Creating trust is very important to online marketing. Without enough of it, potential customers will not take the actions you want when they visit your website. Here are some specific steps you can take to increase your perceived reputation and generate increased trust.
This is the third of four posts dealing with the use of trust-inducing features and strategies as part of website design. If you haven’t already, I would urge you read my first two posts on this subject.
Unless you are a very well known brand, you will need to create a positive “virtual reputation” in the minds of the visitors who visit your site. The resulting Perceived Reputation positively affects visitors’ trust in your organization. A certain amount of trust is a necessary precursor to taking action. To create this virtual reputation you will need to incorporate trust-inducing, reputation-building design elements into your website as part of your online marketing efforts.
Your online reputation is based on second-hand knowledge. It is based upon what others (third parties) are saying about your organization. With the rise of postings about products and services on social media sites, reputation issues are very significant to your success. Social Media allows people to disseminate "word of mouth" comments regarding a business to their many connections through these sites. Often they are also shared with others as well. As a result, Internet reputation management has become another marketing strategy many companies now employ (view my post on the subject).
What are ways we can incorporate what others are saying about us into our website design and content? Some specific ways include:
- Memberships/Adherence to Codes of Conduct
- Inquiry Responsiveness
Testimonials: While many people utilize testimonials on their websites, they often use them in the wrong way. So often, testimonials are confined to a "Testimonials" page on the website. Remember that your objective is to build enough trust so that visitors will take certain actions on your website. Testimonials need to be part of the persuasive content that gets visitors to convert, i.e. to take the action you want them to take. Testimonials should also be placed next to "Calls to Actions" to reassure users that the action that they are about to take will have a positive outcome.
Testimonials need to be:
- From people with whom the targeted market can identify. If I’m a blue collar worker who likes certain pastimes, a testimonial from a Wall Street banker with dissimilar interests is not going to sway me as much as someone with whom I can relate.
- Specific to the subject matter at hand. Specific testimonials are more valuable. For example, “they arrived on time, were very courteous and professional and took the time to clean up after themselves” is a lot more valuable to your website than “they did a great job.”
- Personalized by providing information on the person providing the testimonial. Visitors are skeptical that testimonials are just invented. Putting a name, face, location helps to make the testimonial more credible with the visitor. If the person doesn’t mind, provide contact information so visitors can communicate first hand with the person.
According to the latest Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey of over 25,000 Internet consumers from 50 countries, recommendations from personal acquaintances or opinions posted by consumers online are the most trusted forms of advertising. Ninety percent of consumers surveyed noted that they trust recommendations from people they know, while 70 percent trusted consumer opinions posted online.
"...consumers' reliance on word of mouth in the decision-making process, either from people they know or online consumers they don't, has increased significantly over the last couple of years," says Jonathan Carson, President of Online, International, for the Nielsen Company.
So who should provide testimonials?
- Satisfied customers are very important. If they would be willing to be contacted, wouldn't that engender trust even more? Such testimonials should be very specific. Avoid "hype" testimonials. Use them in context. A testimonial about support after the purchase should be utilized in the copy about your excellent customer service, not while you are describing product or service benefits.
- Authorities in the same discipline or field. This could be a review of your product or service by a publication, organization, etc. or simply the opinion of a person who knows what they are talking about (in the visitor's mind).
- Celebrity endorsements. I am not a fan, but the marketing world loves such endorsements.
Memberships/Adherence to Codes of Conduct: Your participation in organizations and adherence to conduct or standards says a lot about you and reputation. Of course, only if the visitor thinks so.
I recommend that clients join the Better Business Bureau and utilize that membership logo as a trust-inducing reputation element on their websites. Can you think of others that would create a positive association in the minds of visitors?
Stating that you subscribe to certain Codes of Conduct relative to the way you conduct business can also build your reputation, e.g., HON (Health on the Net) Code for Medical and Health websites. You can even create your own business Code of Conduct with a prominent link to it utilizing some official looking seal as a means to increase trust. This not only increases your reputation, but also helps minimize risk in the mind of the visitor. If not a Code of Conduct, then at least a Performance Guarantee with no small print!
Endorsements/Awards/Certifications: All of these are third-party indicators of your company's credibility and reputation. If you are marketing a product or service, they can be very important in increasing your reputation in the minds of consumers. Use them prominently as part of your website persuasive copy and design.
Inquiry Responsiveness: Visitors will often make an inquiry as part of the process of deciding to utilize your products or services. It is important that you respond to such inquiries quickly with good information that provides what was requested without using a lot of sales hype. Consumers can request information at any time of the day and it is your responsibility to ensure that those requests are dealt with in a timely manner.
If visitors don't feel good about you because it took a long time for you to respond to their initial inquiries, you have lost an opportunity to produce trust. In most cases, you won’t get a second chance to redeem yourself with them.
My next post will discuss the third leg of the stool, Website Quality, in creating enough initial trust to get visitors to take action.