust Curve is one of the most important Marketing 2.0 concepts around.  It states that as trust builds over time, the relationship strengthens and the target person (prospective client, prospective member, prospective employee, etc) moves through the stages of awareness, preference, trial, and commitment.

The job of marketing is to put together initiatives that help that target person or organization along on this journey.  Those initiatives can be as simple as PR (awareness), blogging (preference), or an interview (trial).  Or they can be more complex, and cross a number of these stages:  a Social Media strategy, a new product launch plan, etc.

Key marketing question: What happens after Commitment?  If there is a significant investment in marketing to get a target to finally transact, how can this marketing investment be spread across transactions beyond the initial one, both additional ones with the same client, and additional ones through referral?

To answer, look more deeply at two parts of the Trust Curve: Trial and Commitment.  Trial is the test drive, while commitment is the transaction. If the target transaction is to sell a book, then a potential Trial initiative might be to give away a few chapters, or to provide a discount coupon.  Or if the target commitment is a large service engagement or a large product sale, one Trial initiative might be to sell them a book.  The book in these two cases serves two purposes: a demonstration of commitment, and a trial for the next transaction.  Every interaction is merely a test drive – a Trial – for the next transaction.  We call this the Trust Chain.


Yes, the marketing strategist must determine the initiatives underlying the Trust Curve, but to build a strong, engaged “ecosystem”, the Trust Chain demands far more, starting with excellent delivery. Not only must there be no buyer’s remorse, but the post-commitment experience must vastly exceed their expectations.

To put this concept into practice, one must first define the potential chain of next-step products and services that your target might be interested in – the actual Trust Chain.

For an association, the Trust Chain might look like this:

  • Attends monthly meeting as a guest.
  • Becomes a member.
  • Chooses to attend annual conference.
  • Volunteers on a committee or at an event.
  • Sits on Board.
  • Seeks certification.
  • Teaches courses in the area.

In professional services – say an accounting firm – the Trust Chain would be quite different:

  • Attends a tax planning seminar.
  • Decides to get a second opinion on a corporate tax matter.
  • Moves corporate tax to the firm.
  • Moves audit and advisory services to the firm.
  • Moves personal tax to the firm.
  • Asks the firm to help with due diligence on a transaction.
  • Responds positively to a pro-active pitch for management consulting re technology.
  • Attends the firm’s training sessions.
  • Sits on the firm’s industry advisory board.

Finally, with a strong relationship comes the right to ask them for help.  Fundamentally, this means doing three things:

  1. Ask for testimonials, via LinkedIn, and also on video.
  2. Empowerment: help tool them up to advocate on your behalf, and share their experience with you with their network.
  3. Ask directly for referrals.


There are only two types of relationships:  those that are getting better, and those that are getting worse.  Look at your long-timers – what did their Trust Chain look like?  And then look at the most recent people or organizations that have made a commitment to you:  what is the next step in their specific Trust Chain?

Finally, document all of your organization’s Trust Chains.  Once you do this, you’ll know far more about your organization’s marketing priorities – and you’ll build in a process that can only improve your relationships – and your brand.

More Insight:  Interested in another take on the concept of customer journey?  My take on Omni-channel marketing.

Does this topic resonate? Reach out to Randall: he can present it to your group.  (More presentation topics)
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