At first, this email made me laugh, but then I realized a very important business lesson was presenting itself that we should be reminded of as often as possible. It’s so important, you’re probably losing potential customers right now because of it.

Here’s the story…

Fran Kerr forwarded me an email from a person who decided NOT to purchase her ebook and wanted to explain why.

I won’t publish the entire email here, but the basic premise is that this person decided that Fran is a scammer.

She even went so far as to do research on Fran’s domain name, where she found my name as the owner (I came up with the name for Fran’s site and registered the domain under my domain registrar account too). She then looked me up, found out I was some guy who calls himself the “blog traffic king” and had possibly created this entire fake persona of Fran in order to sell an acne treatment ebook.

You can see why at first I had to laugh. That’s one serious conspiracy theory.

Given that I know Fran in real life and have watched how hard she has worked over the years to help people, and how legitimate I thought her website appeared to me, I couldn’t imagine how someone could have so much distrust.

Trust As A Conversion Agent

Behind every transaction there is a level of trust demonstrated by the purchaser towards the seller. If that trust isn’t there, then the purchase doesn’t happen.

As you can see with the example of Fran’s disgruntled prospect, some people are always looking for a scam. There are those who enjoy a sense of pleasure “hunting” to see where the scams are. Unfortunately for these people, they may bypass quality products and services because of how much they distrust everything, where they might actually end up meeting their needs if only they decide to take off the paranoid glasses long enough to give something a chance.

Then again, given that there are many scams out there (definitely a minority, but a few bad apples can spoil it for everyone), people have a right to be wary and do research to see if whom they are buying from are legitimate.

If a person has gone through a buying experience online that ended in disaster, or just heard bad stories from other people or the media, it’s not that unrealistic to expect a level of paranoia from your prospects.

While you can safely disregard the extremely paranoid people as they are not likely ever going to buy from you, those prospects who you might call “swing voters” need to see demonstrable proof of your legitimacy before they are going to purchase. Implementing just a handful of techniques to convince people of your trustworthiness, can mean the difference between business success or failure.

How To Build Trust Online

Building trust online happens in many ways, some of which we are conscious of, while other elements impact people without them overtly realizing it in the moment.

For example, a prospect may go looking for reviews of your product created by other people, which could be the difference between buying your product or a competing product, during their decision process at that moment in time.

Or, it might be prolonged repeat exposure to your name as a reputable person or source of information over a period of years that slowly builds trust, so when finally the moment comes to make a purchase, trust is already in place.

Trust is why branding is so important to big business. Brand awareness generally translates into trust, which converts a sale. Even the fact that a company has enough money to spend on building a brand can be enough to convince people to buy, because for some, size equals trust, though that is not always the case and can even have the opposite effect.

As small business owners who rely solely on the Internet as our medium for conversion, we have many tools to enhance trust with our prospects, even on a tiny budget. We don’t need television advertisements, billboards, celebrity endorsements, we just need to be ourselves and help people.

Here’s a list of some of my favorite methods for building trust online

  • By far the best way to build trust is to be helpful. If you provide valuable information, answer questions and consistently demonstrate you know what you know over a long period of time, your reputation alone can be enough to convince people to buy from you.
  • Content is important, but how you deliver content is critical as well. While it’s great to provide helpful information, if it’s wrapped in a boring or impersonal style, or people can’t easily find it, or you use mediums that aren’t popular, you’re not helping your cause.
  • Personalization is especially important when your company is based on your personal brand. What information you produce and how you deliver it are the most important ingredients, but you can enhance personalization by taking a few simple steps: add a photo of yourself so people know “who” is behind the words, use video that features you talking naturally and include audio so your voice is associated with your message.
  • Make mistakes. Okay, this might seem silly, and I don’t want you to deliberately go out there and make mistakes, but understand through the course of business you are bound to make some mistakes. Rather than hide them, you should highlight them. Humans make mistakes, and if you show people what you did wrong and then how you fixed it, this helps create more trust. It’s much worse if you never admit to mistakes, or try and place the blame elsewhere, or even lie about what you did – this will reduce trust.
  • Third party case studies are fantastic, especially from people who have purchased your product. I prefer to do podcast (audio) interviews for my case studies, but any form of real life stories from people who are not you, who are succeeding because of you, builds your credibility.
  • Serve your customers really well, so much so that they feel challenged whenever someone challenges you. Defending yourself when someone attacks you online is okay, but when your army of loyal followers come to your defense, that’s much more credible.

I could go on and on about this topic, but for now I’ll leave you with those ideas.

The central themes are transparency and a genuine desire to help people. If you follow these two very basic principles as your ethos, and use tools like blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and any other mediums where your people congregate (use the language and media that your people currently use), it’s difficult to go wrong.

The only way you can fail at this is by not taking action (failing to have any voice at all), or creating a false voice, because people can smell a scam, even when it’s not there, so you need to prove your legitimacy proactively.

In the end not everyone is going to trust you, but if you do this right, for every one person who is suspicious of your actions, another ten are loving what you do and trusting you more each day.

Trust Agent