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Unknown, Unliked, and Untrusted: Why?

This is my dog, Maui. We’re not best friends. Not even close.

Last week Maui lived in a kennel at the SPCA. When I saw that face, I just had to rescue her. This week my wife, daughters and I have pampered the mutt in every way dog lovers can. 

In just 7 days, we’ve given Maui several hundred dollars of the cushiest, coolest canine accessories pet stores carry, thousands of “good girls,” and the priceless affection she somehow lived without before she became a Feldman.

You would think she’d be very happy to be with us and love everything about her new home, but something in it repulses her: me.


Why you little bitch?

In her puppy days, something happened. She could have been abused. Or maybe something didn’t happen, meaning she may have been deprived of equal opportunity socialization. We were given no back story, so the only thing we can read is her body language and eyes.  When I come near, it’s not hard to get the message. Maui says, “I don’t know, like or trust you.” Cruel world.

I’m not cruel. I’m pretty much a “dog guy.” I love them and they love me. Sometimes even the skittish ones surprise their owners when they quickly take a liking to me. Anyone who’s been around dogs all their life, as I have, knows that dogs instinctively sense if you’re a dog lover. Not this dog.

Barry goes to the behaviorist.

I went to see an expert on dog behavior and learned if we're to succeed in changing her behavior, I’d first have to change her attitude about me. As of now, I make her anxious and suspicious. She fears me.

Whoa! I absolutely must turn this story into a marketing lesson about that know, like and trust (KLT) factor that looms so large in online marketing today. And I will. Give me one more minute, doggone it.

Sandy, my specialist gave me all kinds of valuable advice. We established a clear objective: interactions with me are to be non-stressful. The strategy: Maui will be taught it’s good to be around me. She'll be rewarded. With patience and practice, if I can pull it off, I'll recognize when she's in a "discomfort zone" and back off. In her eyes, I need to be approachable.

You need to be more approachable too.

If you could only smell me now. Though I have no artificial flavors, colors, fillers or by-products, I’m a walking nitrate-free Oscar Mayer wiener. I fling my cold dog itty bitty bits of hot dog at ever-decreasing distances between me and her. She is going to learn that we can have happy times together. I can be valuable. In this precarious early stage, I may not be good for much more than intoxicating cuts of beef and poultry. Later, I hope she’ll settle for my love.

So what about you?  You’re trying to sell something too. Have you figured out how to get the buyer to come to you? Have you learned how to transform the skeptical prospect to one willing to loyally follow you? Made any recent discoveries about how to win friends and influence people?

Let me offer you a few tips about what it’s going to take.

Stock the place with free treats.

It’s seems so obvious now. Customers have all the power. With that power they reject the heavy handed sales messages found in advertising and gravitate toward web pages that contain helpful advice, rich information, and a decent dose of entertainment value.

If you’ve read this far, you know just what I mean. These are the dog days of advertising. Consumers choose not to consume it. They prefer tasty treats.  If you know who they are and learn what they want, you simply must provide it. You will be liked. You will be trusted.

You will be rewarded.

Here’s what Fabienne Fredrickson, The Client Attraction Mentor says:

“You have to be a person of integrity and you have to be real and you have to have their best intentions in mind.”

Marketing veteran and author Drew McLellan says:

“They have to like more than what you sell.  They also have to like the people selling it.  Let them get to know your organization and your people.”

Next up, business coach Betsy Baker:

“One quick tip I want to offer that will enable your potential clients to get to know and like you better is called a “free taste.” A free taste is something of value that you offer on your website and it allows you to collect email addresses so that you can send out newsletters, specials that you’re running, and other information about your business to folks that visit your website.”

I’d be nuts to leave out Chris Brogan, co-author of “Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust.”

“The way to make a connection is to talk about what people want to hear. No-cost and low-cost listening tools help you ‘grow bigger ears’ and then apply what you’ve learned from listening to improve your sales, your service or your future products.”

In an age of digital noise, how do you reach your target audience and become a trusted brand? Trusted content marketing mentor Joe Pulizzi offers 27 pages of great answers in “Trust. Seven Content Strategies to Build Trust with Today’s Savvy Consumers.” 

“Consistently deliver tangible benefits to prospects and customers by providing relevant content that helps provide solutions to some of the toughest problems they are facing. In this way, you become a trusted advisor and the company they turn to in times of need.”

I hope you’ve gathered a few tips and resources. I better go now. Maui’s just outside my office door growling at me. I’ve been a marketing copywriter for 25 years. Maybe I come on too strong. Maybe it's time this old dog learned some new tricks.

Can you offer something useful about anxious dogs or developing trust? Bark out what you have for us here. Trust me, I won't bite.

Join The Conversation

  • Erin Pheil's picture
    Apr 22 Posted 5 years ago timeforcake

    Ab-so-lute-ly. People do business with companies/people they trust.

    If you're looking for a vendor and find one that does jaw-droppingly amazing work... but their website and repeated direct communications don't help you generate trust for that vendor, chances are you won't do business with them—no matter how truly fantastic their work. 

    No trust = no business.

    A simple way proven to increase trust on ecommerce sites is through the use of icons verifying security (Verified by Visa, Symantec Authentication, SSL encryption proof icons).  These icons and seals build trust, put online shoppers at east, and help prove credibility.

    Likewise, logos indicating association memberships and ratings (e.g., BBB A+ rating) often help site visitors feel trust. Of course the addition of icons and proof of association memberships won't do the trick themselves, but they're definitely simple and quick additions that help build trust when used in conjunction with the heavy hitters such as those mentioned in Barry's article here: being real, giving a feel for who you truly are, offering free tastes, etc.

  • Apr 22 Posted 5 years ago Marty Ercoline

    Dogs smell fear...or is that bees?  I can't keep it straight.  :)

  • Apr 22 Posted 5 years ago D.A. Bere

    Not being a pet owner, I initially skipped this article when I hit this site today.  While perusing the home page, I was repeatedly drawn to the photo.  That puppy wasn't gong to be ignored, and my curiosity got the best of me.  

    Now, I'm keeping an eye out for the continuing adventures of Maui and Barry.

    I like Barry's writing style, the way he seamlessly segues from the trials of interacting with his new dog to the art of building a loyal fan-base and effectively relates to them.  Many of us take strides to separate work from home-life, I have often done that.  I find it admirable here, where Barry uses one to tune his relationship in the other.  

    The flow of the article held my interest.  I'm not sure it that is because of my curiosity about the dog, my wanting more tips for building business or a need to further educate myself about social media.  Whatever the case all those needs were fed.  Also included are his reference sources, which I plan to also read.

    After reading I was entertained and educated.  Thank you.

    I am new to this site and a new Barry Feldman fan.

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