Establishing Trust in Your Local Business

If you’re trying to market your products or services online, it’s not enough to gain the trust of the search engines; you must earn the trust of Web site visitors as well. They have many choices. If you want them to choose you, you must convince them that you can meet their needs and that they can rely on you to uphold your end of the relationship.

Large, well-known companies have established consumer confidence through their brands. But the smaller, lesser-known, and more local your company is, the more important it is to earn trust, especially if you want to be chosen over a big brand.

People worry about the Internet’s transient nature and want to avoid a fly-by-night vendor. Show potential customers that you are a legitimate business that will be around well into the future. A customer needs to be confident that if she has a problem, you will honor your guarantees and return policies. Anything you can do to alleviate people’s natural concerns will help. So let’s look at some ways for a local business to gain consumer trust on the Internet.

Your Web site is your storefront on the Web, so be certain to present an up-to-date image to potential customers. This makes you appear both professional and successful in what you do. A site that looks as though your nephew created it as a school project five years ago can give people the impression that your work is sloppy or that your shop is unkempt. Web site colors, formats, and features go in and out of style, just like clothing and cars, so try to freshen your site’s look about every two years. Also, be certain to change the copyright date in your footer every year.

Let people get to know you and your business. While it’s important to reassure potential customers at every opportunity throughout your site, an “About Us” or “Why Choose Us” page is often the best place to consolidate pertinent information. Explain your and your staff’s experience and qualifications. If you have specialized education or training and hold any diplomas, certifications, or accreditations, this is the place to brag about them. If you’ve received community or professional awards or special recognition, explain them here as well.

Tell people how long you have been in business and give them interesting or informative details to back it up. Display symbols of the commerce, community, professional, and trade organizations to which you belong — groups like the chamber of commerce, the Better Business Bureau, and SEMPO or something similar for your niche.

If you or your enterprise has received any mentions in the media, ask permission to display those articles or video clips on your Web site. If you can’t get the go ahead to do so, link out to the pages where they appear on other Web sites. Mentions in magazine or newspaper articles, quotes, videotaped interviews, and the like reinforce that your business is respected within your local or professional community.

Show friendly pictures of you and your staff. This helps establish rapport. It makes you more approachable and allows customers to feel they are already acquainted with you when they walk into your shop or call you on the phone. Also, display photos of your storefront and interior, service vehicles, equipment, and the like. This lets people know you have pride in your work, maintain a facility they will feel comfortable visiting, and have the tools you need to do the job right.

Offer guarantees. People are more confident in a purchase if the product or service comes with a good guarantee. This is a good business practice both on- and offline and will help you to gain new customers.

If you want to collect information about your Web site visitors, publish a privacy policy. While very few people will actually read it, it’s critical to have one and there should be a link to it on every page of your site. Let people know that you won’t share the information they give you with anyone else and that you won’t use it yourself for any purpose other than what goes along with the reason they are giving it to you. If you plan to send them marketing e-mails in the future, tell them and allow them to opt out if they wish.

Publish testimonials and good reviews on your Web site. Showing photos of the people recommending you, along with their names, makes their words much more credible to your readers. Be certain to get permission before publishing this information on your site. Think about doing video testimonials. They are quick and easy to create, even with inexpensive equipment.

When you look at your Web site, consider it from the point of view of someone who knows nothing about you or your business. Then do whatever you can to answer the question, “Why should I call you rather than someone else?” Gaining new customers from your online marketing efforts is often a matter of trust.

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