What do you think your most important strategic plan is for the next five years? How about the next 10? 20? You can talk about user acquisition, revenue growth and market penetration all you want, but the most important strategic plan any business has right now is building trust.
Why? Because all signs point to three major phenomena affecting how consumers find, choose and buy in whatever marketing environment is next. Artificial intelligence, online word-of-mouth (social media) and search engine rankings will control who wins and who loses for the foreseeable future. And all three are predicated on trust.
Search Engine Rankings and Your Strategic Plan
Search engine rankings are the manifestation of online trust building now. Google has told us for years that in order to rank well for a given keyword or keyword phrase, you have to deserve to do so. You have to be a trusted resource for that topic or keyword and other people have to send consistent signals to Google to tell them so.
Inbound links, quality inbound links, traffic and social media signals are arguably four of the most important factors in Google’s algorithm. All of those signals of relevance are earned by your business earning the trust of customers, media, vendors and more.
While the search engine algorithms will continue to evolve, the underlying selling point of Google — what it hangs its business upon — is that people can rely on the results to be trustworthy themselves. So don’t expect search engine rankings to fall from the high trust measure spot anytime soon.
Online Word-of-Mouth/Social Media and Your Strategic Plan
In lieu of a search engine, today’s consumers are flocking to social networks and ratings and review sites looking for feedback from users just like them before making a buying decision. Producing the type of product or service and having the type of content and engagement it takes to foster person-to-person recommendations online and offline will put your business in the crosshairs of trust.
When people talk about you on review sites, on social media networks and even offline, consumers take note. So do the search engines. So trust here leads to trust there as well. So whether you focus marketing efforts to encourage recommendations or just build good products, fueling online word-of-mouth will provide a measure of trust for your brand.
Artificial Intelligence and Your Strategic Plan
The third, and newest, piece of the trust puzzle for your strategic plan is artificial intelligence or machine learning. Fortunately, you don’t have to figure anything out to win this third component. For it’s not if or how you use AI for your business, but that you are producing the trust metrics in search and online word-of-mouth or social that AI engines can recognize.
Your third trust component will be predicated on whether or not your fans and customers, media and vendors, are pointing the search engine results and/or the online word-of-mouth/social media recommendations to you. If you focus on the first two the correct way, AI falls in line.
But AI underlines the importance of the first two. As search engines and consumer interfaces get better for retail and recommendation engines, they will deliver results and recommendations to customers via machine learning, AI engines. Those engines will be told to go find the most relevant results — a search engine behavior — and those that come from the most relevant sources — an online word-of-mouth mechanism.
So, winning one and two equals a win in three.
What Your Strategic Plan Will Deliver
Let’s say you own a dry cleaning service named Bob’s Cleaners. You’ve spent years building content, engagement and inbound links online. You’ve directed customers to ratings and review sites and even social networks to tell people how wonderful you are.
I open my web browser of the future — fueled by some artificial intelligence engine — and say, “Alexa/Siri/Google, where should I take my khaki’s to be altered?” Within seconds, my computer says to me, “Bob’s Cleaners is the most popular dry cleaner in the area. The reviews show 95% five out of five starts when alterations are mentioned. Would you like to place an online order and call an Uber Services to deliver your khaki’s today?”
That’s not a too distant future for the average consumer, not just Bill Gates. But you won’t be the recommendation if you don’t start building trust now.
Let me know if you need help getting started.