In every business it is critical that both customers and prospects trust the business owner.
He/she must be trusted that he will represent his products and services in an honest and fair manner.
The owner must be trusted that he will live up to his claims of service, guarantee, and product quality.
The owner must be trusted with valuable personal financial information and honest use of checks or credit cards.
In a very real sense, the customer must find the business owner beyond reproach.
But you know what?
If the prospect doesn’t trust the owner’s offer or sales pitch, none of the rest of the trust we just mentioned will matter.
So as a business owner, especially one who deals online in a non-personal way, you must pay particular attention to gaining, deserving, and keeping the trust of your prospects and customers.
Nothing you will do in your business is more important.
Once trust is lost, broken or taken away, it is nearly impossible to gain that same level of trust back again.
Think about it . . . for a customer to hand over his credit card number and pin to a total stranger is a great leap of faith in many ways.
Online businesses are usually just a storefront – there is no practical way to physically “check out” the legitimacy of the business or the business owner.
Solo owners have a very short window in which to build trust and confidence so the prospect will ultimately make a purchase.
So here are a number of things you can do to develop trust in your customers:
Tell the customers and prospects about yourself, who you are, where you live, details about your family, etc. Be a real person and let your personality shine through in everything you do – in some ways, you will be branding your business with your own personal style.
Don’t bounce from URL to URL and storefront to storefront. Try to keep a domain for as long as possible. If your customers know you have been at the same location for 5, 8, or 12 years they can feel a little better about you being in business tomorrow when they need to contact you about your product.
People will check your site’s WHOIS, a public service that shows who owns a domain. Don’t hide behind a fake name or a “cover” of some kind.
Get a dedicated IP. If your site is hosted on a fly-by-night server company or some dubious web hosting farm, your customers will see you as temporary or too cheap to afford real business hosting. In addition, if other sites on your server get banned for some reason, you might share in that grief due to your hosting association.
Set up a place on your web site where you can talk about yourself. Display press releases, awards you’ve won, news about the business or your site, etc. The more your customers know what goes on behind the scenes with your business, the more they will trust you and your selling attempts.
Purchase an SSL certificate (Secure Sockets Layer) which will show your customers that you take their personal and financial information seriously. Even if you don’t transact financial dealings on your web site, at least your prospects will know that you are taking the steps necessary to protect them.
Social proof is powerful. Most buyers will trust fellow consumer’s opinions about products and services before they will trust an owner’s sales pitch. So always try to add testimonials or case studies from buyers that show how the product helped someone other than the owner.
If at all possible, show up at authoritative places in your niche but off your own web site. So post in niche forums, get your content on other sites in your niche, write a column for a niche portal site, or post your niche articles in targeted directories. All these things will help your customers to see that you are real, an expert in the niche, and someone that plans to be doing business for the foreseeable future.
Pay close attention to everything you author and to how your site works. There’s nothing that will turn off a customer faster than a sloppy or lazy web site owner. Keep your site fresh and up to date. Fix errors in your copy, dead links on your web site, and other “little details” that make a difference in how customers will perceive you and your business.
Make it easy for your customers to deal with you. Make your site navigation intuitive. Make your shopping cart easy to follow. Make it easy for a customer to get help at your web site. Provide suggestion boxes or forms for sending comments. If you are seen as genuinely interested in feedback, your customers are much more likely to trust that you will follow through and do what you say you will.
Just one other thought – and I didn’t make this number 11 for a reason. This suggestion crosses all boundaries and should be a part of everything you do and every interaction you have with a prospect or customer.
Remember the Golden Rule. Treat your visitors and guests as you would want to be treated. If you make your business just the kind of business that you would want if you were a prospect in your niche . . . you will have a real goldmine!
To your online business success,