April 25, 2021

JF2427: Growing Trust to Build a Better Brand with Stace Caseria #SkillsetSunday

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In this #SkillsetSunday episode, Stace Caseria talks about the importance of trust. You can increase the trustworthiness of your brand by understanding its 4 fundamental parts.

Stace describes how trust works for a real estate professional who’s looking to reach out to a new lead for the first time ever. He also talks about the ways to make a brand or a business sound authentic and how to market your services on a whole different level.

Stace Caseria Real Estate Background:

  • Owner of Trust Deep, a branding agency and Evergreen North Properties
  • 20 years of investing experience
  • Currently has 4 properties, a small apartment building, & a passive investor in a syndication
  • Based in Boston, MA
  • Say hi to him at: www.trustdeepagency.com 
  • Best Ever Book: The Speed of Trust 

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Best Ever Tweet:

You can’t build trust with smoke and mirrors because eventually you’ll get caught” – Stace Caseria


Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to The Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever Show. I’m Joe Fairless. This is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast, where we only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any fluffy stuff. First off, I hope you’re having a Best Ever weekend. Because today is Sunday, we have a special segment for you called Skillset Sunday. Here’s the skill – this is for real estate entrepreneurs who have a company and real estate brand that you’re looking to portray the trustworthiness that you deserve as a brand. We actually have with us Stace Caseria. He is the owner of Trust Deep, which is a branding agency. He has also 20 years of investing experience. They help brands build trust through their branding with investors. So Stace, would you mind first giving the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and what Trust Deep does, and then we can go from there?

Stace Caseria: Sure, absolutely. As you said, I’m a real estate investor. I’ve been investing in singles and duplexes for about 20 years. I also have a small apartment building here outside of Boston. I’m also looking to scale up and join some syndications as a passive investor, and eventually, someday, I’d like to lead a syndication. But in my day job, I own a branding agency.

We focus on helping brands, business leaders, entrepreneurs find how they can become more trustworthy. Trust is not something you can force, you can’t ask somebody to trust you. You could, but it doesn’t work, though. But there are factors that are within your control, and by understanding the four parts of trust, you can level up on the areas where you might be lacking. All of this is to help you become genuinely trustworthy. You can’t create trust with smoke and mirrors, because you’re going to get caught eventually. So what we do is help brands use different tactics to increase their credibility, their track record, empathy, and alignment of interests. Those are the four factors that go into this thing that we call the trust dynamic.

Joe Fairless: Let’s unpack that one by one. Can you walk us through each one of them?

Stace Caseria: Sure. The first one is credibility. When people talk about trust… First of all, people don’t like to talk about it, because it’s this weird thing. It’s mysterious, as though we don’t have control over it. But once you understand that it’s an emotion just like anything else, we can control it and we can put it in our favor.

So the first factor is called credibility, and credibility is nothing more than speaking or communicating with authority on a topic. Credibility can be created instantly, from the second somebody rolls into your website and they see that you know what you’re talking about. If you’re talking about commercial real estate – well, you’re going to have to understand the lingo, you’re going to have to understand the factors that go into a deal, you’re going to have to understand what’s going on in the marketplace at the moment.

Do you seem credible? Do you have knowledge on the topic? That works whether you’re talking to somebody face to face, or if somebody is looking at your website or your social media, or even if you have a mailing. Credibility comes across in many ways, and it’s something that you can create instantly with somebody, from the second you shake their hand at a real estate meetup and you start talking about a topic. If you can speak with authority on that topic, you have credibility.

Joe Fairless: Okay. Number two.

Stace Caseria: The second part is track record. A track record is the only factor that takes time to build. We tend to think of trust as needing a lot of time to be established, and there’s only one area of trust that actually takes time, and that’s a track record. So you think about, is there a high likelihood that I’m able to repeat the success I’ve had in the past? Can you trust that I’m going to take whatever I’ve learned, lessons in the past, and apply them here? Do I have a repeatable process? That goes into track record.

