It’s nice to be liked. Being liked is important for your business. Apple comes to mind immediately as a company that presented itself as friendly and approachable, rising to the top of an industry that had lacked warmth. By all means, do everything you can to make your business likable.
But being known and liked isn’t enough. You also need to be trusted. People are more likely to do business with a company they trust but don’t especially like than with a company they like but don’t especially trust.
Trust doesn’t depend just on truth-telling and reliability, though those are essential. Trust also depends on how you present yourself, how you tell your story. If you appear negligent, slipshod, or unable to put yourself in the consumer’s place, you’ll fall far short of the trust level you need.
Here are some key areas in which you might be sabotaging yourself, and how to address the problems:
Beware the feeble website.
A poorly designed, clumsily executed website can be a catastrophe for any business, not just companies that are strictly e-commerce. Even for a brick-and-mortar establishment, the website is often where you’ll be making a first impression. If your website doesn’t inspire confidence, chances are the potential customer will think you’re sloppy in other areas.
Make sure the pages—especially the landing page—aren’t too busy-looking and that they neither skimp on information nor assault the eye with too many graphics, too much verbal content, too much movement, or images and fonts that simply aren’t compatible with your brand and voice. Make sure your site is easily navigable.
Quality control goes for grammar, mechanics, and spelling too. Depending on what your product is, you might be dealing with potential customers who won’t notice or care much, but there’s no point in alienating the ones who do.
You also need to be sure the pages load quickly. The overwhelming majority of internet users consider four seconds the limit of their patience, and a slow site also puts you at the hazard of Google ranking you below faster sites.
A sub-par website makes it look like you either don’t care about the impression you make or that you aren’t doing well enough to afford the services of competent designers and writers.
Stake out your value proposition.
It’s strange that we even need to discuss this, but a remarkable number of businesses simply don’t make it clear upfront what they do. You need to make it obvious, along with what benefit the customer can expect and what differentiates you from the competition.
Nothing says “I don’t care what you think” quite as eloquently as not even realizing that customers need for you to tell them who you are and what you do.
See to it that you’re talked about.
According to Invesp, 99 percent of customers read online reviews, while 88 percent trust reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations, and 72 percent prefer to take action only after reading a favorable review. Nothing works quite like the word of a satisfied customer.
Cultivate reviews. Pursue them. According to Search Engine Land, 70 percent of customers say they are willing to leave a review if asked. You can attract reviews by engaging directly with customers on social media and in blogs and comment sections. As reviews come in, promote them by sharing them on your website and social media channels.
Don’t be too afraid of negative reviews. Yes, if there’s a problem, correct it, but if you don’t allow any negativity to appear, customers might become suspicious that you’re hiding something. A few negative reviews can add to your credibility by demonstrating transparency and a willingness to learn.
Get busy on social media.
This point relates to the previous one about lack of discussion. If you go silent for a while, potential customers may conclude that you’re out of business, that you’re not well-organized enough to carry on social media activity amid your other business functions, or that you’re uninterested in interacting with them and learning from the experience.
If there’s no discussion or not much discussion, potential customers may conclude that you’re apathetic or out of touch or that you’re suppressing unflattering information.
A weak social media presence also deprives you of the benefits of influencer marketing, whether you have official relationships with influencers or are simply fortunate enough to have people out there who like you and your product and enjoy saying so.
As with websites, make sure the writing isn’t sloppy. Even if you’re aiming for the common touch, there is nothing to be gained from errors in spelling, grammar, or usage. People who don’t know the rules are in no position to feel reassured that you don’t know the rules either, while people who do know the rules will wonder why you’re so amateurish.
Your social media activity should be frequent, regular, and in a definite pattern, not sporadic. Make it dependable. And never forget that social media is now a business essential, not a plaything, and that it requires the same sort of quality control as any other aspect of your business.
Emphasize accuracy, internally as well as externally.
For starters in this area, never make a false claim about what your goods or services can do for the customer. But accuracy goes far beyond insisting on honesty. It also involves keeping the commitments you make when you discuss customer service turnaround time. If you promise results in a given time-frame and then don’t deliver, customers can’t conclude anything good from this.
You also should make sure all the information about products, services, events, and special promotions is accurate across all channels. If your internal communication is poor, the results for your external communication—and therefore your credibility—can be highly undesirable.
Every communications medium, whether it’s your website or any person who speaks for your company in any capacity, should be completely in sync. This sort of coordination originates in sound internal communications practices.
Cultivate relationships, not just sales.
Today’s connected consumer is understandably suspicious of overt attempts to sell something. If you just come straight at them, full of zeal for the sale, this can erode trust. Savvy marketers know to provide useful information on topics not directly related to the product itself. For example, a life insurance company might post blogs about health and lifestyle matters, or family dynamics. You earn trust by giving something away.
A good relationship also entails providing plenty of information about how to use the product after purchase, in addition to follow-ups from customer service personnel. Don’t act like the relationship is over as soon as you make the sale. Don’t make a nuisance of yourself, but try for a never-ending customer journey.
In the last analysis…
So much of this comes down to the simple act of putting yourself in the consumer’s place. They know you’re in business to make money, but they need to see you as someone who will help them solve a problem or meet a need. To earn and keep their trust, be clear about who you are and what you do, present your information in a user-friendly way, keep your entire team on the same page, and make yourself part of an open discussion. Not only will customers trust you, but chances are they’ll like you too.