When visitors land on your website, one of the first questions they will have is whether they can trust you. As we all know, the internet gives us many reasons not to trust. Identity fraud, cut corners, broken promises, and scams are common. That’s why it is so important for businesses to be pro-active about building and maintaining trust with their audiences.
Businesses build trust through a combination of strategies. Some are basic and relatively easy, while others are complex and require prolonged work. Think of trust as a practice, and one that your business has to master. And remember one very important rule: Once you lose the trust of your audience, it is nearly impossible (and much more expensive) to build it back.
Here are some strategies to help you earn and maintain trust in your brand.
The Basics — SSL encryption, trust badges
All business websites should make it standard to have SSL encryption. Google will hesitate to include your website in search results if you don’t display your encryption certification. This means that the site should be accessed with https (rather than http).
In addition, businesses should include badges that show participation in third-party trust programs. Different sites and businesses will need to address this in different ways. E-commerce sites should take this charge most seriously. But all businesses should consider how they are able to leverage third-party trust on their site. Badges like Norton and McAfee are best for e-commerce. For service providers and small businesses, BBB might be a great option.
Trust Narratives — Reviews, testimonials, case studies
Once visitors understand that the site is safe, they’ll need to decide if the business offering itself is safe and trustworthy. Usually this comes through what we call trust narratives. A common trust narrative is a third-party review. These might be seen as most reliable because they are published by a third party (such as Google or Yelp, for instance). But for many businesses, testimonials and case studies can be just as useful, especially if your business sector doesn’t get a lot of review interest.
Testimonials and case studies allow you to display what is best about your business: some of your shining moments and most impressive successes. Visitors are savvy though: If your testimonials aren’t convincing and really show how you shine, then they can actually reflect poorly on you.
The Guarantee — Deliver more than you promise
The trickiest part about trust is keeping it. Once people have engaged your service or bought your product they are going to talk to their friends about it. They are going to either recommend it or they are going to disparage it. And the best way to make sure that people are not only happy but deeply impressed by your product is to make sure that you never over-promise. If your product lasts 10 years, guarantee it will last eight. If you can arrive in 1 hour to your service area, guarantee you will arrive in 90 minutes. That way you’re never catching up with yourself and will always deliver better-than-expected service.
Maintaining trust through proactive customer service
The crucial moment in trust-building is when there is a breach. Someone is calling you to say that he or she is disappointed and it is at this moment that you either gain more trust or lose it forever. Proactive, personal, courteous customer service turns bad experiences into positive ones and turns doubting customers into lifelong ones. Everyone makes a mistake; how you correct it makes all the difference.
Make sure you are doing all you can to establish and maintain the trust of your audience and you’ll be sure to find continued business success.
Laurie Macomber is owner of Fort Collins-based Blue Skies Marketing. Reach her at 970-689-3000.