Marketing Matters: 04 Trust Pyramid

by Emily Blackburn

In this fourth episode of Qualified Remodeler’s Marketing Matters, Rich Harshaw discusses the importance of identity in marketing, and how to best create an interesting and engaging marketing strategy using the Trust Pyramid and the Five Pillars of Identity.

Today, we’re gonna talk about what I call the trust pyramid. Yep, the trust pyramid. I mean, everybody likes, repeat and referral business. That’s obvious, but here’s a question for you: Why do you like that kind of business? It’s because those particular prospects already trust your company. It’s because they’ve done business with you before, or they know somebody on a personal level. Who’s done business with you before who recommended you and they trust you. Now the key here, and what we’re really trying to talk about today is how do we engender that level of trust with people who have never done business with you before and who have no particular connection to your company? They don’t have any friends that have done business with you or anything like that. What we want to do is get that trust built up, and we’re gonna use this diagram, this concept called the trust pyramid to accomplish that

Now the old sales paradigm was to go in there to their home with your sales guy and just try to win them over. Now that has a certain amount of effectiveness and obviously you need good sales people, but overall, that’s not really a great solution anymore. Marketing’s job is to get people to trust you, before you ever set foot in their home. A good way to understand how to engender trust comes from, again, the title of this podcast, The Trust Pyramid.

Now let me give you an overview of the Trust Pyramid. It’s a pyramid, it’s actually kind of a triangle. You can see the graphic in the show notes and it shows how to build trust in marketing. It has five different levels, the bottom level identity points. Now I’m gonna go through all of these in detail, but for starters, the bottom level, the foundational level is identity points.

Number two, stories, examples and comparisons, level three, social proof level four evidence. And then finally at the very top, the little triangle at the very, very top is called personal experience. Now, the idea is that if you properly really execute on the first four levels of the pyramid, then when you finally enter their home in a sales environment and they have a personal experience with your salesperson, you’ll have already set concrete expectations with them and your sales presentation and personal interaction will reinforce and solidify the expectations that they have. Okay. In other words, you build trust through marketing that is then confirmed when they actually meet you in a sales environment. All right, now, a lot of companies want to jump straight to personal experience, and then they try to backfill all the trust foundational stuff when they get there by doing it in person.

The problem is that you now have a sales situation where you have to sell the prospect from point A to point Z in one meeting. Okay? Point A to point Z to kinda use, uh, an analogy here: I want you to take them in your marketing from point A to somewhere down on QRSTUV. You know, somewhere in that general vicinity, let your marketing do the heavy lifting. Then let your salesperson take the baton and run the final lap of the race and actually close them. If you don’t do this, then you’re going to encounter price resistance, in other words, sticker shock. Think about it: How many times your typical prospect ever bought, whatever it is you sell citing roofing, kitchen spa, design, build, whatever it is the answer is for the most part, I would say 80 to 90 percent of them have never bought it before.

Not even once.

So therefore they have an amount in their mind that they are expecting the project. And I promise you, it is much lower than you’re gonna actually ask them for. So let’s say for example, that your average sales price is $20,000 and they might be thinking when you know, Mr and Mrs. Johnson are talking among themselves before you arrive, they might be thinking, “Wow, this is gonna be probably a $10,000 project. Maybe as much as $12,000.” And then you will in, and you drop a $20,000 quote on them right there on the kitchen table. And that’s hard to overcome. Yes. Look, I know that your sales people are good. I want you to have good sales people. None of what I’m talking about today is to say that sales people aren’t good and can’t do the job. I’m saying that why don’t we help them make this easier in the first place?

Okay. I want you to find ways to build trust before you ever show up. That’s what the trust pyramid is all about. So let’s go through the steps. All right, at the bottom of the trust pyramid, the foundation is identity points. Now the first step is to identify your company’s identity points to use two very similar words, weirdly . Now I covered this in detail in the second podcast in this series, and I want you to go back and listen to it, if you haven’t already, it’s a really good podcast. It’s all about identity. It’s really the foundational concept of everything. That’s why it’s the foundation of the trust pyramid right? Now by way of review. Identity is as words, phrases, and images communicated with power, precision and passion that allow people to understand who you are, how you’re different, why you’re better and what they can expect when they do business with you.

