What’s the foundation of a strong relationship? If you were to ask someone at Willow, they would tell you it’s open, honest, transparent communication—the willingness to be vulnerable and—you guessed it—to share in order to build trust. If you think about it, these principles resonate within business. The commodities of trust and feedback translate directly into how products, services and sales are received by customers. They affect your strategy and ultimately your bottom line. That’s why our writer, Wendi Williams, has such a passion for writing to and for marketers. Wendi’s background in media has fostered her passion for writing to and for marketers, whether she’s helping them build a brand, sell a product, or—her favorite—tell a story that will change minds, and change lives. She is thrilled to support Willow in it mission to help people and brands shine brighter!


Lessons From the Playground: It’s Always Best to Share

By Wendi Williams


When was the last time you placed a bid on eBay? Had an Uber drop you off at the airport? Browsed neighborhood swap sites on Facebook, or bought a handmade creation on Etsy? If you’ve done any of those things, you’ve contributed to the sharing economy—a trend that’s been catching on like wildfire in the last couple years.


The term “sharing economy” is a bit of a misnomer. In a true sharing economy, money wouldn’t change hands, and commodities or services would be exchanged for items of similar value. More accurately, you would say that businesses like Lyft, AirBnB and TaskRabbit are part of a collaborative consumption or peer-to-peer system. In this type of economy, goods and services are provided by private citizens, often for a fee, and typically via a third-party platform. So for instance, let’s say you’ve got a vacation coming up, and you won’t be using your car, but you don’t want to pay pricey airport parking fees. If you live in one of the cities in which the FlightCar app operates, you can let the company rent your car to other users while you’re gone. The upshot? You get free airport parking, a professionally cleaned car, and a portion of the rental proceeds.


But what does it mean for your business? Even if you don’t have a product or service that’s right for a shareable platform, there are many lessons to be gleaned from this developing business model. Here are just a few of the ways that “sharing is caring”:


Lesson #1: Trust is Tops


The biggest reason collaborative consumption works is because businesses in this realm have built unshakeable trust with their consumers. Think about it: 15 years ago, would you have gotten into a car with a complete stranger who didn’t work for a reputable taxi service, and paid them money to take you somewhere? Would you have planned a vacation at the home of someone you’ve never met outside of the internet? In the early days of eCommerce, consumers were worried about their private information being compromised, and worried about the reputation of the people lurking on the other side of the computer screen. Today, security measures and background checks are better and easier than ever, and social media puts a face and a story with every name, leading us to believe we’re dealing with “friends” and peers rather than strangers.


What does it mean for you?: It’s no surprise to you that trust is a key component of any business, but in a sharing economy, it’s more important than ever. How is your business proving its trustworthiness? If your company provides a service, do you send photos of the provider beforehand? Do you verify background checks? Do your social media profiles feel personable, genuine and approachable? Think about how you can find new and innovative ways to build trust with your users, so they see you as a friend, and not a faceless company.


Lesson #2: Reviews are Life


Peer-to-peer economics thrives on an extensive review system that allows users to access both at-a-glance ratings and more in-depth service descriptions from consumers just like them. Companies live and die by how they display and respond to these reviews­—if reviews are buried, or if customer service tends to ignore or brush off user concerns, word gets around, and it gets around fast.


What does it mean for you?: It’s so easy to delete, overlook, or wish away negative feedback, but it is vital to acknowledge, address, and put it to rest. Every negative comment you receive is an opportunity to turn a bad experience into a great one, and to get some positive word-of-mouth advertising about your fantastic customer service. Be proud of your positive feedback and leverage it wherever you can, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s enough to dispell any negativity you might receive.


Lesson #3: People are Power


What is the energy source of the sharing economy? It’s people, hands down. People are what power collaborative consumerism, and people are what makes a sharing platform thrive… or wither.


What does it mean for you?: How is your business putting people at the core of what you do? Do you treat customers like an order number, or do you treat them like old friends? Do you know their names? Do you know their kids’ names? When you see your users as peers rather than the next sale, you want to do whatever you can to keep them satisfied—because someday, it might be them returning the favor.


Lesson #4: Disrupt the Status Quo


What did AirBnB do to the hotel industry? What did Uber do to the taxi business? They shook things up. They didn’t destroy the more traditional offerings in the market, but they gave consumers a new, fresh option they hadn’t seen before, delivered in a way that was exciting, fun, and mutually beneficial.


What does it mean for you?: Who is the disruptor in your industry? If it isn’t you, why not? What is the disruptor doing to innovate and make waves? Are there ways you can emulate their methods, with your own original and interesting ideas? Take a look at what disruption looks like in your industry, and figure out how you can turn some heads. It doesn’t have to be a tidal wave—you can start with a ripple.


Whether or not your products or service offerings can be shared, there are ways to translate valuable practices from the sharing economy into your business. At Willow Marketing, we can help you find ways to build trust, craft a review strategy, create a peer network and help you make a little noise in your industry. Contact us today and let us share some of our ideas with you!

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