How do you know whom you can trust online? Which businesses are legit, and which ones are primed to rip you off? It can be tough these days determining which is which. With the advent of phishing and other online threats, some days you just want to shut down your email program and Internet browser and wish for a face-to-face interaction with someone that you know, like it was in the “good ole’ days” before the Internet took over our lives.
The ability to do business online is both a blessing and a curse, to paraphrase Tony Shalhoub’s TV character, Adrian Monk, from the series “Monk”. As a business owner, the Internet lets you expand your business to more potential customers than ever before. However, as a small service business owner, you can’t be everywhere at once, nor can you possibly have time for personal interactions with all of your potential clients. So, what’s an online business owner to do?
You can clone yourself online. I’m not referring to some science fiction technology involving the creation of a “mini-me”. Rather, you want to create an experience of you that is available to prospective clients, without you having to actually be there. Your “clone” creates a feeling of confidence in your prospective customer base — a feeling that you’re a real, live human being whom your prospective client can reach out and touch whenever needed.
Here are 7 strategies you can use to create your online business clone and increase customer confidence:
1. Make contact easy. Ensure your contact info clearly displayed on your website. Make it easy for your visitors to find your mailing address, phone number, or email address. Nothing is more frustrating to me when I’m searching for info on a website than to find only an 800 number. I want to know with whom I’m about to do business (a name) and where this business is located.
2. Be responsive. Respond to all email inquiries and phone calls in a timely fashion. Or, install a live chat feature on your site. I’ve dropped an email to several well-known consultant-types after reading their new book or hearing about a project in which they’re involved, and have been happily surprised to receive an email response from them, and even a phone call, in some cases. Nothing satisfies that human need for connection than some personal attention, and promptly returning your phone calls and emails will provide that for your visitors.
3. Become a real person. Use audio and video on your website and your photo. No one likes to do business with a faceless corporate entity. Come out of hiding and display your photo on your website, or photos of you in action in your business. Create a visual image in the mind of your visitor. Better yet, with the increasing popularity of online video and audio, let them hear and witness you in action. A great tool to help you put audio and video on your website is AudioAcrobat, http://dgunter.audioacrobat.com/ .
4. Provide client testimonials. “Can she do what she says she can do?” is a common question asked of service business owners, and they want to read about others who’ve been happy consumers of your service. Ask current and former clients for powerful testimonials and sprinkle them across your website. Keep in mind that the best testimonials give a synopsis of the client’s problem prior to hiring you, and the happy outcome as a result of hiring you. Those that just say, “Oh, Donna is wonderful!” is a great ego boost, but provide little credibility to your visitors.
A second powerful way to demonstrate your results is by providing case studies, or a synopsis of a problem that a client faced and your strategy that helped that client solve that problem. People want to do business with people who have a proven track record, and testimonials and case studies provide that track record for you.
5. Demonstrate your expertise. One of the easiest ways to tell the world what you know is by writing articles. Article writing is an extremely personal experience for me, as I’m typically writing about a problem that a client has had, an issue that came up in conversation recently with a potential client, or something with which I’m struggling in my business or something I want to research and know more about. The greatest compliment that I ever got about my articles (other than the fact that they contain useful info) is that each article really sounds like me. Don’t worry about giving away your info — those who may be able to implement your information without hiring you can also become your biggest champion and referral source because they know that you know what you’re talking about.
And, you never know where your articles might lead. I got a call today from a friend who was in an online chat for resellers of a product, and the topic of writing articles came up with another person in the chat room. My friend went to my blog to provide a link to an article I had written on the topic of article submission, and when he published it on the chat, the person with whom he was chatting said, “Oh, I know Donna.” My friend was blown away by the coincidence. There are no coincidences–just good marketing.
6. Provide freebies. Add value to your website visitors by giving something away — an ebook, a report, an ecourse, an audio recording, or a a free class. The more you can demonstrate your expertise and the more ways that a visitor can begin to know, like, and respect you, the greater chance you have of building trust with that person and converting that person into a paying client.
7. Stay in touch. Once you’ve obtained someone’s contact info, stay in touch with him on a regular basis, as the more someone sees and talks to you, the quicker the trust develops. Regular communication is key, and you can stay in touch on a regular basis through the publication of an email newsletter, a free class series that is open to all of your contacts, or by updating your website regularly with new content, like articles for your target market.
Giving your visitors confidence that they can trust what you do and say is one key to success in the online world. Eliminate the barriers in doing business with you and set visitors on the path of getting to know, like, and respect you. When you do, you’ll discover that their trust isn’t too far behind.