That’s what identity is. And there’s five pillars of identity. I went over this again in that previous podcast. Now also you can see the diagram. You can find it in this show notes. So here’s what the five pillars of identity are that you need to consider for your business: It’s your products, it’s your workmanship, it’s your bedside manner. It’s your core values and something I call community and culture, which is kind of a catchall category for things that don’t fit conveniently into the other four categories. Now, in that podcast, I asked you to identify three points in each of the categories or pillars that most closely mapped to your company. Did you do that? You really need to do that because it’s really the foundation of everything that we’re gonna do in this entire podcast series, not just in that podcast or in this one, but in all of them.

So I really would like for you to go back and listen to podcast number two. And if you need to go through that exercise and identify the three identity points in each of the five pillars, it would be really helpful, but you can continue to listen to this one and kind of get a feel for how it works. But I really want you to go back and do that exercise. Okay? If you do that, you’re going to have about 15 identity points to work with. Now there’s nothing magic about three identity points per pillar, but it’s a good way to do the exercise. And just by way of review, for instance, on workmanship, some of the identity points or things like no cutting corners, attention to detail, doing the job right the first time, slowing down for quality, using quality materials, experience, worker oversight, no subcontractors, training that you give your people, installation standards, warranties.

Those are some examples of identity points that you might find under the pillar called workmanship. I’ll go through one more. Just for example, bedside manner has identity points like being punctual, communication, accurate quoting, no sales pressure, cleaning up after the job, worker appearance, hiring standards, being kind and courteous, listening, respecting people, professionalism, finishing on-time and on-budget. Those are all bedside manners. How you treat people. Okay. Now I’m not gonna go through all of these because I did that in more detail again on podcast number two, but I want you to be thinking about that because what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna take these identity points, 15 of the, if you’ve done three for each of the five categories or pillars, and these now are the identity points that go at the foundation of the trust pyramid, 15 of them, you say, wow, that’s a lot.

Well, you gotta have, have a lot of ammunition to work with when you’re gonna go into battle on this, on this marketing thing. Okay? So you might be thinking if you are an astute listener to podcast number two, that, “Hey, those identity points kind of sound like platitudes.” You know, things that sound profound, but really aren’t, but here’s two things I want you to realize: First of all, you have now identified. If you’ve gone through this exercise exactly which points you want to talk about and lean into for your company, you haven’t just randomly started throwing things like service and quality around and putting those things in your marketing. So you’ve identified specific things that you wanna talk about. And number two, now you have a foundation. The rest of the trust pyramid is gonna allow you to transform these, what might look like flat platitudes, into powerful stories and statements that really move the needle when it comes to your marketing.

Okay. So go ahead. Do this right now. If you haven’t already stop the tape so to speak, I know it’s on a tape, but stop it and identify the different identity points for your company in each of the five pillars. Yeah, go ahead and do it. Okay. Let’s move on to the second level of the trust pyramid, which is stories, examples, and comparisons. Now this is where the rubber really hits the road. This is where your identity really comes alive and starts to pop and make a real impact on people. Okay? Marketing in its core essence, it’s just storytelling. Whoever tells the best stories, the ones that are most engaging, is going to win. If you do this over time, you’re going to win, but you have to figure out what your stories are. Think of this kind of like a court case. If you say that, for instance, you don’t have high sales pressure or, or you don’t cut corners, or you have core values of let’s say integrity, or that you give back to the community, those are identity points.

Well, if you were in a court of law, you would have to prove it. So here’s a question for you. What does it look like when, for example, no high sales pressure is actually manifest in your company? Or not cutting corners or integrity or giving back to the community. What does that look like? Can you tell me a story? See if you can’t tell the story, if you can’t prove it, then it’s just a platitude. So let me give you a couple of examples. These are from some of my clients, and I’m going to share with you some blog posts that we’ve put together for some of these different identity points for a couple of different clients. So for instance: no sales pressure. I’ve got a client called Solid State Construction. They’re up in Boston and we’ve put together a blog post that’s called Anatomy of Remodeling “Sales Gangster” Sales Gangster is in quotation marks.

