October 12, 2009

Coloured By Money

Does money make the world go round or can it put a spanner in the works?

I only ask because I heard Chris Brogan on the Marketing Edge talking about how we're much more comfortable putting money into a begging bowl than directly into someone's hand. In researching his new book Trust Agents, Chris discovered that we prefer the idea of a go-between when it comes to making payment and suggests that this extends to our levels of trust in opinion-makers and other experts for hire.

Here at Open-Heart Branding, and on our Islandbridge website, I've always resisted the idea of carrying advertising or offering affiliate links because it seemed to me that this might undermine my reader's trust in what I have to say. Chris suggests that we shouldn't be so slow to commercialise our opinion and recommendations. He believes that a trusted source is unlikely to risk the credibility that's been built up over time for the sake of well-rewarded but insincere opinion.

Somehow, I don't know.

I guess it depends on what role is played by the opinion-maker, and how openly they declare a financial interest in their recommendation. I know that mortgage-brokers, for example, manage to fairly represent their client's interests in a commission-based arrangement but wonder if even those understandings might be open to abuse?

In my experience, people are always much more comfortable in taking direction when they know that there's no vested interest in any outcome beyond their success. Whilst I don't believe that additional reward necessarily sullies that advice, I do know that others mightn't see it that way.

Money does make my world go round but there's more to it than that. I have no problem charging a fee when someone comes to me for my professional advice but prefer to keep it clean rather than take a cut of any action that follows. Then there's no question about my motive in recommending one course of action rather than another.

Whether we like it or not, many people do see money as something that can put a spanner in the works of trust and prefer to pay it over in open-view so that the exchange is above-board and trustworthy.

People don't like a hidden agenda or even one that's half-hidden away.

Too often, those who come to us in the guise of experts use free or low-cost advice as a lure to sell us something else. We shouldn't be surprised then when some of those same experts suffer serious lapses of judgement or worse if there's substantial profit riding on a particular outcome.

As opinion-makers, I suggest it's best for us to resist the temptation to capitalise on our market connections. When we keep it clean, those who come to us for direction can safely trust our advice without worrying whether a vested interest is skewing our professional judgement.

Over To You: What do you think? Are you happy to take advice when you know that your advisor has a financial interest in the outcome?

No comments: