Using the Trust Equation to build confidence in your pet business


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Trust is so important when a pet owner is considering a business to take care of their pet or provide a product for their pet.

So how do you go about building it? There’s a formula you can follow called The Trust Equation and I’m exploring it on this week’s podcast.

Created by management consultant David Maister in the 1990s, it’s made up of four components.

The first three are credibility, reliability and intimacy, three things that will help people feel confident about working with you or using your product.

The final is self-orientation, or how self interested you appear to be, and this can undo all the good work in creating credibility, reliability and intimacy.

Listen on the player link below to see how this applies to your pet business, with real examples from people using the different components.

How the Trust Equation can help you in your pet business marketing

The Trust Equation is a framework for understanding how we build trust in business relationships.

At the top of the equation, we’ve got Credibility, Reliability and Intimacy.

Then there is a dividing line which is Self-Orientation, which can also be seen as self interest.

We build trust with Credibility, Reliability and Intimacy but we can undo all of the good work with Self-Orientation, so by coming over as being self interested, where we look like we’re only out for ourselves, and don’t care about our clients, customers or community.

Trust Equation

Presenting your pet business online

A 2011 study by Google looked at the Zero Moments of Truth or ZMOT exploring how long it takes for a prospective customer to decide to buy from you.

The research found that people will only make a purchase when they trust you and this is, on average, after spending seven hours interacting with you, and having 11 interactions with you in four locations.

Your content can help build this, so a person might spend seven hours watching your lives, your YouTube videos or listening to your podcast.

They might see you in four locations such as at an event, in your newsletter, in your Facebook group and on your LinkedIn page.

And if you’re regularly publishing quality content that speaks to your ideal customer or community, it can be easy to clock up those 11 interactions.

How Google’s ZMOT works alongside the Trust Equation

The 7-11-4 rule means if you show up regularly, and combine this with content that demonstrates your Credibility, Reliability and builds Intimacy, you’re onto a winner.

Exploring the key elements of the Trust Equation

CREDIBILITY: Your potential client will be thinking, ‘Does this person know what they’re talking about?’

Are you demonstrating your expertise, knowledge, and competence to establish credibility with pet owners.

This is why it’s important that you share your credentials, awards, achievements, qualifications and client stories.

An example of this in action is Zoe Willingham from Best Behaviour Dog Training who regularly shares her client wins and the studying she’s taking part in.

RELIABILITY: Are you going to deliver on what you promise or do what you say you will do?

How often have you bought into something and found out that it wasn’t as it was pitched to you?

Or someone is all over you in the buying process, then when you’ve handed over your money, vanish into thin air.

Being consistent, responsive, and dependable can help establish reliability with pet owners.

So consider, are you dependable, are you showing up regularly?

An example of this is Sandra Emmons from Happipup.

As soon as someone inquires about her services, she calls them, giving that reassurance that she is to be depended on.

INTIMACY: Do you have a genuine interest in the people you’re looking to serve?

You can establish this by building rapport, creating emotional connections, and showing empathy with the people who are consuming your content.

Telling the stories behind you, your business and your products can create that intimacy, and know, like and trust too.

For example, Kim O’Donnell from Leo, Charley and Me shares how rescuing Cocker Spaniel Charley inspired her business.

She talks about raising funds for Spaniel Aid as they saved her, which builds connection and shows she cares.

Sarah Mills from Albie’s Boutique created one of her products, a raised feeder for pets, after her own Cockapoo Albie developed a reflux problem.

Bringing in her own personal story in her product marketing helps make her memorable and gives a positive impression of her as a business owner.

Aileen Stevenson from The Perfect Puppy Company writes stories about her own dog Charley and the lessons she learns while out with clients.

Her audience and other pet professionals enjoy learning via her content and creating meaningful content has had a huge impact on the growth of her business.

SELF-ORIENTATION: Where does your priority sit? Are you all about you or is the communication you put out there focused on the needs of your clients?

Case study – Why I signed up to work with business coach Janet Murray in November 2018

I knew about Janet, and had heard about her work. At the time I wanted to learn about building an online business and working with small businesses on PR.

I’d been on her email list, followed her on social media, heard about her through others, meaning I’d seen her in four locations.

Then I spent 10 hours listening to her podcast, so I had way more than seven hours of time spent with her and way more than 11 interactions.

CREDIBILITY: I knew she was credible, she’d worked at the Guardian and was an award winning journalist, and she was working with businesses and had a successful online business.

RELIABILITY: Janet was a prolific content creator and at the time had a twice weekly podcast.

INTIMACY: When I listened to her podcast, it spoke to me and the problems I was experiencing. Worrying about putting myself out there, fees falling in journalism, I could relate to her.

SELF INTEREST: She wasn’t all about herself, she shared information I found helpful, expert interviews and case studies with people like me.

I knew she was the person to help me.

Case study – Sarah Mills – Pet Product business – Albie’s Boutique

I’d followed Sarah on social media and I’d heard about her through other pet parents and people in the industry.

Sarah then joined my Be Bold Bootcamp course in October 2022 and I got to know her over the course of around seven hours, and had way more than 11 interactions.

CREDIBILITY: I knew she was credible, I’d read her story on her website, and interviewed her for a podcast episode.

RELIABILITY: I’d read her reviews and seen people raving about her products, plus consumed videos and seen social media posts of her products being made.

INTIMACY: Sarah shares behind the scenes videos, tells the stories behind the products, shares her face and her dogs on social media.

Sarah also tells the story behind the raised bowl feeder and how she created it to help her Cockapoo Albie with his reflux.

There was a compelling story to her product, she came across as a kind, caring person, and I felt like I knew her.

SELF INTEREST: She wasn’t all about her, she shared information I found helpful, including the stories behind the products and her customers.

I knew I had to buy that raised bowl feeder and lead station.

Albie's Boutique Raise Pet Feeder
Albie’s Boutique Raised Pet Feeder

Why The Trust Equation is so important for pet businesses

It’s crucial for building long term relationships with pet parents – remember you’re being trusted with their most precious thing.

Looking at The Trust Equation can help you identify areas to work on when it comes to building that trust, so you’re seen as credible and reliable, someone people are loyal to.

And the content you put out can build this.

You create credibility through PR, your own content, showing up in other places, perhaps you have a book or speak at events.

The way you present yourself online via your own media and your social channels means you stand out in a crowded market and help people make the decision to choose you.

Applying The Trust Equation to your pet business

Take the four elements and see how they feature in your content marketing.

Are you demonstrating credibility and reliability and creating intimacy?

Do you feel you might come across as self-interested?

Look at the case studies in this episode for inspiration and you’ll find links to their stories at the end of this post.

Conclusion on how The Trust Equation works for your pet business

Pet parents need to trust you and this means seeing and hearing from you a lot.

In the 1930s, the marketing ‘Rule of Seven’ was created, which was based on how many times people needed to hear about a film before they went to see it.

Back then it was seven, and now in the digital age it can take dozens of encounters and years for people to decide to buy.

In order to build this trust so they can make a decision, it’s vital to have a consistent content marketing system.

This is something I can help with in my Pets Get Visible membership and you can find out more here: Is my Pets Get Visible membership right for you.

And I hope this blog and episode has given you lots of inspiration on ways to use the trust equation to improve their businesses and build lasting relationships with pet owners.

Links mentioned in this episode:

See my interview with Zoe from Best Behaviour Dog Training

Read Sandra from Happipup’s story

Learn how Aileen from The Perfect Puppy Company creates meaningful content

Check out the chat with Niki from Pup Talk

Learn more about Kim from Leo, Charley and Me

And see Sarah from Albie’s Boutique share her story here


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