With thrifty consumers and a frightening economy, do your customers have faith in your company? Your survival relies on your ability to create trust. Creating trust enhances the customer experience, increases brand loyalty, and fosters a superior reputation. But, how do you create trust?
Trust isn’t something you can sell, give away, or put together. Trust is an atmosphere that surrounds your company. However, there are tangible methods to facilitate the development of this atmosphere. As more and more consumers take product research and purchasing decisions online, the internet has quickly become fundamental in generating trust. Below I’ll explore the foundations of creating trust online by utilizing your website, other online activity, and even offline activity.
Image by thorninside (under CC)
The design of your website is your first chance to create a good impression with potential customers. That being said, it’s imperative that you look your best and aim to please. A good design is far from the only factor to influence purchasing decisions, but it is fundamental to keeping people from clicking that back button.
There are many factors that go into a good design, and it’s not just about being visually pleasing. Good design incorporates conversion-friendly usability with an aesthetic quality that emotionally resonates with users. Few things trigger suspicion as much as a poorly designed website; it’s the online equivalent of operating out of a crumbling building. When you incorporate good design into your website, users recognize your efforts and reward you with trust.
Beyond setting yourself apart with a quality design, it’s important that potential customers have visual cues as to what you’ve accomplished, how you accomplished it, and what you plan to still accomplish. Demonstrating your recognition and direct influence with awards, associations, certifications, memberships, and testimonials on your site shows a third party’s confidence in the quality of your work. If you’re not a member of the better business bureau and industry associations, this is often a good enough reason alone to join.
Once you have this visual credibility established on your site, it’s important to back it up with easily accessible information. Whether the user is looking for background information on a product or project, wants to contact someone at your office, or wants to know more about the certification or awards you’ve earned, it’s vital that there is a transparent and easy-to-follow process for finding the right information.
With the rise of identity theft and hacked websites, securing your customer’s information is fundamental to maintaining trust online. Whether you take credit card numbers or temporarily store personal information, customers need to know that you have taken measures to secure their data. For e-commerce websites, SSL is an important first step to securing the shopping experience, but for websites transferring other types of data back and forth, Managed File Transfer (MFT) is the most secure solution. Unlike standard file transfer protocol (FTP), MFT is not susceptible to man-in-the-middle attacks where information is intercepted by a third party along the way.
Security features such as SSL and MFT are excellent to have, but unless you market these benefits, you’re missing out on their full potential to generate trust. For service organizations, bringing in a third party to affirm your security can go a long way towards generating trust with your customers. A SAS 70 audit is a powerful way to communicate to your customers that their financial information is kept secure. By bringing in an accredited auditing firm to confirm the security of your internal controls, you establish a level of credibility that is beyond reproach.
Having a credible website is important, but it’s no replacement for a lack of effort elsewhere. Offline, community involvement and charitable partnerships help foster a brand image that carries over to your website and other online activities. Creating a generous, humble, and selfless image within your community greatly improves your attraction to potential customers by inspiring them to something larger than themselves.
In this time when people are more connected than ever, local communities have the power to influence consumers around the world. Even if you’re only a small company reaching out to your home town, there are significant online benefits from the positive discussion that follows. Not only are these discussions fuel for your internet marketing efforts, they are a sturdy foundation on which to generate trust.
Social Media Presence
Getting involved in your community is a great way to generate positive discussions online, but to maximize your credibility you need to be involved in those discussions, alive and active. Nearly 60% of Americans are interacting with companies through social media. This is a trust-building gold mine. When people see a large following actively engaging with a brand at places like Facebook and Twitter, it confirms that the brand is known and appreciated by other people.
On the other hand, abusing social media can just as easily turn against you and destroy what credibility you’ve created. By engaging in social media marketing campaigns in a candid, authentic, and useful way, you’ll anchor your credibility in the increasingly numerous voices of your fans and followers.
Trust isn’t something you can buy. It’s something you have to earn. Whether it’s through achievements, community involvement, or enhanced security, it’s up to you to create a brand that people trust. The ball is in your court. But it’s not just about being trust-worthy; it’s about creating a clearly trust-worthy image. Strong visual cues, an open social dialog, and tangible security benefits are the fundamentals of communicating a caring image to your customers online.
Guest author Brian Easter is the CEO of NeboWeb.com. As CEO, Easter has led NeboWeb to explosive growth, attracting Fortune 500 clients and driving strategic partnerships, which have fueled NeboWeb’s expansion. He is well known in the interactive marketing industry and frequently speaks about capturing the power and potential of online marketing. You can also write a guest article and share your experience.