Trust Us! Sending Credible Messages

A company must earn and keep trust or sales don't happen. Imagine that last Sunday, while you were reading the paper, you saw an ad for a great deal on a digital camera. You'd been considering buying one for a while, and this ad sealed the deal. You went to buy the camera, and the sales person told you they were sold out. They didn't offer you a rain check and instead substituted a different model for a "similar" price.

In this classic case of "bait and switch," and you felt like you'd been had.

After that, do you trust these people? Will you return to buy from them? Were you aggravated at the paper for running a less than honest ad?

In a similar fashion, maintaining a customer's trust through e-newsletters requires honesty, along with a commitment to providing readers with a positive experience.

Valued visitors return

If people don't regularly click through to your Web site a newsletter may help build the relationship to the point where the readers will visit the site. However, the Web site and your newsletter must work in tandem to help readers make the transition from reader to prospect.

If a visitor comes to the site from the newsletter and doesn't like it, all credibility is lost and a return visit is unlikely. And vice versa. No matter how good a newsletter is, visitors arriving at a Web site and receiving a lousy first impression won't sign up for any more issues. The product may be fabulous or unique, but that doesn't do any good if the site promoting it doesn't give the needed support.

Customers buy only when they can VIZibly:

  • see value in a product or service;
  • feel trust;
  • believe in the stability of the company.
This mantra especially applies to the people involved with B2B transactions because few sales are impulsive. Newsletters can communicate this. A newsletter can be focused on a business problem versus a product/service and features/benefits. Trust is built when the newsletter engages the reader while addressing his or her needs as opposed to focusing on the sponsoring the company's needs.

Characteristics of credible Web sites

Stanford University has just completed Web site credibility research, and the result is "How Do People Evaluate a Web Site's Credibility?" According to the report, 46.1 percent of the participants commented on the design look of the site more than any other feature when evaluating a Web site's credibility. When arriving at a site for the first time, we quickly judge how we feel about it. Forming first impressions takes little effort, just like in a job interview. Sites that sell something have an extra challenge -- proving their credibility so customers can trust and buy.

How many times have we been guilty of commenting, "Look at that person! Can you believe she is wearing that?" We get so involved in what the person's wearing that we don't begin to venture forth and learn about that person. Unlike our dealings with people, Web sites are much easier to leave -- after a bad first impression.

A credible Web site welcomes visitors because it:

  • demonstrates professionalism through design and structure;
  • shows a real organization behind the site;
  • lets the facts and information do the talking;
  • leaves the commercials to television;
  • ensures visitors can easily make contact;
  • respects visitor privacy.

Demonstrating professionalism through design and structure comes when a Web site puts its customers first: it loads fast, and features easy and intuitive navigation. Sites loaded with ads, low quality text and design, and sloppy navigation lose credit fast.

Showing real organization behind the site means having a mailing address and not a P.O. box; providing phone numbers; and providing an "About" section that includes photos, names and bios of people involved with the company. These are just a few of the ways a company can demonstrate people helping its customers.

Letting the facts and information do the talking involves third-party feedback through testimonials and unbiased newspaper clippings (not press releases), and giving the facts without superlatives and opinions by using words like fabulous, wonderful and fast. Words like these sound like a late-hour TV commercial produced cheaply. Ads splattered all over the page or popping up faster than popcorn sends people running as fast as you can say "click me out of here."

Ensuring visitors can easily make contact happens by providing phone numbers, email addresses, email contact forms and mailing addresses in visible locations on the site to add credibility. Customers that have a hard time finding contact information think the company has something to hide or must not really exist like those scam charities.

Respecting visitor privacy means by asking for limited information and not requesting immediate "sign up" to get the details; this establishes trust. Offering a clearly and simply stated privacy policy that explains how the company won't share information with third parties seals the deal.

Developing trust through your newsletter

All of these Web site factors apply to your newsletter, as well. By keeping your messages consistent and clear on the Web site and in the newsletter, your company will be on its way to becoming a trusted source. Success doesn't happen overnight, and it's better to cultivate customer relationships over time. Once the customer enters the door, the company isn't done. The next step is to follow-up through emails and newsletters with a smile and keep every promise. Do this, and you'll avoid the nasty bait-and-switch.

Meryl K. Evans is the Content Maven behind meryl's notes, eNewsletter Journal, and The Remediator Security Digest. She is also a PC Today columnist and a tour guide at InformIT. She is geared to tackle your editing, writing, content, and process needs. The native Texan resides in Plano, Texas, a heartbeat north of Dallas, and doesn't wear a 10-gallon hat or cowboy boots.

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