And on this blog post there’s a little thing that looks kind of like you’d see in a dictionary that gives a definition and it has the pronunciation sales gangster. Now a remodeling salesperson with a mobster mentality who uses underhanded sales tricks, high pressure and deceit to force you to buy, the last person you’d ever wanna invite into your home. The total opposite of a Solid State Construction project consultant, see diagram below for sample, and then a headline that says “Tell Tale Signs You’re Dealing with a Salesman Who Chooses High Pressure Solicitation Over Customer Education.” And then the text says, “We talk a lot about sales, gangsters, and why to avoid them if you need exterior remodeling in central Mass., but what is a sales gangster? What does he look like? What exactly does he do?” That’s so objectionable, now let me pause here and let you know, if you go to Google and you type in Solid StateConstruction Sales Gangster, you’ll see this blog post and you can get a good idea of it.

Look, this is a, a podcast, so I can’t show you things visually, but you can go look them up yourselves if you’re interested. Okay. So then we have this little picture, which is, this says Anatomy of a Sales Gangster, and it has this sort of cheesy looking, almost Cobra Kai, cheesy seventies, kind of looking guy. It’s an illustration. So it’s kind of a cartoonish type picture. And it has lines pointing to different parts of this guy and a little explanation. So there’s an, there’s a line pointing to his eyes and it, then it has this explanation. It says “Sizes, you up like a lion, praying on a gazelle.” Then a line pointing to his mouth “Tries to fast talk you into buying, even if you aren’t ready.” And then a line pointing to his watch “Loves to waste your time with three hour appointments” and then a line pointing to his rear end “Firmly plants this on your couch until you give up and say yes”

And then one pointing to his arm, “relentlessly attempts to strong arm you into a sale.” And then there’s some texts below that: “At solid state construction, we have project consultants, the polar opposite of pushy sales gangsters to show you the difference. Here’s the anatomy of a solid state project consultant.” And then there’s a similar type of illustration, similar style, but our guy looks really nice and friendly. He’s wearing a nice conservative looking suit and it has the same kind of thing with the lines pointing to different parts of his bodies.

  • Ears: listens to understand what you wanna accomplish
  • Mouth: discusses your needs and provides expert advice without the fast talking sales games
  • Watch: is considerate of your time and never draws things out
  • Hand: guides you to the perfect products for your tastes
  • Legs: steps back if you need to think things over

And then it has a little bit of a wrap up, but this gives you a good idea of how we tell the story.

Remember, we’re on the second level of the trust pyramid. So what we’re trying to do is find stories, examples, and comparisons to bring to life in this case, the identity point is no sales pressure. Does that make sense? Are you tracking with me? Am I getting through to you? Let’s look at another one for the identity point of integrity, integrity. This is one from a company called Chikders Leveling. They’re a foundation repair company out in Amarillo, Texas, again, another client of ours. And this is a blog post we put together that illustrates and shows how they manifest core value of integrity. Here’s what the headline says: “The time we broke the terms of our own foundation repair warranty.” Sub-headline: “We have the best foundation repair warranty in Amarillo, but sometimes you have to be better than the best.”

And then here’s what the article says.

In 2015, we perform foundation repair for a woman in Higgins, Texas. Her foundation was settling. So we installed some of our state of the art, he peers, and fixed it. Problem solved, right? Well, yes and no fast forward to December, 2019, this woman called us and said, she’s having trouble opening and closing her front door. This is the area where we installed the peers. So we went out ASAP to look at the problem. We inspected the peers to make sure they were functioning and installed properly. They were perfectly the issue wasn’t our work or our product. So what was causing her misaligned door? Well, as we often mention on this website foundation problems and the Texas panhandle can happen for all sorts of reasons. And some of those reasons can’t be predicted, prevented or prepared for this was one of those times we had a few educated guesses about the source of customer’s issues.

Her home was near an oil field and fracking area. There was a good chance that the drilling had caused the earth in the area to shift slightly. A few minor earthquakes had also been felt in Higgins at that time, which likewise could have moved the ground under the woman’s home. I’m not saying that those were the exact sources of the issue, but whatever was causing the foundation trouble, it wasn’t due to the work that we did in 2015, but you know what? It didn’t matter. We may not have caused the problem, but we were going to make 100% sure that we fixed it. Our word is our bond, warranty is unique in this industry as mentioned on our word is bond warranty page, which is hyperlink. So people can go read that by the way, most foundation repair warranties in the Amarillo area are, well, terrible.

