This post is republished from my original article on the Amex Open Forum website. It is part of "Small Business Friday" on this blog, where I share ideas and marketing techniques specifically to help small businesses stand out. To read more articles like this, visit the "Small Business Friday" category on this blog.
I have often written and spoken about building trust and the importance of doing so for small businesses as a way of promoting your products and services. There are certainly best practices when it comes to building trust online that are worth following – but recently I had a conversation that reminded me of how easy it is to lose trust online as well. The problem is sometimes that you can do everything right, but it is one or two choices that you make online which undermine your efforts and cause everything that you do right to fall on deaf ears. It's akin to giving a great speech naked. No one remembers the speech – they only remember that you were naked while you gave it.
Assuming you haven't had the chance to give a speech naked (I haven't either, by the way), hopefully this situation will be unfamiliar to you. Online, however, we often are doing the equivalent without even realizing it. To help you avoid making those mistakes, here are 5 ways that businesses lose consumer trust all the time online. As you read them, think about how YOU can change what you are currently doing online to avoid losing trust inadvertently:
- Asking for too much information or the wrong information. It is tempting when it comes to putting a form on your website to ask for all the information you could possibly need. The only problem with that is that the more you ask for, the more questions you raise in a potential customers mind about how you might be using their personal information. Instead, why not try to reduce what you ask for as much as possible? Or at the very least, to get the most important information as a priority, which might include email address and name.
- Not listening to what consumers are asking for. If listening to your customers builds trust then it stands to reason that the opposite is likely true. Unfortunately there are many ways to not listen to your customers online. Allowing comments without responding to them is one way. Another is have a website that is difficult to navigate without paying attention to what people are actually doing on it. The solution to either of these problems is relatively simple … engage your customers by responding to them and actively solicit their feedback on anything you are doing online and actually do something to act on that feedback.
- Speaking just as a company and not as an individual. A general rule of thumb when it comes to being authentic online is that the more individual personality you can share with your customers, the more authentic you will be able to act as a result. Trying to maintain a corporate voice only is a common mistake because may small business owners believe that speaking like a faceless company will help them appear big and professional. The problem is that you are avoiding one of your biggest potential advantages … creating a personal relationship with your customers. Instead of hiding your voice, learn to actively use it to give people a direct connection to your business. The end result will be more loyal customers and a deeper insight into your customers because you have a much stronger relationship with them.
- Appearing too good to be true. Promising a miracle cure or something that seems like the perfect offer is a tempting thing to try and do to drive interest from consumers and traffic to your site. Doing so also undermines the credibility of your organization, though, because people have a much higher radar for detecting outsized claims that we sometimes think. The end result of trying to overpromise isn't consumer interest, it is skepticism. It is better to stay more real with what you promise to do and be as transparent as you can about what you don't do. Nothing can build more credibility than being open about your shortcomings as well as being realistic about your strong points.
- Using too many "cookie cutter" online elements. Let's face it, there are tons of ways to create a free website these days. From launching a blog to creating an entire corporate website, you can fairly easily take a template and put a website up in a matter of hours. Chances are, you don't have a website like this for your business … but there are elements of this type of business that you still might be using. For example, if you are integrating Google keyword ads on your site to try and make some extra money, or using a recognizable template … you might accidentally be sending the message to your customers that you don't care to invest real effort in having a professional site. As a general rule, if you are selling some kind of product or service, skip the online ads and try to make your site as customized as possible.