To Gain Prospects’ and Customers’ Trust, Be Consistent


I took a little time off last weekend and watched a few movies, something I love to do. One of them was a crime thriller involving a murder. There were three suspects. Two of them gave their alibis several times to police, including under interrogation. Because their stories didn’t vary, the police didn’t pursue them as suspects. The third suspect gave conflicting stories, changing it slightly every time he told it. This made him a very strong suspect.

It’s a similar kind of effect with your marketing and branding. That probably sounds odd. I’ll explain.

If you’re selling a product or service or establishing your brand, consistency is king. By “consistency” I mean repetition of the same message(s) in your promotions and communications.

Consistency produces the kind of relationship with your prospects and customers where they become willing to give you their money.

Circle of Trust

It was author and speaker Bob Berg who famously wrote, in his book, Endless Referrals, that “All things being equal, people will do business with … those people they know, like and trust.”

By isolating the three factors of know, like and trust, Berg gave us a reliable map we can use to guide our promotional campaigns.

Though “know, like, and trust” looks like a straight line with “know” at the beginning and “trust” at the end, I actually see it as a circle that the prospect can enter at any point. For instance:

  • Someone may see your logo and like it, even if they don’t know what it is. From there, they may Google you to find out (“know”) more.
  • A prospect may read your copy all the way through and learn what you’re about. They have taken some time to know you.

You can’t count on people to fall in love with your logo at first site or take the time to read all of your copy. Though it can take a long time, the most reliable way to get people to know, like, and trust you may be to bring them to your product via trust.

People Believe Repetition

Studies have established the “truth effect” which suggests that people tend to regard  statements as being more true when they have seen or heard them repeated many times.

For example, a lot of people shop at WalMart (judging from their $482 billion in annual sales). A lot of people must believe they can “Save Money. Live Better.” by shopping there. WalMart has used that tagline for the last six years. For 19 years prior, they used “Always Low Prices.”

If people believe a statement is true, they trust that statement. It follows that they will trust the person or company making that statement.

So, whether you’re writing an email sequence, a landing page, a sales letter or whatever—keep your message consistent throughout your campaign.

If you sell soap and your print ad says “Totally Clean: It’s non-toxic.” Then the main message of your product home page and all your other other marketing materials also has to be “Totally Clean: It’s non-toxic.”

If you change the message with each marketing piece, you never develop the repetition necessary to build trust.

How Much Repetition is Enough?

Is it possible to make a paying customer the first time they receive your message? Anything’s possible but I wouldn’t have high expectations.

Though marketing experts vary in their opinions about how much repetition is optimal, the general consensus is that more is better.

This was noted as far back as 1885, by London businessman Thomas Smith, who estimated that 20 exposures to a message were needed to make a customer. He published his observations in a guide called Successful Advertising:

  • The first time people look at any given ad, they don’t even see it.
  • The second time, they don’t notice it.
  • The third time, they are aware that it is there.
  • The fourth time, they have a fleeting sense that they’ve seen it somewhere before.
  • The fifth time, they actually read the ad.
  • The sixth time they thumb their nose at it.
  • The seventh time, they start to get a little irritated with it.
  • The eighth time, they start to think, “Here’s that confounded ad again.”
  • The ninth time, they start to wonder if they’re missing out on something.
  • The tenth time, they ask their friends and neighbors if they’ve tried it.
  • The eleventh time, they wonder how the company is paying for all these ads.
  • The twelfth time, they start to think that it must be a good product.
  • The thirteenth time, they start to feel the product has value.
  • The fourteenth time, they start to remember wanting a product exactly like this for a long time.
  • The fifteenth time, they start to yearn for it because they can’t afford to buy it.
  • The sixteenth time, they accept the fact that they will buy it sometime in the future.
  • The seventeenth time, they make a note to buy the product.
  • The eighteenth time, they curse their poverty for not allowing them to buy this terrific product.
  • The nineteenth time, they count their money very carefully.
  • The twentieth time prospects see the ad, they buy what is offering.

What Next?

Take a look at the messaging you’re using. That includes the copy on your website, your direct mail—all of it. Is it consistent for each product or service?