The Name of the Game is Trust

Lately, I’ve been talking a LOT about the importance of TRUST as an essential element of your marketing efforts.  Here’s a word picture to help you “visualize” how the whole “trust building” process works.

Think of trust like you would a bank account.  When you first meet someone, the balance of the “trust” account is zero.  Then, as you interact with this other person, deposits are being made into the trust account.  To borrow from Tom Volkar’s blog – when you honor your agreements, explicit AND implicit, you’re making deposits into the trust account. When you don’t honor those commitments,  you are debiting the trust account.

You do this all the time with friends, family and other people you come into contact with during the course of your daily life – including the “entities” with which you do business!

In the case of your trust relationship with business “entities”, when it comes time for real MONEY to change hands,  when it’s time to write the the check for legal tender, you’ll make a quick mental check of the balance of the “trust” account.    Unfortunately, there’s not a way to “log in to” the trust account to check the balance.   When you’re trying to establish with a new client, you’ll know you haven’t accumulated enough “trust” in the account if you ask for the sale and the potential client “balks”.

This is the word picture in my mind as I read a recent post over at David Airey’s blog.  In his post,  A Conversation About Spec Work“, David shares a somewhat heated exchange between a prospective client and a designer over working on spec.  In case you didn’t know, the BANE of a graphic artist’s existence – SPEC WORK!  (If you don’t get why a graphic artist might be upset over the prospect of working for “free”, check out Jacob Cass’ post, Why logo design does not cost $5.00)

All I could see in the exchange was a battle of two individuals whose trust accounts were empty when the trust checks were presented for payment.

Jacob makes a point in the comments section of David’s post where he points out that you don’t expect your dentist to work on spec.  (OUCH!  That illustration really “hit home” with me thanks to my little “dental drama” of late and the ensuing anti-word of mouth marketing campaign.)

However, Jacob is only partially correct.  While it’s true that ESTABLISHED dentists don’t offer to work on spec, it’s a different story for new dentist.

When you see an incredibly low cost initial appointment advertised by a dentist, it’s actually another version of working on spec.  While the dentist IS charging a small fee, the advertised price that doesn’t BEGIN to cover the variable costs associated with the exam let alone the fixed costs of running the practice!  If that’s not working on spec, I don’t know what is!

Working on spec is nothing new to anyone who is in the business of selling “nothing but air“.  Service based businesses usually have to do a LOT of spec work in the beginning!  Chiropractors, attorneys, coaches and consultants are just a few of the other professionals who are selling their expertise who must establish a significant level of trust with their potential clients.  I personally created a LOT of web sites in the beginning for minimal cost to build my practice.

However, as the service professional continues to build trust with an ever expanding circle of clients – then the need for spec work decreases.  Not only do you begin to get client referrals, but you can also share client testimonials to help build trust.

David Airey has openly credited his blog with building his business from a local business to one with an international scope.  David’s blog is acting as a GREAT vehicle for building trust with potential clients.

Not only can you feature client testimonials on your blog, but you can also share your expertise freely – which has the effect of making HUGE deposits in your trust account with your blog’s readers.

Building your service based business is a catch 22 type of deal.  In order to gain the trust of potential clients you have to have testimonials/referrals which you can’t get until you get clients!!!

That’s the reason for working on spec.  However, the good news is that  blogs are GREAT for building trust with prospective clients.  They can help you to build trust for your service based business.


  1. Indeed, blogs, and pro-looking web sites in general, are a good builder of trust — even before you meet or speak to the prospective clients.

    When I used to do music production for hire, I swear I wouldn’t have gotten the clients I did if I didn’t have a good looking web site. I’m not much of a designer, but still, I’m so glad I learned who to put together web sites. It’s been SO valuable.

    It should be a must-have knowledge for any business owners and self-employeds. It’s that useful in this day and age.


    Ari Koinumas last blog post..Book Review: Steve Pavlina’s Personal Development for Smart People

  2. @Kathy and Ari — yes, when all things are equal, perception is everything! If someone is looking for a music producer, a graphic artist, a freelance writer or whatever, one of the few things they can base their guesses on are the perception they get from your website and other marketing materials.

    It’s kind of like going into a job interview wearing sweats and an old shirt. Unless you are applying for the position of gym teacher, you won’t get very far.

    On the other hand if you are dressed for success — if you look the part — you will be much more likely to land the gig.


    Graham Strongs last blog post..The Art of Perception (Part II): If You Hear Hooves…

  3. Very good points written here, Kathy. I also believe that a way to build trust is to not always write only about things that you like, or that please you. There are some things that irritate all of us, and if you’re being balanced, you’ll share those things as well as the good things.

    Mitchs last blog post..Widget Bucks Has A New Widget

  4. Hi Kathy,

    Thanks for the mention. I just noticed it today when I was in Technorati. I have no idea why Google Alerts and the word press dashboard misses links. Do you?

    Anyway on the topic of spec work. A new coach who wants to prove his or her worth will indeed coach at a smaller fee or pro bono just to get in the coaching hours for mastery. I built my practice initially by leaving the amount of payment totally up to the client. I let them determine the value and it worked well.

    Tom Volkar / Delightful Works last blog post..Clarity Empowers Progress

  5. @Tom

    That’s BAD NEWS for my blog if Google Alerts missed this mention! It means I’m not being indexed.

    Better check my Google Webmaster account to see what the problem is! Thanks for the heads up!

  6. Very good points written here, Kathy.
    .-= Aditya´s last blog ..Meghan Harvey left a comment for Alejandro Sanchez =-.