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Your online strategy: building trust

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Here’s the old way of marketing things: buy up space on printed paper, somewhere in size between a business card and an advertising hoarding, cross your fingers and hope people see it.

The more you spend, the more chance of success you have, but there’s still a large random element over whether it lands in front of the right person. Of course, you can send direct mail and phone people at work, but that’s expensive and tends to annoy the recipient. Technology to the rescue!

Here’s the new way. Someone is having trouble with their widget. Odd lights are flashing and it won’t go into Night mode any more. What do they do? They google Widget Flashing Lights. They look up and down the list of results to see if anything looks useful. If you can get an article from your site in that list, and it looks like it gives them an answer, suddenly you’ve got a new contact!

(Disclaimer: other search engines are available. We’ll blog about that too someday.)

The modern way to reach people is about authority and trust.

What does that mean? The first time you hear of a company, you don’t know anything about it. It can try to sell to you all it likes, but you don’t have any inherent trust in it – that has to be built. One way for a company to build trust is to sell a product that the customer loves, with good customer service all the way. A second is word of mouth (more on that below).

A third way to build trust, and without making a sale first, is to provide content that people find useful.

Building trust with content is a tried and tested way of gaining customers. The most familiar is the free app. Dropbox and Zoom are just two famous examples, used by tens of millions worldwide. Having tried them, you might think the paid-for version is worth the money or not, but you can’t deny the free version shows that the company can deliver a useable solution. This is the authority we were talking about – confidence that an organisation knows what it’s doing.

You can do the same without having to build a whole product and then give it away. Share some of your knowledge with your audience. You will have experienced this – in fact this blog is doing it now. Plumbers do it on YouTube (always with completely different fittings to yours). Software developers do it on technical sites. Solicitors do it in local newspaper columns. All of these things help build trust.

If you’re a consultancy, you may be wary of giving your knowledge away for free. But one of the things you’re selling is your expertise in putting that knowledge into practice. Another is your time in carrying out a complex task quickly. A third is your experience, because you’ve (hopefully) seen it all before and can fix problems quickly. Think about presenting a few solutions to some of life’s more common problems. You can blog about them. Or you can give them away as you hand over your business cards.

Another way of building trust is, of course, social media. I think we all know where that works and where it doesn’t. All those “Like us on Facebook” buttons on websites disappeared years ago – do you really care if a vague acquaintance follows Asda? Or if someone shares their new vacuum cleaner on Instagram? But that doesn’t mean all avenues are blocked off. People ask their friends for recommendations. People read reviews when they’re considering a purchase.

So, if you can gather genuine-sounding positive reviews from your customers, new visitors are more likely to trust you.