The track record is your reputation, and this is something that does take a while to establish. Talking with syndicators or investors who are new and they may say “I don’t have a track record in real estate”, but every adult has a track record, because you went to school, you have a job, you have friends; there are people in your life who can speak to your track record.

If you don’t have a track record in real estate, you can borrow elements from the other parts of your life. Also, we know you can borrow the track record of your network. Let’s say you’re raising capital for a deal, and this is your first time. Well, hopefully, you have somebody who’s more experienced on your team, who’s done this before, and so you get a little bit of their track record by partnering with them.

Break: [00:05:34][00:07:36]

Joe Fairless: Lots of different ways to partner, that is the beauty of, specifically, commercial real estate or real estate in general. You can partner up with people on one deal and you don’t necessarily have to be married to them through the course of your professional life. You can just do a couple of deals with them, if it doesn’t work out, you move on. Okay, number three.

Stace Caseria: The third one is empathy. Empathy we call the human factor. A lot of people in business will sometimes dismiss empathy as a soft skill, something that isn’t needed in the hard-nosed world of business, and I completely disagree. There is nothing that can build trust quicker than empathy. Empathy is our ability to listen to people, it’s our ability to relate to people, it’s our ability to see people as human and understand their needs, their condition, the space that they’re in. Showing empathy doesn’t necessarily mean you agree with somebody by listening to them, it just means that you understand where they’re coming from. Thinking about somebody who might be a wholesaler, house flipper, or something like that, and they’re talking to a homeowner, and the homeowner says, “I need X amount of money for this house.” The wholesaler is thinking “I can’t give you that much. But let me understand why you need that or why you think you need that, and let’s see if we can figure something out.”

Empathy is not giving in to people, it’s listening and understanding where somebody is coming from. You might find out that you don’t have the ability to make a deal, but at least you listen to that person, because you validated their concerns or their thoughts and you validate them as a person. It is incredibly powerful when we are able to give validation to other people. As humans, we all need that. We’re social creatures, we don’t live by ourselves, we have to interact with other people. Those who demonstrate stronger empathy have more success in business, and they’re able to have a tighter group of people around them who want to work with them and people who are committed to their success.

Joe Fairless: Okay. The fourth?

Stace Caseria: The fourth one is the alignment of interests. This is something I know you’ve talked about in your book, and this is sort of really well aligned with that… There’s a slight nuance to it, but this is the factor that you want the same outcome as somebody and you’re willing to do the same steps to get there. Out of a deal, you may say, “Hey, I want a 20% ROI.” I might say, “Yeah, I do too.” But the way we’re willing to get there might be different. That would mean we don’t have an alignment of interest. I might say, “There are lots of rules and regulations, and we don’t have to follow all of them.” You might say, “No, actually, I plan to follow all of them.” We both have the same outcome in mind, but we don’t have the same commitment to the ideals that will get us there. That’s an alignment of interests.

Alignment of interest is really interesting, for what it does in the scale of branding is that it helps you create deep meaning with people, beyond a product or service. So that’s ultimately what branding is – it’s this connection that we have with a product or service that goes beyond the product or service itself. That’s how we have deep loyalty with a company. It’s because we share meaning, we share a motivation or an intention; that’s at the root of alignment of interests. That is the factor that creates the deepest connection and the chance for you to have loyalty with a customer or an investor. Because ultimately, that’s the goal. It takes five to seven times more effort and money to get a new customer or investor, versus keeping an existing one. At the end of the day, we try to build trustworthiness with our clients to gain long-term loyalty with their customers.

Joe Fairless: I’m thinking about how to try and put all four of these things in an ad, just to help bring it to less philosophical and more tactical. So if I were to send out a postcard to my customer, and let’s say I want them to invest in a deal of mine… Then I’m going to give some examples and you tell me, “You are trying to do way too much in this one ad,” or you tell me “Yeah, that could work.” So if I want them to invest in a deal of mine, and the postcard –which they’ve never received a postcard from me before, we’ll say that– says “We have X amount of assets under management, and we’ve been doing business for X amount of time.” So there’s a track record. I would think track record and credibility are pretty close cousins, because of speaking about authority on a topic… Well, if you have a track record, you can –I would think– speak with authority on a topic. So I would think we’d check both of those boxes with that type of statement.