Foundation companies typically go through a third party trust to warranty your project. I won’t go into the details here, but let’s just say that these warranties are worth less than the paper they’re printed on. And as the name of our warranty suggests, we keep our promises to you. We regarding helicle peers, if one quarter inch or more settlement occurs to the repaired area due to defect center, workmanship, or materials within six years of the job, we’ll fix it for free. If it occurs after six years, we’ll do it for no more than 20% of the original contract price. No loopholes, no fine print, no exclusions period, but we’re not afraid to go above and beyond what’s covered in our warranty. If that’s what things call for in this customer’s case outside forces were causing the trouble, which again is outside the scope of our warranty. We readjusted the necessary helicle appeals to align properly with the shifted earth under her home.

This solved her issue with this sticking door and put her foundation at the proper level. It was such an easy fix. And she was such a good customer that charging her for it felt, well, so we did what’s right. We performed the work at no charge. I’m not saying that we always fixed non-warranty issues for free, but we didn’t get to 15,000 satisfied customers by leaving people in the lurch and nickle and diming them. Under certain circumstances and my discretion, we’re happy to make the occasional exception.

Okay. So this is talking also obviously about warranty. So boom, we’re getting double duty here, but also what a great story about integrity. Don’t you love this stuff now again, let’s review where we’re at on the trust pyramid. We’re talking about stories, examples in comparisons. I want you to think about that story that I just read from this blog post.

Again, this is one, you can go look up Childers Leveling, and just Google “The time we broke the terms of our own foundation repair warranty” if you wanna look that up yourself, but I want you to think about what I just read to you. Stories, examples, comparisons they’re in there. It brings this concept of life. That integrity is part of the core values of our company. It also does a really good job of making sure people understand what our warranties look like. Now I could go through a couple of more of these if you want. I think I’m gonna punt, but here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna give you some examples that you can look up yourself for the identity point of no cutting corners. It’s a blog post here from a company that we work with called Xterior Pro that’s with an X exterior pro in St. Louis. And you can Google “What cutting corner really means Xterior Pro” And I’ll just review this one without reading all the details. But, uh, it talks about different areas where companies cut corners and what you can’t see hurts you. And it talks about low quotes equals low expectations. How they cover broken glass for windows. It talks about how they pay their people more money, but they do a better job. They use the highest materials, they train their crews. And then there’s this subhead link that says “What you can’t see is the most important part.” It’s a really fantastic blog post, go look that one up.

I’ve got an another one for you here. This one is from Clemens Home Solutions. You can Google this “Clemens home solutions Why community outreach is our passion” for the identity point of community outreach. And they talk about the mission and how they support this organization. That is essentially a 12 step program that helps people come to a closer relationship with God, become non-addicted to, uh, drugs and things like that. So here, here’s what I’m not trying to do right now. I’m trying not trying to just read you a bunch of blog posts and say, “Hey, here’s some blog posts.”

I am doing that. But here’s what I’m really trying to do. I’m trying to get you to see that you can take the identity points and then you’ve gotta flesh out the stories so you can present them to the jury, so to speak, okay, that’s what this level is. This is so critically important. And honestly, nobody does this. If you have the ability to pull this off and actually identify your identity points and then find the stories, examples, and comparisons, and communicate them with power, precision and passion, you are going to literally destroy the competition because nobody else is taking the time to even identify the identity points, let alone tell the stories.

All right, let’s go to the next level of the trust pyramid, which is social proof.

Now social proof is a term that was coined, I think, probably by Robert Childini, his landmark book called “Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion” If you’re a marketing student at all, that is a, a 100% must read. It’s called “Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Childini, look it up. Now. Here’s what social proof means. It means that people look to other people to see what their experience was in order to shortcut the due diligence process. The more social proof you provide the better and the more that the people that are giving the social proof are like your prospects the better. Okay. Now this is gonna be things like testimonials, online reviews, videos, case studies. Okay. Now here’s the key to this. You wanna make sure that the people who are saying things about your company, in a positive light, of course are saying things that are consistent with the identity points that you’ve put at the bottom of the foundation of the trust pyramid.

