Do you know about the trust cascade? Think of a series of pools where water spills from one down to the next. Each pool gets a little larger. This is the way trust cascades from source to source. If you can get to the top of the trust cascade, you can pick up customers where there’s less noise, less competition, and less effort overall.
Let’s look at the trust cascade in action. Last fall, after searching for the better part of the year, my wife and I bought a small ranch with a 140-year-old log cabin. The cabin has been expanded and renovated more than once, but it is still an old structure and there’s work needed.
Driving away from the closing my wife turned to me and said, “Do we know what we’re doing?” The answer, of course, was no. No clue. But I figured we could hire people who had a clue. We just needed to find them. This would prove harder than I expected.
Our ranch is located a little less than an hour from our house. It is close enough that we can run up there to take care of something and if necessary, return with only half a day gone. But it is too far to expect any of our service companies to make the trip. We need new ones.
Fortunately, the prior owners left us with a binder of the people they used. People in the binder had proven themselves reliable to the prior owner. They were at the top of the trust cascade. We called Tony for mowing. We called Lupe for cleaning. When there was a leak with the sprinkler, we called Clint. We never even considered calling anyone else.
There are other things we need repaired or replaced that aren’t covered by the binder. We need a new roof. We need some fence work. We need on-site small engine repair. There’s more. Who do we call? How do we find a good service provider?
Without question, there are people who can provide the services we need and who are looking for customers as desperately as we are looking for service providers. How do we find them? How do they find us?
If you were in our shoes, what would you do? Ask someone you trust for a referral? Other than the binder, referrals from a friend or neighbor would be at the top of the trust cascade. Unfortunately, we don’t really know anyone. I’ve never even seen a neighbor. It’s hard to even introduce yourself when every piece of property is gated.
I could search online, but that’s about like throwing a dart at a dartboard. Maybe I’ll get a good company. Maybe not. There is simply no trust present. This is the bottom of the trust cascade. If all else fails, search online.
You might point out that there are reviews. True. I’ll trust reviews when I’m looking for a restaurant but would rather not for major work on my house. The greater the expense, the greater the need for trust.
So, if the choice is between two companies I know nothing about and one has better reviews, that one might get the nod. It’s still further down the trust cascade than I want to travel.
I want a referral from someone I trust. Since I don’t know anyone, I’m planning on attending the community’s Rotary Club. I’ll ask for referrals from Rotarians.
In my own Rotary Club, I’ve found attorneys, bankers, realtors, commercial insurance brokers, a property tax challenge service, remodelers, and employees. I trust someone in the club or someone referred by a club member more than someone found at random. This is near the top of the trust cascade.
If there is a roofer in the Rotary Club, I’ll ask him to take a look at our cabin and probably give him the work. His competitor may do a lot of advertising, have a great website, and get a ton of good reviews. It won’t matter. Those are farther down the trust cascade.
If you want to operate higher up the trust cascade than your competitors, you must get involved in the community. Join a service club. Join a leads club. Get involved with the chamber of commerce. Participate in community events.
My Rotary Club has 60 members. Empirical research by Columbia University’s Tian Zheng suggested the average American knows 600 people. This means that my Rotary Club has a network of up to 36,000 people (i.e., 60 X 600). Some will know fewer than 600 and some more. Some will know some of the same people. Regardless, the people in the club collectively know a LOT of people. Service club members are connected and are community centers of influence. They are the people others call to find a good roofer, air conditioning contractor, plumber, and so on.
Larry Taylor, a legendary air conditioning contractor likes to say it’s easier to sell from the board room than the equipment room. He got involved in as many local organizations as he could.
That might not be your thing. Perhaps you would rather eat lunch by yourself than sit with community centers of influence who others call when looking for a service provider.
If you won’t do it, delegate it to someone else in your company. If no one will do it, hire someone with an outgoing personality to work as your company ambassador. Put your business at the top of the trust cascade to get more business with less competition.
Matt is the 35th and youngest person to be inducted into the Contracting Business Hall of Fame. The Air Conditioning Heating & Refrigeration NEWS presented Matt with the 2018 “Legends of HVACR” Award. Contracting Business Magazine named Matt one of the 22 most influential people in the history of the residential HVAC/R industry. Contractor Magazine named him one of the 18 most influential people in the history of the plumbing/hydronics industries (Matt is the only person to appear on both the Contracting Business and Contractor lists). The Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration NEWS named Matt one of the top five business advisors in the HVAC industry. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mobile at 214.995.8889.