Holding hands: why you need to build trust to turn prospects into clients. — Atelier Pan

Holding hands: why you need to build trust to turn prospects into clients.

—And how design can help you build that trust.


Let me start this article by telling you a short story*:

Atelier Pan Holding hands: why you need to build trust to turn prospects into clients bond

—Source: image from Unsplash

“A little girl and her father were crossing a bridge. Father was kind of scared so he asked his little daughter,

‘Sweetheart, please hold my hand so that you don’t fall into the river.’

The little girl said, ‘No, Dad. You hold my hand.’

‘What’s the difference?’ Asked the puzzled father.

‘There’s a big difference,’ replied the little girl.

‘If I hold your hand and something happens to me, chances are that I may let your hand go. But if you hold my hand, I know for sure that no matter what happens,
you will never let my hand go.’

In any relationship, the essence of trust is not in its bind, but in its bond.

So hold the hand of the person who [trusts] you rather than expecting them to hold yours.”

*From: Inspiring Short Stories about Honesty Trust and Life

I love this story on so many levels, but let me explain why this story is essential to growing your business.

You must think I’ve gone all ‘hippie' on you. And I understand why you might feel that way. It might look all 'warm and fuzzy' at first, especially after the story I just told you, but I hope this quote below will convince you otherwise:

“Trust may seem warm and fuzzy,
but it delivers cold, hard results for businesses and brands.”

—Nick Black in his article: Brand Trust: The Six Drivers of Trust

When I talk about building trust and holding hands I mean this: You’re the expert and your prospect or client isn’t. That’s why they decided to contact you and work with you in the first place, right?

That also means that they’re probably venturing into uncharted water (for them) and that might make them feel on edge a bit. You can probably imagine that, right? So they need a certain level of trust in you if they’re going to decide that you’re the one that’s going to lead them across.


In business we talk a lot about the features and benefits of our product —hopefully already more about benefits than features, but I’d like to propose an even more profound shift:

Focus on trust instead.

Earning their trust trumps features and benefits, as Marty Neumeier explains in his book The Brand Gap:

“The degree of trust I feel towards the product, rather than an assessment of its features and benefits, will determine whether I’ll buy this product or that product.”

He continues that we base our choices on symbolic attributes, instead of on features and benefits:

“What does the product look like? Where is it sold? Who are the kinds of people that buy it? Which ‘tribe’ will I be joining if I buy it? What does the cost say about its desirability? What are other people saying about it? Finally, who makes it? If I trust the maker, I can buy it now and worry about the rest later.”

He concludes:

“Trust is the ultimate shortcut to a buying decision, and the bedrock of modern branding.”

So focus on earning their trust: Hold their hand and show them the way.

How can you do that?


Earning trust is a process. That’s why I prefer to use the term ‘building trust’ as it implies that you need to work at it to make it happen. Building is all about taking action. It’s not a passive thing that just happens.

Trust is a lot like an engine —an engine that you want to keep running. And that takes effort. E.g. you need to put gas in it, you need to drive it and you need to maintain it —care for it. It’s the same with trust.

And just like the engine trust is build from several components. Nick Black calls them the 6 drivers of trust:

Atelier Pan Holding hands: why you need to build trust to turn prospects into clients 6 drivers of trust

—The 6 drivers of trust

All of the 6 components are needed in order for you to earn your prospects’ trust (and keep it) —just like in an engine. The engine won’t run without one of it’s components and you need to take care of all of them for it to keep running smoothly.

Marty Neumeier suggests we: “use design to encourage trust.”


Well, design can be used as a powerful trust building tool. It can be used to communicate about the 6 drivers of trust with your prospects. In the article 3 Visual elements that encourage trust they talk about 3 design principles that can help you with that: Aesthetics, Focus and Consistency.

1. Aesthetics
Let’s start with Aesthetics. Or 'the language of feeling’ as it is sometimes referred to. All the big brands (e.g. Apple, Nike and Disney) all share a dedication to aesthetics:

“[They] intentionally design everything from their retail stores to physical products to create an experience that evokes a specific feeling. Whether it’s fun innovation, classy comfort, or striking individuality, the elements of design all translate into positive feelings which inspire trust.”

2. Focus (and simplicity)

“The danger in branding is not too much focus, but too little. When a brand tries to be too many things, or provide too many services, it sends an unclear message to the consumer.”

And a clear message is the key to build a successful brand. Donald Miller always says:

“If you confuse, you lose.”

We like brands that know who they are and that are different. And brand differentiation requires focus:

“Keeping your brand’s design simple is one of the easiest ways to portray a clear, focused message.”

3. Consistency
Although we like brands that are different, that surprise us, that stand out, we also like consistency. It’s what makes your brand recognisable. If every encounter with your brand was totally different —without any consistency, we would’t recognise your brand. And how would you build trust that way?

Without consistency you’d need to start from scratch every time someone came into contact with your brand.

“If Target changed its colors to purple and yellow or, all of a sudden, introduced a new elephant mascot alongside Bullseye the dog, consumers would be confused. It would look like the brand is having an identity crisis, and consumers might think they don’t know who the brand is after all.”

Do something like that with your brand and you'll lose trust.

You can make small changes as long as the overall impression of your brand stays the same. Or you could make changes that’ll improve the consistency of your brand.

*Read my article on The Importance of Brand Consistency, if you’d like to delve into his a bit deeper.


Which of the 6 drivers of trust could use a tune-up in your business?
And how could you use design to communicate about it with your prospects?

Let us know in the comments below.

With pleasure,


Atelier Pan • Trust building by design
Become more credible, attract the right clients and take your business to the next level.

PS. SHARE this article with your network by clicking on the Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ buttons, because that way your fellow change makers can also benefit from this material.​

Leave a Reply 0 comments