You’re a savvy, well-read marketing professional. Or you’re a new business owner looking to build up your customer base. A blogger trying to expand your readership? It doesn’t really matter; whatever the case, by this point you’ve read about adding value and building trust ad nauseum.

You can’t get away from it – it’s in everything you’ll ever read about marketing your venture in the internet age.

Add value with deals, add value with better quality, with faster service. Add value to the product itself, how it’s presented, or the way you get it to your customer.

Do all of this – but remember to build trust at every single turn. Be the most reliable business around.

Add value, build trust, add value, build trust.

With all of this being repeated so often, it starts to meld together into so much white noise that you wonder why it matters in the first place.

But so many marketers still don’t understand it, and the reason is clear – these terms distract from the fundamental principle at play here.

That fundamental principle gets obscured and lost in the shuffle:

You have to give before you can get.

Seriously, that’s all. Adding value, building trust – so many marketing strategies boil down to the simple premise of giving something to leads, readers, and customers.

All of this before you try to get anything.

You can see it in each and every example above: Giving your customer a deal, giving them a better product, giving them fast service.

Why is this the fundamental principle?

Because so many other brands offer the product or service or content you put out. Consumers have endless choices – great for them, but complicated for you.

Somehow, you must be better than the rest.

And it’s not just that other people can sell what you’re selling – it’s that consumers are more discerning than ever.

They want the best, most trustworthy brand. They want one that gives excellent and reliable service – the one that comes with glowing recommendations from friends and family (and you really want those recommendations and reviews).

They want the one that can give them a great deal, and, yes, the one with the best products.

With all of that, competing on price points can only go so far.

The question then becomes: What else have you done for me? What can you give me?

Really, this is about the defenses that consumers have built up over the years. Technology makes it easy to reach wide swaths of prospects or readers, but those same people are being reached by dozens of businesses – constantly.

Every company talking to them boasts the lowest prices. They all have the best products and the most efficient service.

But prospects have defenses against snake oil, spam, and the same old sales pitches.

If they smell a sales pitch, they turn away faster than you could imagine. They don’t want to be sold to anymore – they want you to make it more worthwhile for them to buy from you.

How do you stand out?

You give them something to lower those defenses.

Free or exclusive content. Free trials for memberships. Sample products they can try themselves. Subscription discounts for the first few months. Being available and responsive to answer their questions. Make guarantees, full refunds, replacements.

It’s not that you have to do all of these things. No business could maintain that model.

It’s that it’s all of the above come down to giving. That’s all.

Giving content. Giving trials and samples. Giving discounts. Giving your time and attention. Giving your word.

This isn’t even close to an exhaustive list. Give whatever you can – and whatever you can give that they’re not getting somewhere else, even better.

Make them think of you as a giving brand, like word association.

Because when you’ve done so much for your customers and been a giving brand at every turn, you know what?

They’ll be even more willing to return the favour, whether that’s by helping you expand your reach and build links, writing reviews of your products, making recommendations to family and friends, or buying more from you.

When your brand is unknown, your links are largely meaningless to consumers. And hardly anyone buys from unknown brands anymore.

So you need to make yourself known, and establish yourself as a good, and giving, brand.

At the end of the day, people care about who the seller is now more than ever. It’s your job, then, to demonstrate that you care about the buyer.