And then with empathy, something along the lines of identifying a problem that they might have and that I have come across before, and talking a little bit about that as it relates to the business that I’m in, and the call to action, the step I want them to take. So maybe it’s “Hey, I had a full-time job and I was looking for ways to make money, and have my money worked for me while getting tax benefits, etc.” Then alignment of interests mentioning “…and I invest alongside you and the rest of my investors for every deal.” What do you think of that?

Stace Caseria: It seems like you’ve done this before. It’s difficult to do copywriting on the spot, so I give you a lot of credit. That is, in a nutshell, how this formula works. The four factors overlap, and the way you speak and what you say can do double duty.

The first statement that you’re talking about, track record and credibility working together, is absolutely true. The track record is what you were talking about, and the credibility was how you were talking about it. Empathy is about the why – there’s the why in there, your purpose – and of course, the alignment of interest, that one is really easy for you to do the way you did it there. It’s so far from being philosophical; it’s so concrete. It’s like you and I are walking step by step, doing this together. If you lose money, I lose money, but we hope to both gain money together. That’s exactly how the alignment of interest works.

And the four factors don’t always have to be in the same proportions in any communication, depending on the size of the deal, who you’re talking to, who you are, the relationship that you have with people. There are things that you might leave out if that were a repeat customer; there are things that you might include if it was going to a list of people who were first-time investors, versus people who have invested not with you, but with other people multiple times, or the certain needs of that audience. So the four factors come in different levels depending, on a lot of the parameters of a situation or a deal.

Joe Fairless: Okay, that is very helpful. So we probably should have talked about this early on. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this… What makes you an expert on this and how did you come up with these four things that create trust?

Stace Caseria: So I’ve been working in advertising for about 22 years. Before that, I’ve always been interested in people. It seems strange to say, but my wife always thinks this is weird that I will make conversations with strangers, I’ll try to learn about people; I always want to understand where people are coming from. This has been an interest of mine my whole life. I look to see how people relate to each other, and it’s sort of dissecting situations when I’m with people. I take a scientific approach, although I’m not a doctor… But I look at how people relate to each other and I try to understand that.

Another factor is that I like to understand how people make decisions. In my two decades in advertising — we talk about a lot of things in advertising, we talk about engagement, we talk about awareness, we talk about trying to get in front of people… But there’s the thing that we were always missing that I felt — we talk about trust, but we don’t talk about how to build it and we didn’t break it down.

I went through the process of breaking it down, and thinking about situations, relationships I have with people, and say, “How does this relationship work? Why do I have trust in this person here? Why do I not have trust with that person there?” Sometimes you’re having a conversation with somebody and you’re like, “This guy doesn’t really care about what I have to say. He just wants me to hear what he has to say.” So from that, I’m like, “Okay, there’s this thing here where there’s got to be some reciprocity.” He has to care about me a little bit, and I have to care about him a little bit, or we’re not going to get to a point of trust. I’m like, “Okay, so that’s a line of interest merged with empathy”, so I started breaking these things out. I said, “You know what? I might have credibility and I can talk about a topic. But if I’ve never done it before – well, that’s a different thing. I don’t have 100% credibility.” I started breaking it down, like “Wait, credibility is different than track record. Track record is a little bit different.”

There are people who’ve done something over and over again, but they might not be able to communicate to me how they’ve done it or show proof of that. So they’ve got the track record, but they might not have credibility. And these are the four factors. There might be other things, but I’m trying to group these four things together, so that we can make a system to conquer one element of it at a time and build that genuine trustworthiness. There’s a whole conversation we could have about where decisions get made in our brains… Decisions are not made in the neocortex – that’s the new part of our brain, from an evolutionary standpoint.

