Gain Your Customers’ Trust

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You have read a lot of articles about increasing the number of visitors to your site. But if you want to sell from your site, getting visitors is the easy part. The hard part is gaining your visitors’ trust so that they will buy from you.

Your visitors are still spooked by the Internet. They are not sure whether their credit card is safe. They don’t know whether you sell a quality product. They wonder whether you will actually ship the product. Until you convince them
that you will handle their transaction honestly and well, you don’t stand a chance.

This will change as all of us gain more experience on the net; much more trust will be granted in the near future. But you can’t change today’s reality – customers are very weary of purchasing products and services on the net.
Thus, only the vendor who works extra hard to build trust will prosper in today’s market.

So, how do you build trust? You have to build it into every element of your site. You have to keep asking yourself, every time you make a decision, "Will this enhance my visitor’s trust in me." This is the net, you are hard to trust, so work hard to be trusted.

Here are ten guidelines to help measure how you are doing. They apply no matter what you are selling. Take a look at your site. See if you are paying attention to all ten. Be critical and improve – there are a lot of folks nipping
at your heals.

1. See the ‘Net Through Your Visitors Eyes

First, if you haven’t spent a great deal of time on the net, spend a great deal of time on the net. Don’t try to get it right until you have seen how bad it can be. Your visitors have literally millions of places to go on the net. Once they find your site, don’t give them even the slightest reason to be upset with you. Feel their aggravation at using a slow site. See how boring long-winded self-promotions are. Find out how mad it makes them when their email is ignored. Then make sure your visitors don’t experience these things.

2. Design a Professional Site

The best web design has been estimated to be 20 times more effective than the worst. You cannot ignore this. You have to keep it quick, clean, and professional. To be trusted like a pro you had better look like a pro. Your customers are spending hard-earned cash. They want to feel fully confident that they are getting what they expect. A poorly designed site is an immediate tip-off that you are not serious. You look like an amateur. If you cannot design a professional site, pay someone to. A 20 times improvement for a few thousand dollars is an easy choice for a pro.

3. Sell Only Products that You Are Excited About

A professional is in it for the long haul. Over time your customers will sense your enthusiasm for your products. If you have to fake it, they will know. And people don’t trust fakes.

4. Compel Your Customer to Return

Customers will not buy from you on their first visit to your site. You may want them to, but they won’t. It takes time and familiarity to breed trust. You need to build up a relationship. So it is imperative that you develop some method of getting your customers to return to your site again and again. You might host a contest, provide useful current information, or announce a special sale – but do something, figure out some method to get them back. Don’t expect any sales if you don’t.

5. Ask Customers What Needs Fixing, Then Fix It

If you treat your customers with warmth and respect they will help you when you ask for it. So ask for it. Ask them how you can improve your site. Create a survey and tune it up through several small tests. When you have it right, survey as many customers as you can. Then act on the results; make the changes your customers ask for. Your customers will see the improvements and know you are a serious professional in whom they can place their trust.

6. Be You

You have plenty of opportunities to demonstrate your personality and values. Don’t write words or create graphics that you predict your customer will expect to see. Don’t try to please everyone. Give them you. You should not act cool and calculating with these folks. You are trying to build a community around your site. Use your real voice – your customers will know it is you and respect and trust you for it.

7. Use Testimonials

How else are your potential customers going to know whether they are buying from the right site? Let the testimonials speak to product quality and to the level of service and integrity you provide. To paraphrase an old axiom – the website owner who does not use testimonials has skinny kids.

8. Get Your Own Domain Name

There are plenty of free web page offers out there. Several offer quite a tempting array of features. These are great for your personal use, but they send exactly the wrong message to your potential customer. They say you are not serious, that you are just trying out this business to see if anyone bites. Get your own domain name and host your site with a pro.

9. Be Up-Front

Don’t cloak the information that your customers want to see. A common technique in print advertising is to bury key facts. The advertiser wants to build the buying case and he expects the customer to patiently wade through all the copy to get the facts. Forget about it, this is the net. Web surfers are not patient. They want it right up front and right now. If you make them dig, they are gone.

The price of your product or service is the best example. It is the first thing your customers want to know, so tell them. Put it right on your home page. If it is fair, they’ll respect you for telling them and will click on into the site. If not, you would have lost them anyway.

10. Do What You Say You Will… And Do It Quickly

Internet customers work in Internet time. They want and deserve their product, their service, and answers to their questions quickly. Respect these desires. Ship your product the day you get the order. Answer your email as soon as you read it. Keep your site current. There is no tolerance for mediocre performance on the web; stay sharp or get out of the game.

So how well does your site engender trust? Be honest, go over the ten questions carefully and critically. It is very important that you follow these and similar guidelines to insure that you build trust with your potential customer. If you earn your visitors’ trust, you have a chance of turning them into customers. If you don’t earn their trust – forget about it, your visitor is going to buy from someone else.

Bruce LawrenceBruce Lawrence
View Author

Bruce evangelises Open Web Standards for the Opera browser. He’s a member of the W3C's Mobile Best Practices Working Group, the Web Standards Project and co-wrote and co-edited “Web Accessibility: Web Standards and Regualtory Compliance”. Bruce drinks Guinness and works off the stout-related stoutness by kickboxing. He's a purple belt and aims for black before he turns 50.

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