This is a guest post from Michael Smith.
In the words of Stephen R. Covey:
“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”
Exist in ‘real life’
Asking whether you exist in ‘real life’ may seem like a silly question, but you’d be surprised at the amount of websites that exist where it’s not clear that it’s owned and maintained by a real person.
As simple as it sounds, just ensuring you display your address and telephone number can go a long way to adding trust and credibility. Ask yourself: would you feel comfortable buying from a store if you knew there was no one you could get in contact with, should anything go wrong? Probably not, and neither will your site’s visitors.
Adding a team page is another great way to communicate trust on your website, especially if you are offering a service. People are the lifeblood of a good business; your staff and customer service levels are the reason people want to buy from you, as opposed to why they have to buy from you. A team page allows customers to put a face and a personality to the person they may previously have only dealt with via email. A team page makes it easier for you and your staff to creates bonds and cultivate relationships, without actually meeting the customer face-to-face.
Tell your Story
Marketing is about storytelling. The business’ story is an opportunity to capture customers’ imagination; it humanises and personalises the brand. If you’re serious about what you do, then the journey of yourself and your partners will demonstrate passion and expertise, filling potential customers with confidence.
Your story is part of the sale: it’s something we buy into. We want products made by experts, passionate about their trade or industry. All this feeds back into our points about ‘existing in real life’ and putting a person behind the website: you’re showing you exist and humanising your business. This goes a long way to building trust.
If you want to learn more about the importance and effect stories have, check out the book Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath.
Demonstrate Social Proof
Social proof is one of Robert Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion. It states that people are more likely to perform certain actions if they can relate to the people who’ve gone through the same decision process.
For instance, say you have a choice between two restaurants: one is full of diners, the other empty. Most people will choose the busy restaurant; they take its busyness as a signal the food must be good. It’s a way of lessening the risk of buying a poor meal. (“If they’re all eating there, the restaurant must be doing something right.”)
There are ways of demonstrating social proof through your website; for example, by adding testimonials and product reviews. Show that people buy from you and they were pleased with their decision to do so.
Next, think about if you are a member of any industry bodies or associations. If you are, then clearly display these associations’ logos on your site. This will add creditability and trust; you’ll be piggy-backing on their brand equity.
(This shouldn’t just include suppliers or partnerships, but also logos from trusted payment gateways, so your customers know their transactions are handled securely.)
Finally, if you’re linking to your social channels, make sure they’re vibrant with activity. It’s disconcerting for visitors to see a blog that’s never updated, or a ghost-town of a Twitter account. Every part of your site should be up-to-date and well maintained. If the website hasn’t been updated in a while, how can the customer guarantee there will be someone to pick up their order once they’ve handed over the money?
Michael Smith is a blogger and marketing executive for www.9xb.com.
Creative Commons Image via oooh.oooh on Flickr