Be Credible to be Incredible
Along with the increasing population of new online businesses,
as well as the recent wave of "dotbombs" and online scams, the
competitive nature of the Internet will simply make the need
to establish credibility an even more important issue. And in
order to establish it, one must *communicate* it.
To a potential customer visiting your website for the first
time, your company may have little or no believability because
you may be totally unknown to your prospect. Therefore, you
only have but a fleeting moment to build credibility - or, at
least, to give ample reason for them to allow you to do so.
The search for credibility is part of human nature. Not only
do we need to feel safe and secure, but we are also social
animals. We need to be with other people in order to thrive
and survive. All of these are fundamental, human needs.
Anything new, or faceless, is risky at best.
Renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow illustrates these core
desires with his famous hierarchy of human motives, which he
developed in the 1960s. Maslow states that the foundation of
all human needs consists of survival needs, followed by safety
needs. More importantly, next in that hierarchy is the need
for social interaction (e.g., love, affection and belonging).
Like it or not, the web can never change that.
The fact that we are advancing technologically and the
business process is fast becoming almost entirely automated
will parallel the need for a more human approach. Today, we
see that need being increasingly filled through things such as
specialization (niche marketing), personalization (including
customization) and interaction (live customer service).
Due to the lack of human interaction on the Internet and the
uncertainty of our economic times, people are demanding for
greater credibility from online businesses - and that demand
will only increase over time. Therefore, communicating this
credibility and building relationships with your prospects
will become pivotal elements in your online success.
For example, research conducted in January, 2001 by NDP Group,
a firm specializing in consumer purchasing and behavior, found
that search engine listings overwhelmingly outperformed banner
and tile ads (i.e., button or box ads) almost 2 to 1 in terms
of clickthroughs. But one interesting result indicated that
55% of all purchases originate from search engine traffic -
as opposed to only 9% for banners and 7% for tiles.
According to Brent Winters of http://www.marketposition.com,
"We (could interpret the statistic in) that search listings,
untainted by advertising dollars in the mind of the consuming
public, kick the stuffing out of traditional commercial paid-
for ads such as banners." I agree. For a copy of the study,
There are many other ways to build credibility, namely:
For example, an inconsistent site (such as one that changes
from page to page in color, theme or tone, even structure), or
one that carries a myriad of banner ads and affiliate links,
will seldom be credible at face value. (Our resident website
reviewer, Ralph Hilliard, calls them "affiliate junkies." The
"less is more" paradigm applies, here. The more focused you
are, the more hits and affiliate sales you will generate.)
- Consistency throughout the website
- Testimonials from satisfied customers
- Strong guarantees, or some kind of risk reversal
- Professional looks, content and color scheme
- A company identity, logo and product pictures
- Superior customer service
- Third party endorsements
Moreover, testimonials from unsatisfied customers wouldn't
hurt - although, they must be presented strategically and
professionally. Marketer Linda Cox, who's witty and somewhat
controversial, achieves this brilliantly on her site. Visit
http://www.lindacox.com/feedback.htm for an illustration.
In addition, using testimonials and endorsements from people
whose judgment others value is also an effective approach. For
example, if a well-known celebrity, opinion leader or "center-
of-influence" not only says something positive about your
product but also gives you the ability to reprint it, by all
means, use it. Having someone who's respected by others refer
or praise your site grants almost instant credibility.
People think in pictures, not in words or numbers. So as far
as pictures go, use them. Product shots, staff photos and even
pictures of customers, all optimize for quick downloading, can
add a great deal of credibility to your site.
If your site offers a service, even if it's free, add a logo
representing the benefits of your offering. If possible, add a
picture of you or your staff in the process of providing the
service. Take a look at how direct marketer Dan Kennedy does
it at http://www.dankennedy.com/sched.html.
If it's software, add screenshots. If it's an ebook, add a
three-dimensional shot of the book cover. If it's information,
add a picture that represents the gist of the content.
Nevertheless, these may be the final steps in getting many
stubborn prospects to commit to your product. But the first
step, however, is building a relationship with your prospects.
Although your goal may be to put your business on autopilot,
you must always remember that you are dealing with people.
There are many new websites, fly-by-night businesses and get-
rich-quick schemes on the web, so anything "new" or faceless
will likely be questionable in the very least. Therefore, it
goes without saying that your Internet marketing strategy must
also include the use of relationship-building tools - such as
ezines, online communities, message boards and so on.
For instance, ezines are multiplying on the Internet because
they are formidable tools in developing relationships with
people. They help to establish your expertise and reputation,
or at least that your website is credible and solid.
Ultimately, credibility is an vital component of operating and
growing an online business. Be credible with Internet visitors
and you'll be incredible with Internet sales.
About the Editor
Michel Fortin is a consultant dedicated to turning businesses
into powerful magnets. See SuccessDoctor.com for more.
Magnetize your online business with practical ideas, tools and
strategies anyone can use to dramatically transform a mediocre
online presence into an unforgettable - and highly profitable
- one. See http://SuccessDoctor.com/pp/ for more information.
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