The one metric you can’t quantify and why it’s holding you back

You've tried everything to build an audience. You've bought every course in existence and finished them entirely. You've used every tactic in the book to get people to pay attention to you, but still you feel like something's missing.

Instead of the thriving audience you've been searching for you're left with an audience that doesn't seem to care if you succeed or fail. Meanwhile, you feel like the peers you started this journey with are seeing the success you know you deserve.

You know something is missing, but you can't quite pin it down. You won't be able to find it by mining your analytics data. This missing element can’t be quantified, but it's going to hold you back if you don't master it.

The hidden element you've failed to cultivate is trust. And in order to succeed, you'll want to shift from external metrics to one that's a little tougher to keep track of.

What Happens Without Trust?

If you want to lead a group, no matter the size, you need to cultivate trust. Can you imagine people following someone they don't trust? It's highly unlikely. In the world today - especially the online world - there's a lot of noise to cut through. Frankly, if you're not inspiring trust, you're doing nothing other than adding to the noise.

However, there's a way around that. By focusing your time on the key principles of trust, your audience engagement will go through the roof. People listen to people they like, trust and respect. It's time to become part of this valued group.

How To Nurture Trust With Your Audience

"Knowledge is great. Competence is great. But the combination of both encourages people to trust you and increases your powers of enchantment." -Guy Kawasaki

Trust builds over time, just like anything else. You can't put a price tag on it and you definitely can’t buy it. Slowly, over time, you have to earn trust. This doesn't mean the process is immensely challenging, but it's going to take a different type of action on your part.

It’s going to take the willingness to share more of yourself than you ever imagined. When starting a business, especially online, it's easy to hide behind your screen or even your brand. However, the success you're searching for only begins to reveal itself when you stop searching for it and instead focus on being yourself.

The guidelines for authentic connection, and ultimately building trust, are below. Remember, trust can't be forced, it's a natural process.

1. Be Empathetic

You have to care.

If you don't care people will be able to tell. When it comes to people's lives, your intention means everything. If your main motivation is to make money, your readers will be able to sense this a mile away. Ensure your motivations for the work you’re doing are saturated with caring and service.

Empathy is built by understanding your customers. This doesn't mean you should spend all your time doing market research and nailing down your demographics, as this isn't the crucial piece of the puzzle.

The piece that will have the most impact in your business is understanding the psychographic information of your audience - the internal monologue that runs through the minds of your cherished readers.

  • What are their biggest pains?
  • What are their biggest dreams?
  • What fears keep them from sleeping at night?
  • What's the biggest challenge they face every day?

Spending time understanding your readers at an emotional level will give you an ability to serve and connect like you never have before.

2. Be Generous

Begin with love and abundance.

We all have the impulse to hold onto things. When it comes to building a business, this usually shows up as the fear to share our best blog posts or most meaningful content. We have an innate fear that if we give away our greatest stuff, our well will run dry.

By giving your best, with no questions asked, people will like you more. You can become a trusted source in their life, because they know you're always going to deliver without asking for anything in return.

By always being the first to give, you bet you're going to be at the front of your audience's mind when the time comes for them to give you something in return.

Giving doesn't have to be massive. A simple email response has the ability to change someone's entire day. Be generous - both your readers and business will thank you.

3. Be Honest

Our world is scarce on truth. But, by being the first to drop your mask and reveal your warts (and all), you'll allow your readers to do the same. We know we're not perfect, but so often we feel the need to project an image of perfection. We have the fear we’ll be rejected if we reveal our scars.

However, our failures and shortcomings make us human.

There's a boundary to our honesty - albeit a small one. Telling the truth can't be forced. Your readers can tell when you write or share something to entice a certain response.

When you're deciding whether or not to share a personal story, the questions below will help you decide where you’re actually coming from.

  • Will sharing this story help my readers?
  • Is this story simply a way for me to vent?
  • Am I afraid to share this part of myself?

Open your whole self up to your readers and you'll allow them to do the same.

4. Be Consistent

"80 percent of success is showing up."

~ Woody Allen

Show up when you said you were going to. Fulfill your promises. Every time you go against your word, your integrity begins to slip a little bit. In the online world most of our interactions take place through a screen, which means that your words are the only way your readers and customers can judge you.

If you say you’ll respond to every email within 24 hours, you better be able to keep this promise. Keep your promises to yourself and especially to your readers. You'll erode your trust by not following through.

At its core, consistency is simple. Set expectations and follow through on those expectations.

Also, if you're not able to follow through then tell the truth about the reasons behind this.

5. Be transparent

Transparency and telling the truth are very similar. Being transparent is the willingness to be open about the parts of yourself you'd otherwise not share. Transparency doesn't always have to be personal either.

You can be transparent with your business. The two examples below illustrate this principle very nicely.

First, blogger income reports. You may have seen a few bloggers do this before in an effort to be completely open with the profits behind the work they're doing. Income can be a sensitive subject for a lot of people, so by stepping out and posting your expenses for the entire world to see, you take the lead. By being vulnerable with a fragile subject you build trust in the eyes of your audience.

The second type of business doing this effectively is charity: water. As a charity, people love to see where their money is going. By having their financial reports completely open, as well as producing extensive documentation to illustrate how your funds are helping change lives, they’ve been able to build a massive following.

Transparency can help grow your business to new heights. Just make sure your intentions behind being open are set towards bringing value to your readers instead of merely business growth.

Conclusion

Trust needs to be your new metric.

Although it's tough to measure trust, you'll know when you're striking a chord with your audience. Just remember, building trust takes time. Open up a little more each day and soon you'll be connecting at the level you've been looking for all along.

Author: Tom Ewer
is a freelance writer, professional blogger and founder of Leaving Work Behind and Healthy Enough. A ProBlogger "One to Watch" in 2013, Tom published over 1,000 posts across 100 blogs including Mashable, Lifehacker, Sitepoint, Smashing Magazine and FreelanceSwitch. Follow Tom on Twitter.