Okay. So instead of saying, “Hey, Superior Siding was great. I love working with him and would recommend them to all my friends.” Say something like this: “Jeff made me feel at ease during the sales process. I never felt pressured. I never felt like I had to decide right away. They showed me all my options and stepped back and let me decide.” It’s still an online review. It’s still a testimonial, but it’s speaking specifically to the identity point, trust pyramid, at the foundation, identity points. Okay. Then you tell the stories and then also, social proof, make sure you lean on those identity points. Here’s another example. How about, “I love that Steve took the time to show me the attention to detail that they used when installing my new bathroom. I had no idea that other remodelers use sand based grout that lets water leak through. He showed me six or seven things that Jericho does that really makes sure that the job is top shelf quality.”

Okay. See how that’s talking about not cutting corners and using quality materials. See how that works? Okay. Here’s one more example. This would say something like this. “It’s important to me to do business with companies that give back to the community like Clemons does. I really like what they’re doing with the Mune mission project.”

Now you get the idea of how this works. Doesn’t take a genius to figure out what I’m saying here. But again, this is something that just about nobody does. It’s a huge opportunity. The best way to make this happen, to actually execute on this, is for you to get a brand ambassador. Now that brand ambassador something I’m gonna talk about in a future podcast, the short version is: you send somebody from your company to each customer’s house at the conclusion of the project to get photos of the job and to also get testimonials, and, uh, just make sure that everything is good.

And if you’re doing that, if you’ve got a brand ambassador, that’s actually in their home, they can actually say, “Hey, here’s some of the things that people like about our company.” And then you show ’em the list of identity points. Remember they’re on the foundation of the trust pyramid. And then you say to them “Were any of the is particularly noticeable or helpful or useful in the process of doing business with us?” And they say, “oh yeah, this or this or this.” And then you can help them word the testimonials. Now I’m not suggesting that you write fake testimonials for people. Of course, I’m not suggesting that what I’m suggesting is that you point people in specific directions and have them comment in their own words, on the specific identity points. That’s what I’m suggesting here. Okay. So that’s the next level of the trust pyramid, which is social proof. Moving right up, we get to evidence.

Now here’s what evidence is. It’s literally creating evidence like you would see in a court case, remember OJ Simpson, the, the blood splatter charts and the brutal Molly shoe in prints and making OJ try on the glove. If it, the glove fits you must have quit. I don’t actually remember, but it was something like that. Anyway, in your case, see what kinds of evidence you can create. So for instance, if it’s no sales pressure, these sales gangster diagrams and their own project consultant diagrams, those make good pieces of evidence that you can show people. Imagine going to court and saying “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I direct your attention to this diagram of the sales gangster.” And you explain what that means. No cutting corners. Maybe you could create a corner cutting checklist, or maybe a video that you could show people how other companies, maybe the top five corners that most companies cut, and you could create a checklist and take this to any sales meeting with any company and ask ’em if they do these things. For integrity, make videos of things that illustrate your commitment to integrity or whatever. The core values are community. You can make, uh, video of the Muny project, go in and create a video. Okay? I don’t wanna spend a lot of time on evidence other than to say it’s important and you should create something. Think about it, just sit down and go through it for a minute and think of each identity point individually and look at them and say, what kinds of charts or graphs or checklists or diagrams could we create that we could show people and give people that would make the point more salient? What kind of videos could we create to tell those stories a little bit better? So that’s evidence. And now before we get to the top of the trust pyramid, which is personal experience, I wanna tell you what to do with all this stuff.

Okay? So we’ve created the foundation, which is the identity point. We’ve got all these stories that we’ve put together and the examples and the comparisons, uh, we’ve created the social proof and the evidence. So what do you do with all this stuff? Well, first and foremost, you wanna put it on your website, blog posts, videos. I gave you some examples of actual blog posts. That’s what you should be doing. Make sure that you make this content digable. Now here’s what digable means. It means that you put it on your website in a way that people can actually see it and find it not just buried, you know, in some random, deep down under the earth, part of your, uh, website on a blog that nobody actually sees. Here’s some of the ways that we do this of all we use internal linking. So if we write a blog post, we’re typically gonna put about five internal links.