Joe Fairless: The crocodile brain, right?

Stace Caseria: The limbic system. That’s where decisions get made. And decisions can’t be affected by language, because that part of our brain doesn’t understand anything but emotion. The limbic system controls our decisions and our emotions; it’s the emotional center of our brain. When we try to communicate to people with words – well, it has to first be translated into emotion in that person, and then it can start to register. But when we think about like, “Oh, I made a decision based on the logic of it.” No, that that doesn’t happen; it’s just not biologically possible. There has to be an emotion created before that part of your brain can react to it and make a decision, yes or no.

Joe Fairless: When you’ve spoken to someone over the history of you talking to people about this, and then they’ve taken it and run with it, what are some mistakes that you’ve seen people make trying to implement this?

Stace Caseria: With everything in life — and I was thinking about this before I came up. I was thinking about what we were going to talk about… You can’t force certain things; you cannot force credibility. If I don’t know enough on a topic, I might get partway through the process of a conversation… When people try to sound like they know more than they know, the person that you’re talking to – you run the risk of them actually having the answers and you looking like a fool… Rather than you saying, “I really don’t know all about this. I can find out and get back to you.” People will give you the benefit of the doubt. But if you speak with authority and try to be convincing on something and you’re clearly wrong, you will do more damage than good.

Fake empathy is another problem. We work with a lot of brands, some large brands. In the past, I’ve worked with big brands like Heineken, Delta Airlines, Bose, Panasonic, large companies. Sometimes large companies will have a really great intention to sound human, but they might play it off wrong, and it might come off as disingenuous or not their place in the world. I think as consumers, we’ve become a lot more accepting of brands feeling human, because we’re at a point where we’re much savvier to marketing. So brands have had to come around and say, “Okay, what’s another element that we could tap? Oh, let’s try to be human and understand what people need, rather than telling them what we have to sell.”

Joe Fairless: I love this conversation. This is going to be helpful for the Best Ever listeners who want to take their business to the next level, from a marketing standpoint, and generating leads. Do you have any books that you recommend from psychology or sociology that you’ve come across that you think would be helpful for the Best Ever listeners and myself?

Stace Caseria: I can think of two. The first one is called The Speed of Trust. It was written by Stephen Covey. I think his dad wrote… I think it was called the 10 Habits of Highly Successful People. But The Speed of Trust is fantastic. If this is a philosophical conversation we’re having here, if it sounds too philosophical to your listeners, read that book and you will see how trust turns into dollars and how it saves companies time. It is fascinating when you read that. Here’s a guy who runs a consulting company, and they consult with some of the largest companies in the world, and they see these massive improvements in efficiency. So The Speed of Trust – it’s like a literal title. It’s talking about speeding up decisions, speeding up our ability to work together, speeding up getting to a successful conclusion.

The other book is called Everybody Matters. The guy who wrote it, his name is Bob Chapman. He runs a global manufacturing company and he decided to start treating his employees like they were family members. He says “Everybody who works here is somebody’s precious child, and they’re entrusted to me for the eight hours a day that they’re here.” He’s seen massive growth and productivity improvements by treating people like their family. A fascinating book.

Joe Fairless: I’ll check that out. I’m more interested in the first one than the second one, but who cares about me right? I’m a focus group of one. But I just bought both of them right now — okay, I just bought them. I’ll check them both out. Thank you for those recommendations. How can the Best Ever listeners learn more about what you’re doing?

Stace Caseria: They can go to our website. Our agency is called Trust Deep. The URL is trustdeepagency.com.

Joe Fairless: Thanks for being on the show, talking to us and educating us on the four factors of trust. One is credibility, two is track record, three is empathy, four is alignment of interests… And giving specific examples of how to deliver on that. I hope you have a Best Ever weekend and talk to you again soon.

Stace Caseria: Take care, Joe.

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