“Hey, you can trust me.”
The second someone says that, most people want to head as quickly as possible in the opposite direction. They know that directly asking for trust is the last resort of someone who hasn’t found ways to prove that they can be trusted with their actions. But if you can’t tell someone that you’re trustworthy, how exactly do you show it?
This is an incredibly important question, especially with it becoming easier every day to start businesses online with very little up-front investment. What guarantee do companies have that you won’t just suddenly close your doors? How do they know you won’t simply skip from business venture to business venture the second things start to become difficult?
Customers need to feel like you’re in it for the long haul, you know what you’re talking about, and you have their best interests at heart. Here are several techniques you can use to encourage people to put their trust in you and continue to maintain good relationships once they’ve been established.
Become an Expert
One of the best ways to get customers to trust that you know what you’re talking about within a given field is to create content that is entertaining and useful… and then give it away for free. This may sound like a crazy way to run a business, but there are so many other options out there that people aren’t very likely to take you seriously until you have proven to them that you can do it. This means doing things like maintaining an ongoing blog, being active on social networks, offering free downloadable resources like white papers and eBooks, and actively engaging with groups in your particular field of interest.
This may sound like a lot of work (and it is) but it’s worth it. Doing so not only makes you credible as a business and an authority on specific subject matter, it helps you to forge good customer relationships and works as effective advertising.
Look Like a Professional
You probably wouldn’t hire a lawyer who was dressed in shorts and flip-flops, or buy from a dirty store where everything is out of place, and you’re not going to trust a site if it looks like it was put together by someone who has no idea what they’re doing.
If you want to be credible, you have to look the part, and that means everything from dressing well and having good-looking business cards to building a website that runs smoothly, is easy to navigate, and doesn’t contain mistakes like broken links or grammatical errors. If anything about your business looks like there wasn’t much time or effort put into it, people aren’t going to have a much harder time trusting you.
Show that Others Like You
From getting a job to selling a product, studies have shown that the best way to convince people they want to be working with you is with a personal recommendation. Ideally, you’d love this recommendation to be from someone they actually know (even if they only “know” the person from Facebook or LinkedIn), but sites like Yelp have made it more acceptable to trust the words of strangers.
Try to build relationships with other professionals in your field when first putting together your site, and ask for testimonials and references from people who have a good experience working with you or using your products. Slap a few great quotes up on your site and you’ll be surprised by how many more people will be willing to give you a chance. Your job, then, is to deliver on that promise.
We live in a world that is becoming more connected every single day. The tone of your business’s message can’t change from medium to medium and platform to platform. If you say one thing on your site, you can’t contradict it with a tweet or Facebook post.
But it goes beyond your business accounts and even your online life. No matter how well you try to separate your personal accounts from business ones, unprofessional or inconsistent behavior reflects on your company and can end up really hurting you. The easiest way to avoid this is by simply being honest in how you present yourself and your business. Do this and even the most skeptical of customers will eventually come around.
About the Author
Aileen Pablo is a Filipina business and finance blogger. She works at Open Colleges, one of the pioneers of online education in Australia and one of the leading providers of diploma of management. If you want to feature her on your blog, drop a line at aileen (at) oc.edu.au.