Some people tend to think of the internet as comparable to the Wild Wild West. (What do you think the acronym ‘WWW’ stands for?)
At the moment it is largely unregulated and there is no central authority in charge. As a result many scam artists will take advantage of this situation.
As a small business owner, with no large company name to trade on, it is essential that you establish credibity with your future customers
Your online credibility can be built by following the seven suggestions below: –
1) In terms of customer participation brick and mortar stores (not builder’s merchants), the traditional high street shops, have an advantage in that the customers can interact with a real person. This does not happen in the virtual world of internet commerce. So to help build credibility it is very useful to provide a photograph of your self. In this context it may be better to use a professional photographer, to obtain the best results, instead of using the local photo booth.
2) Use audio to provide a welcome message in your own speaking style. Write a short script and practise until you can sound relaxed and friendly. I can guarantee that you won’t like the first few attempts but you will be able to get it right fairly quickly. This will help to let your potential customers know that there is a real person behind the sales offer. These days you can use video if so so choose. An important point here is to let the customer start the audio or video. Nothing is more off-putting than to have an audio message auto-start.
3) Place your contact information and physical address on every page. Again you are being open and transparent about your identity and how you may be contacted. This shows that you have nothing to hide and that you do not intend to take their money and disappear the next day. There is, however, a strong disadvantage of using your home address in that you may get unwanted callers and suffer a degree of harrassment. In this case I think that it would be better to subscribe to a virtual office service, which would then project a physical presence for your business. Can you be reached by fax, landline phone, email, and mobile phone? This information adds to your credibility, not to mention your perceived availability. To repeat if these are your home numbers it may be better to use the virtual office service which can provide these facilities. If you don’t want to do this it may be sufficient to use the format “My name@mydomain“.
4) Following on from this if you use a free email or hosting service for your site the perception of your credibilty will suffer. It is far better to use a well known hosting service such as Godaddy or 123reg. These service providers generally allow a number of email addressess to be associated with each domain name. This will allow you to use addresses such as “admin@mydomain“, “service@mydomain” or “Support@mydomain“. This will create the perception of a large company even though you are a one man band.
This enhances the perception of credibility with your potential customers, which is very important. Consider that if you use free email provider such as hot mail.com you may be percieved to be of little worth or even a potential scammer.
5) Have an “about me Page”. The first time a surfer appears on your site they will experience feelings similar to those found when going on a blind date. They will have heard a little about you and know where to find you, but this is, practically, an exercise in window shopping. You will increase trust and help to build a relationship if you provide a well thought out “about me “page. This could contain the following information; –
A personal and professional biography
Possibly a photogarph of your self
Name address and Telephone number (consider the virtual office here)
A description of your company
This outline will help to reassure the potential customer and show that you and your company can be trusted to deliver what is promised in your sales letter. They will the be more likely to buy from you.
6) Include a ‘Privacy Statement’.If you collect personal information this is essential with respect to UK data protection legislation. You must be specific how this information will be used. If you are going to let third parties have access to this information you must state this clearly. You will gain geater trust if you state that the information collected will be solely used for the current transaction. However, if you want to put the customer on your mailing list it is essential to have a form of words such as “This company will use your email and/or physical address to advise you of future products as and when these become available”. If you use a “double opt-in” or a tick box to confirm their agreement to this policy this will put the customer in control of how the information is used. If, for instance, you want to change your policy, and, perhaps allow third parties to access this information you will need to ask permission from each customer individually. If you email your customers you must give the the opportunity of opting out from any further communications.
The web site http://www.truste.com/ will give you more detailed information on website privacy issues.
7) If you get unsolicited testimonials and product reviews use these on your web site, of course you will need to ask permission before you use them. There is nothing wrong with asking for feed- back on your services and products and using this as testimonials. This is what Amazon and Ebay do all the time. If you just use initials such as Mr. A. B. of Liverpool you could lose credibilty as it is entirely possible that your potential customer may think that you have invented the testimonial. Use Mr. Albert Brown of Liverpool and give an email address, with your customer’s permission of course. Never, never give out their physical addresses, this would be a breach of data protection laws and could cause serious problems for your customer and, of course, yourself
If you use some, or preferably all, of the above strategies your on line credibilty will be improved and having built trust and rapport you will find that your customers are more than happy to buy from you.
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