When is the last time you turned to a friend or family member for advice? When you wanted the best deal on a piece of furniture for your office or the best bang for your buck on a date night dinner–who did you think to ask first?
Probably a friend or a family member. And if you didn’t have one of those readily available, you might have turned to the internet for help.
Recent statistics show that 85 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, and online reviews impact nearly 70 percent of buying decisions. People are not only finding your business through the internet; they’re making purchasing choices based off of what current customers are saying about you. In this day and age it’s crucial to build trust online as a brand.
But how do you do it? How do you go from being a nameless, faceless entity to humanising your business and connecting with your online followers?
There are a few simple things you can do now to start building trust online:
- Connect a Name with a Face
This is an intimidating one, and some business owners may not want to be tied with their brand in such a public way. But putting a face to your brand can instantly build trust and rapport among your followers.
Online influencers are a great example of how impactful it can be to connect a brand with a face. People follow influencers because they’re interested in their lives and stories. When influencers endorse brands, their followers take note because of the connection they feel to the person promoting the brand. You can use this same formula to your advantage as a business–let your customers get a glimpse of who you are, why you started your business and what you hope to accomplish. Be honest and authentic!
Connecting your brand with your image is especially powerful when you have a compelling story. Say you’ve overcome significant obstacles to start your business or you come from a unique and challenging background–these are points you can build off of to help craft your brand story.
In some cases it might be reasonable to have a spokesperson or a mascot that can serve as the face of your brand. As long as it’s relatable, it’ll do the trick. Putting yourself out there isn’t the only way to give your brand a face, and if you aren’t confident on paper or in front of a camera then it might be better to outsource this part to someone else.
If you want to connect yourself to your brand but don’t have an interesting personal story to tell, don’t fret. Instead, focus on sharing useful information and positioning yourself as an expert in your niche or field.
- Create Great Content
In the digital era, you can’t expect to make an impact online without having great content. You can’t churn out generic articles and rise to the top of internet searches since there are thousands of published articles on every conceivable topic, and additional content is created every single day.
Great content is a broad term that can be interpreted in all kinds of ways. But here are some basic guidelines to start with:
- Easily understood: don’t try to blow readers away with flowery language and dense topics, even if you’re in a technical field. Think about the intent of your readers as you create content. Are people coming to your site primarily to be entertained? Are they coming to be informed? If someone comes once, what will make them want to visit again?
- Relatable: great content is relatable; it makes your readers feel like they’re listening to a close friend. Subtlety is a big part of getting this part right–if you come across as a know-it-all or belittle your readers in any way, you might push potential followers away.
- Professional: double check your work for spelling and grammar mistakes. Readers can be harsh critics and sometimes even the smallest errors will ding your credibility. Use spell checker and similar tools to proofread and edit your content.
- Digestible: using short paragraphs, concise sentences and common vocabulary makes a world of difference for your online content. Again the point isn’t to blow people away with your intelligence or experience. Great content is about making a connection with your readers.
- Actionable: great content leaves readers with an actionable step or plan. This is especially important to get right when you’re writing an informative piece that is meant to help your readers solve a problem–don’t just tell, show your readers how to solve their issue!
- Unique: chances are that as a business owner you have only one thing that is truly unique: your experiences. Use your experiences and your personality to position yourself as an industry expert. Stay on top of industry trends and share useful research with your followers whenever possible.
Creating great content won’t happen overnight; it’s a trial and error process to determine exactly what your followers are looking for. Listen closely to them and test different kinds of content and different methods of delivering it so that you can perfect your strategy.
- Rack Up Excellent Reviews
Remember that stat about how important online reviews are to your business? Do everything in your power to get authentic (and ideally 5-star) reviews. Consumers expect a certain level of service in a business transaction and chances are they won’t take the time to post a review unless they have an exceptionally good–or unbelievably bad–experience. You can incentivise the review process by offering freebies, discounts or other perks to people who leave reviews for you.
Don’t be surprised if you end up with a few less-than-perfect reviews if you’re encouraging people to give their honest opinions. Less-than-perfect reviews can actually increase your credibility by showing customers that a variety of people are reviewing your business; not just your fans.
Lastly, don’t underestimate word-of-mouth marketing–you’ll be amazed by the amount of trust (and new business) that just a handful of good reviews can generate!
- Build your Tribe
Your brand needs “champions” that promote, praise and celebrate you at every turn. These champions serve a similar purpose to positive online reviews: they humanise your brand, spread the word to their friends and create a ripple effect of positive marketing that translates to more customers and sales.
There are many ways to build your tribe. If you have an online business you can utilise platforms like Facebook to create a community around your brand. As a brick-and-mortar business you can host events in your space or have a VIP Club for your top customers. If done well, potential customers will see your tribe and want to be a part of the “in” crowd. Through all of your marketing efforts, be sure to advertise that your tribe is an open and welcoming place–making your tribe too exclusive might have the opposite effect of turning potential customers off.
- Own Up to Your Mistakes
It happens to all business owners at some point–you make a mistake, and someone, or sometimes many people, takes offense and ends up upset. Poor reviews trickle in and you momentarily panic about the future of your business.
It isn’t the end of the world–mistakes are part of life, and life is all about learning. Part of building trust with your customers involves recognising your mistakes and taking swift action to correct them. There are many creative and thoughtful things you can do to rectify mistakes–issuing an apology, offering a refund, and offering a discount on a future purchase are just a few examples.
Even if making a mistake feels painful in the moment, you’ve uncovered an opportunity to establish trust with your customers. By offering to make things right, people will see that there’s a compassionate person behind your brand; not just a nice logo and a pretty website.
You can have an amazing product, incredible customer service and a near-perfect sales funnel, but none of those things will make a difference if your customers don’t trust you. It takes time, some experimentation and lots of learning to increase trust with your customers, but all the effort is worth it for the long-term results!
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