Trust Ladders

Trust ladders

Trust ladders are critical aids for anyone wanting to start and/or grow a business.

However, in all my experience, only a minority of startups actively take advantage of trust ladders and go onto treat them with appropriate respect.

What are these trust ladders and how might they help you grow your new venture?

Trust Challenges

Although not obvious, almost everything we buy is based on deeper emotional reasoning. Emotions such as fear, ego and guilt drive purchases – as opposed to unadulterated logic. In business, the biggest emotional driver is trust and trust is typically built by keeping promises and doing work well.

Unfortunately startups have little or no trading history and so only a handful (close friends and relatives) really trust what a new business offers. Marketing guru, Seth Godin also highlights in his latest groundbreaking book ‘This Is Marketing’ that trust for businesses has become an increasingly scarce resource.

Trust Ladders

The Internet thrives on affiliation. At its core is the magic that comes from peer to peer connections. But the forces that prefer dominion instead of affiliation see this as a threat. And they’ve created waves of distrust around the voices and channels that we built our cultural trust around.

Seth Godin – This is Marketing. Published by Penguin 2018

Make Trust Ladders work for you

In other words, whilst the internet provides startups with an unparalleled ability to reach out and connect, the lack of trust generated by fake news, misbehaviour and selfishness means their missives are ignored.

For over 3 years, I’ve been providing advice to a range of startups at London South Bank University. As an Entrepreneur in Residence I often meet people who struggle to build their venture, often complaining about this issue of ‘being ignored’.

Find Five People and a mentor

My advice is not to fire out more tweets, arm your blog with more posts or polish and perfect your Facebook + Linkedin pages.

Believing a prospect will have an epiphany as a result of your social media battery is a long-shot – at best. Such activity typically doesn’t work because insufficient trust is in the mix. Instead, I suggest you take time out to think. 

Think about what? Think of 5 people who you know and trust who are far more likely to have greater influence with the target audience your venture is seeking to serve.

Trust ladders Trust ladder
Mentors offer invaluable advice

These 5 people will typically have more business experience thus giving them greater influence and sway. These people are your ‘Trust Ladders’.

You might think finding 5 ‘Trust Ladders’ is easy. Yet from my experience it’s much easier to find the wrong people. My recommendation when working through this process is to also engage a mentor (with business experience) who adds critical perspective. This person will also help to filter out individuals who either don’t have sufficient sway or appropriate trust with your target market(s).

Working with the mentor, take time thinking through who might help you, what help you are specifically asking for and why the individuals concerned may be in a position to provide support. Once this is done, make approaches, share your intent and see who can help.

Don’t abuse Trust Ladders

Let’s be clear, people who work as trust ladders should only be expected to make introductions and put their name on the line for you. They are not salespeople, they won’t want to write proposals and they’re unlikely to help with any resultant work.

To keep their trust, you have to look after your Trust Ladders. Being clear, considerate and thankful are all important since this behaviour shows you recognise and appreciate the support received. People who operate as trust ladders also like to know the difference they have made so inform them of progress with any contact offered.

In really successful business circumstances, you may wish to involve Trust Ladders in a more formal relationship. This is fine as long as it is of mutual desire and benefit, but don’t rush to this point.

Key Learning Points: Whilst we are more connected than ever, people are increasingly distrustful in business. Since trust is the core emotion that allows people to make valid connections and build a venture, it’s important to find people who are prepared to operate as a ‘Trust Ladder’. Always appreciate and recognise the value of any support you receive.

For more thoughts on Trust, visit this post ‘Trust Builds Business‘.

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