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Techs can rebuild trust

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Here's the good news. According to a survey conducted last spring by the San Francisco Bay Area Council, 69% of the region's business leaders forecast continued improvement in the area's economy. ¶ And there's more good news. According to a study conducted this past June by Doremus and the Financial Times, there's more economic optimism from worldwide corporate leaders than there was a year earlier, especially about things improving locally. The study revealed that technology spending is expected to increase this year by 5%. Forrester Research says that spending on IT goods, services and staff by U.S. companies and governments will grow an average of 7% between 2005 and 2008.

With things finally on the upswing, there's a new and urgent challenge for companies to overpower the competition by investing once again in a number of industries, including technology. But ironically, according to the Doremus/Financial Times study, these are the very industries that have not yet recovered, fully, the trust they once enjoyed from their corporate customers.

Selling a tech brand's bells and whistles won't work with today's wary customers. Instead, corporate decision-makers want to be told that your products are reliable, that your services will deliver on the promises made. And speaking of promises, a brand's promise should reflect the customer's needs. Everything else emanates from there.

Wooing back the old customers and attracting the new must be done with honesty and complete transparency in the brand's promise. The next step is to examine all the messaging your company sends. Every aspect of the plan is critical. Is it consistent and aligned with the brand's promise? Is it honest and does it avoid over-promise? Product function is always important but not as prized as product dependability and customer support.

Reinforce the brand's promise at every touch point of the plan to slowly regain the coveted position of trusted partner. This includes internal communications and the sales force, and should extend into collateral materials, press releases, speeches and every promotion. Coach your people at every level in how to honestly and effectively articulate the brand's promise to the world, and then how to deliver on that promise. Your people are your brand's best ambassadors.

It won't happen overnight, but it will happen. With an end-to-end marketing plan that is honest, constant and consistent, the trickle of trust will turn into a river of good will.

Garrett Lawrence is managing director of Doremus, San Francisco. He can be reached at glawrence@doremussf.com.

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