So hyperlinks on that blog post that link to other parts of your website so that people can dig around. This is what digability means people, people digging through your website, and you wanna facilitate that would make it easy. So internal linking is one way. Also we use content widgets. Now content widget is a little widget that sits on the side of your website on every single page that has categories of headlines. It’ll have top posts, recent posts and case studies. And within that, there’s gonna be up to five headlines in each of those categories that people can see that, its sitting right there on the website and they can click on it again, making sure people see it. Another thing we do is what we call embedded headlines. Now think about how a news website operates. If you’re reading an article on a news website, they are going to put additional headlines that are similar to the topic you’re reading right there, embedded into the article that you’re reading, so that the idea, of course, you click on those articles and read more and more and more that’s because the news websites monetize their website based on the number of pages you click. The more you click, the more money they make. Well, you know what? That’s actually true for you too. You don’t have advertisers that are paying you, but the more people click around on your website, the more they’re gonna see all the awesome things that have to do with your identity, all this awesome content that you’ve created and put on there. And also Google’s gonna notice that people are clicking around spending a lot of time on this website, that the dwell time has gone up, and Google’s gonna push you up in the rankings, cuz it’s gonna notice that, “Hey, people love this content” and I’m gonna guarantee you one thing: If Google knows that people love and engage with your content, it’s going to show it to people.

Okay? So the idea here is to make your content Digable so that people actually see it and find it. It makes people fall in love. Plus, Google’s gonna love it. Then also, in addition to your website, integrate all of this stuff into all of your marketing. Think about this. If you primarily advertise prices, offers, specials, then what you’re really doing is training people to choose you because of your prices. Do you have the lowest prices? I didn’t think so, but if you continually tell your story based on the identity points, and then again, if you go through this trust pyramid: identity points, right? Stories, examples, and comparisons, right? What’s next? Social proof, evidence. If you continually tell your story in ads at home shows, phone scripts, print ads, whatever it is, people are gonna begin to know exactly who you, you are, how you’re different, why you’re better and what they can expect when they do business with you.

So I want you to think about this. If you’re on the radio or TV, just as an example, I’m not saying you are, or you have to be, but if you are, think about this, you put these kinds of ads that talk about these kinds of things. Similar to the information that I put into these blog posts that I shared with you today. And you start telling your story like that on TV and radio over the course of a month and a year and five years and 10 years. I mean, think about what’s happening. The marketplace is absolutely falling in love with your company because you’re letting them know how unbelievably awesome you are. If you go back to the podcast, I did number two on identity. I use an analogy about pointing at the showerhead. And if you don’t know what pointing at the shower head means, go back and listen to podcast Number two, it’s really important, but that’s what we’re doing here.

We’re pointing at the shower head so people notice it. Now that brings us to the top of the trust pyramid, personal experience, personal experience. Now, when you come into the prospect’s home, you will be a welcome guest, a friend, a sight for so eyes instead of a stranger or an adversary. Okay? This is why we talk about selling to friends versus selling to strangers. These people are going to be eager to meet with you. They will quote your ads and quote your website. They will tell you that they spent two hours on your website and they love it. You will have already sold them down to remember the analogy, instead of going A to Z, you’re gonna sell them, you know, to QRSTUV before you ever show up and now your salesperson can bring it home and actually close them on the last part of the sale instead of the whole flipping thing, okay.

They’re gonna know who you are. They’re gonna know what you do, why you’re better. And then in the home, when you get into the home with them, what you are and who you are, is gonna be consistent with what they thought based on all of your marketing. This is the trust pyramid. It starts with identity points, then stories, examples, and comparisons, then social proof and evidence. All of which leads to a great personal experience. Your number of leads are gonna go up. The closing ratios are gonna go up. Cancellations are gonna go down. Average ticket price is gonna go up. Clients are gonna be happier. You’re gonna get more repeat and referral business, and you’re gonna make more money. That’s the trust pyramid.

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