In some ways, doing business over the Internet (or starting new business relationships online) represents something of a Catch-22 for customers and clients.
On the one hand, they love the variety and convenience; and at the same time, they hate feeling like they're taking unnecessary risks because they don't know anything about the person or company they are working with.
For that reason, building transparency into your online marketing can not only help put customers’ minds at ease, but can give you an important competitive advantage over other businesses in your market.
Here are a dozen things you can do to build trust through transparency, and help buyers feel more comfortable and put their worries at ease in the process:
1. Use clear, straightforward content.
A lot of people like to "dress up" their websites with complicated phrases and business jargon, but most customers will prefer language and concepts they can easily understand.
2. Include facts and supporting details.
The more you can back up what you have to say, the easier it is for people to believe in you and your claims. This especially works if you can reference things like university studies, or surveys performed through mainstream media outlets.
3. Post real customer testimonials.
Simple one-line recommendations don't cut it anymore, because customers know they are too easy to falsify or embellish. If at all possible, use customer testimonials that have full names, details, and even a few details about the situation.
4. Put your successes in the case studies.
For more complex success stories, begin by presenting the challenge, the course of action, and the results. The more detailed and specific you can be (without going too long, of course), the more credibility your case study will add to your site.
5. Allow customers to post honest reviews.
That means not filtering out the ones that don't say exactly what you would like (although it is fair to respond). Assuming your reviews are mostly positive, customers will appreciate the transparency – they know no company can please everyone 100% of the time.
6. Be upfront about mistakes.
On a related note, don't try to hide minor blunders. Instead, address them and show buyers what you learned through the process. Handle things correctly, and you'll develop a reputation for honesty while showing customers that you won't make the same mistake twice.
7. Make your contact information prominent.
Trustworthy businesses want people to contact them with questions and issues; they don't have any reason to hide behind anonymity. For the best results, include multiple telephone numbers and email addresses.
8. Share small slices of personal information.
Obviously, posting sensitive details on your website or "over-sharing" about your personal preferences and relationships is a bad idea. But, occasionally showing customers your human side can help them have more trust in your company.
9. Use photos of yourself, your team, and your facility.
In the same way, a few simple snapshots – especially those that give buyers a "behind-the-scenes" look at your business – can help reinforce the idea that you are real people, not a faceless company that only exists on the Internet.
10. Take advantage of outside verification.
From seals that show your site is safe from hackers to endorsements from industry authorities and the Better Business Bureau, you can use outside approval and verification to show that your company is legitimate and trustworthy.
11. Explain your processes to customers.
In other words, never leave any doubt as to what will happen when a customer presses a button, clicks a link, or signs up for more information. People don't like surprises, especially when they come from businesses that they aren't familiar with yet.
12. Build a strong online reputation.
One of the best ways to be transparent is to let your previous satisfied customers speak for you. Do the right things, and they'll leave you great feedback on social media profiles, industry sites, and elsewhere online.
Buyers don't just want vendors they can afford or products they can use – they want to work with professionals and businesses they can trust. Why not make your website more transparent, and help others feel comfortable doing business with you at the same time?
Bonus tip: Build a better web presense with these tools (free download).