Expectations and Trust in Business Relationships

Much RamblingsWe mention trust a lot when discussing relationships. But I’m not so sure that’s the right term. It’s not very descriptive, to begin with; and besides, real trust is attained only after considerable, sustained effort.

We can trust in both positive and negative things. We can trust someone to be a creep, to be perennially late, to always find fault. But that’s not what we mean when we talk about trust in relation to business.

Looking for people whom we can trust doesn’t tell the whole story, by a long shot.

What we mean when we claim to be seeking trust in relationships (vendors, clients, colleagues, etc.) is that we hope to find people who will value their connection with us enough to deliver whatever we expect them to deliver. That’s all.

Beyond that, we may hope to liaison with people who not only value the relationship, but want to strengthen it. These are, for instance, fans who are already subscribed and want more. They’re not only opted in with you but they buy your products or services.

Beyond even that, we may seek relationships that not only deliver, that not only grow with us, but that also can be counted on to support us over the long haul. Relationships, that is, that are closer to family and friends than markets full of strangers. These, at last, are relationships truly based on trust.

At the beginning level, though, as long as expectations are properly established, sufficient trust can be ensured.

If you expect, for instance, someone who is always prompt to show up on time, you can probably trust them to do that. If you expect someone who is perennially late to show up on time, you will feel as though your trust has been violated.

Inbound marketing is about establishing expectations on a basic level with people so that they deliberately sign up to receive news from you. You earn trust like this if people hold the appropriate expectations regarding you and your brand. If you have proven your passion and expertise, people can sign up with you because they know what to expect.

So we build relationships based on our expectations of other people. When others meet our expectations, the bond between us is affirmed.

And then, much further down the road, a transformation may happen. You’ve been enjoying this mutually satisfying exchange of expectations when all of a sudden one of you does something unexpected. Suddenly, there’s a rift between expectation and trust; and you’re forced to make a choice either to stay in the relationship anyway, or leave.

This stage is perfectly normal. Think of the businesses and organizations that have wrestled with upset alliances: restaurants after a hepatitis episode; the current Republican Party; Netflix and others price gouging; and countless other organizations who have in some way betrayed their market.

A company’s friends and followers who survive such shakeups are at last in the category of true trust. They can be counted on in the hard times. They’re worth more than gold to a business.

Mostly, business liaisons are all about expectations: strategically building relationships based on reasonable expectations. It’s generally premature to think true trust will come quickly, if at all. Trust develops organically; we can’t manufacture it.

Still, in the meantime, we can manage expectations and enjoy numerous helpful associations.