How do you build trust online? That’s the key thing any small business owner needs to keep in mind for his or her internet marketing. Trust is the reason people buy from you.
Think about the big ticket, off-line purchases you’ve made recently. Our refrigerator went out not too long ago. We weighed the pros (less expensive) and cons (long wait time, older refrigerator) of having it repaired and decided we would purchase a new frig. We visited the local appliance stores but none of the familiar businesses had exactly what we wanted. So we went to another town to shop.
At the first store we went to, a salesman came up to us immediately. “We’re just looking,” we said, but he followed us around and was persistent. Although he seemed like a very nice and knowledgeable man, the hard sell was bothersome. We did find what we wanted, and the price was right, but we decided to keep looking even though we knew our food was getting warm at home.
The second store was the opposite. It was a big store with an impersonal feel. Interestingly, the prices were no better than at the smaller appliance store with the pushy sales guy. And no one ever came up to us to ask if we needed help.
We bought the refrigerator at a third store. It, too, was a larger store, but we were allowed to look for a few minutes before a nice sales person approached, let us know he could help if we had questions, and retreated to a place where we could easily find him again. When we did seek him out to ask questions, he was knowledgeable enough and went and found an answer for us when he didn’t know it. He listened as we explained that our refrigerator was a goner and we needed an immediate replacement, then found a way to schedule delivery for the next day, even after he was initially told by the delivery department it would be three days.
As we were assisted by the salesman in the third store, we grew more and more trusting of him and began to feel really good about our experience. (It helped, too, that delivery was exactly when were told it would be, by two more personable and helpful employees.) We will certainly give strong consideration to purchasing an appliance from this store again, and we tell people about the good experience (at Lowe’s in Salem, Oregon, for those who are contemplating a similar purchase).
Now, think about how this translates to an online purchase. You use Google to locate three potential places from which to make a purchase. When you click on the first link, you go to a website that’s bright and colorful. “Buy! Buy! Buy!” it screams. Not terrible, but not ideal. The second possibility is darker and you can’t actually find exactly what you’re looking for. The third store makes it easy for you to find what you need, gives you plenty of information to assist you in making your purchase, and makes check-out simple and quick. Which do you return to for your purchase and similar purchases in the future?
Trust is important in any retailer-buyer relationship. Online, it becomes even more vital and even harder to establish quickly. But here are some ways to help:
- Make it easy for people to find what they are looking for. Spend time considering what people do when they come to your website. What do people buy? What do they look for? A good analytics program can help you see how long people stay on your site and where they go.
- Design with usability in mind. Is your text large enough to be read? Are the colors pleasing? Is the navigation consistent from page to page? Make sure your website looks like it represents a high-quality business.
- Don’t use templates for design. Your website shouldn’t look like everyone else’s – make sure it is customized for your business. A good design reflects your brand, including pricing, attitude and target customer.
- Make sure your site works. Links should be valid. Shopping carts should function as expected.
- Convey some personality through your site. Don’t get carried away, but make it clear that your business is made up of real people who have real expertise. Include sharp, professional-looking photos of the staff and real photos of your business.
- Be professional. A personal style on a business website is OK; addressing someone you don’t know like a drinking buddy is not. Keep your language friendly but remember that you are writing for people you don’t know.
- Be focused. Don’t put too much on a website. You have 14 different businesses? Great, but you should have a website for each one. You’ll overwhelm people with too many options. There’s a way to mention and link to your other businesses if visitors are interested. Think narrow and deep, not broad and shallow.
- Add a blog and regularly update it. A business blog with tips, tricks and industry information that’s freely given can show potential customers that you are open and honest about what you do. Sharing knowledge shows that you have it – that you’re an expert in your field and someone credible to do business with. Tell stories about customers you’ve helped and problems you’ve solved.
- Avoid stock photos whenever you can. Use real photos of your business, even if they are not as professional.
- Include testimonials from your customers. Whenever possible, use their full, real names. It’s much more convincing than using initials or a first name only.
- If you use social media for your business, include links to your accounts. Your Facebook fan page, Twitter account, etc., give people a wider view of your business and how you communicate to customers.
Trust isn’t easy to build. The key is not to do anything to destroy it when a potential customer first comes to your site. Work to show your knowledge as well as your care for your customers, and you’ll attract more sales and more repeat business.