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January 25, 2007

Buy From You? I don’t even know you!

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You may remember a few weeks back when we wrote about trust. I went off about what makes me trust people in the blogosphere and even rattled off a few names of the people I’ve learned to put my trust into over the past year. Well, the issue and the importance of trust hasn’t wavered, and people are still talking about it (trust, not my blog post. Nobody cares about my blog posts).

In case you haven’t been following at home, there’s a great thread developing over at the Cre8asite forums where members are talking about how to establish trust on your Web site.

Let’s be honest. Every site is selling something. Be it a product, service or just your company to fill a certain need, you’re trying to get customers to buy into something. I’ll use Bruce Clay, Inc. as an example. Clearly we’re not out selling branded T-shirts and hats (though that would be totally awesome if we did!), but we do sell training and services related to search engine optimization and Internet marketing. It’s our hope that if you find the educational resources on our site useful, you’ll think of us if you ever need professional search engine optimization help. If not, we at least hope you found the information we provided useful.

As a site owner, it’s important to give yourself a little ego check every now and then. Realize that as snowflake-like as you think you are, there are a hundred other sites that offer similar services. Quite frankly, your customers have options. To keep them coming back you have to provide some extra value and establish yourself as different, and most importantly, trustworthy.

There are all sorts of clichés about putting the customer first, promising small and delivering big, and that ridiculous nonsense about the client always being right, but when it comes down to it, when I visit a site, there’s really only a handful of things I’m looking for. If you don’t have them, I am so over you.

Here’s a list of what helps me decide whether or not I trust you enough to have my credit card information.

  • Your Site Text: Yes, this is shocking but I like Web sites that have real text, not just pretty pictures or contextual ads. Your site copy has to be captivating and be able to curb my ADD tendencies of finding something more shiny and pretty. I want strong titles, interesting descriptions, and copy that isn’t filled with words like "good", "new" and "unique". If everything on your site is "unique" someone needs to buy you a dictionary AND a thesaurus. Craft them carefully because the words on your site will affect the signal you’re giving off to customers.

    If copywriting isn’t your specialty, Customers Rock! has a good list of meaningless clichés that you should avoid using on your Web site. I personally disagree with their stance on the word "awesome", though. I think every page of your Web site should include the word awesome. How else will people know how awesome your company is?

  • Pictures: I know. I said I wanted words but I also want pictures. I don’t care if they don’t help your search engine optimization goals any, I still want them. They help me to know what I’m getting myself into and if that skirt goes with my skin tone or if it’ll make me look like a clown. Providing users with a thumbnail (and a larger accompanying image) lets them trust what they’re buying and trust you to deliver it.

    You’d think including product images would be a no-brainer but then you’d be wrong. I’m currently in the market for a couch and since I don’t like people asking if I’m doing okay (maybe I’m not but do you really want to hear about it?) or if I need help with anything (I don’t.), I prefer to do my shopping online. Imagine my surprise to find that a number of online retailers don’t provide pictures of their $800 couches. In what world am I going to pay $800 for an item I can’t see before buying? I’m not. Give me a picture.

  • Do other people like it?: Testimonials and consumer ratings belong under product descriptions; they just do. It helps to see some community on your site and it also assures me that the TV stand I’m about to buy isn’t going to fall apart once I put the TV on it (one Target customer apparently learned this the hard way). Testimonials and user ratings help me to establish confidence in your brand, your product, and show me that you stand behind what you’re selling. I like a company with a little integrity. Hearing about others past experiences is important in helping me to establish confidence in your site.
  • Is your site well-maintained and appropriate to your niche?: If your site footer still has your 1999 copyright, someone on your team is careless and I don’t trust you with my credit card number. Also, if you’re selling holistic spa good on a black-background site with knives cascading down it and scary metal music, it’s obvious you don’t understand your audience or what makes them happy. How do I know you’re not going to accidentally send me a dead baby pig instead of the aromatherapy candles I ordered?
  • Does it looks and acts trustworthy?: I don’t need a bio for every person that works for you, but it is nice to know your production line is fueled by humans, not robots. Seeing a picture of your headquarters and team members helps to put a face on an otherwise cold brand name. And if your staff is cute, well then that doesn’t hurt either. It’s all about the warm and fuzzies.

    Looking and acting trustworthy also includes clearly stating your company’s pricing information, keeping promises, owning up to your mistakes, knowing how to handle complaints, and never, ever sending me a form response when I ask you a question. If I was really a "valued customer" and my "opinion was important" to you, you’d take the time to write me a two paragraph email. Not repeatedly send me a form that ignores everything I just asked you and tells me to call your customer service department. Take the time to listen to your customers concerns, complaints, affirmations and respond accordingly.

Why is trust important to your search engine optimization and Internet marketing goals?

Because trust drives sales.

Users aren’t going to buy from a site that they can’t trust it. Your customers are out there looking for signals to tell them that your site is credible and won’t take advantage of them. They want to know that they can trust what you’re selling and that if they have a problem you’ll make it right. Address your customers concerns, show them that you’re proud of what you’re selling and your team members, and give them what they need to make an informed decision about your product. If you trust them to do that, they’ll trust you to do the rest.

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3 responses to “Buy From You? I don’t even know you!”

  1. David Temple writes:

    Excellent points Lisa. I would add your address and phone number. If the only way to reach you is by email, you’ve lost my trust. Building trust online is a lot more difficult than offline. You don’t trust someone if you don’t know them. That’s why I think blogs are a great way for people to know you. Just don’t get carried away. The site is about them, not you.

  2. Lisa writes:

    David — A very good point. Providing address and phone number information is very important in building trust with customers. It helps to ease their fears that you’re not some makeshift operation that’s going to be gone tomorrow.

    Wait — Are you saying this blog isn’t about me? Susan put you up to this, didn’t she?

  3. Barry Schwartz writes:

    something go bold accidently?



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