You could be the smartest, most innovative and confident professional in the world, but if you fail to obtain this single most important ingredient, you are guaranteed to fall flat on your face in business. I’m not tying to scare you, but when it comes to building or maintaining your entrepreneurial dreams, you must have all of your ducks in a row. And for some reason, this duck is often the first to go.
Building trust takes time. In today’s wickedly fast paced hustle for the all mighty dollar, many businesses are quick to sacrifice trust in trade for riches. Now, I’m still a novice businessman, but before I started cutting my teeth in marketing, I was an Air Traffic Controller in the United States Air Force. Many of men and women put their lives in my hands. One executed right turn instead of a left could have meant the difference between a safe landing and a warm welcome home, or a fiery crash that left me sitting on the witness stand. Trust was an absolute necessity. Every instruction I gave over the radio to a pilot was issued with confidence, but if the pilot did not trust in my abilities to control is aircraft, chances are that he would second guess my instructions and put lives at risk.
The same applies to running a business. The overall perception of your morals, values and the desire to satisfy a customer is what will turn a one time buyer in to a return investor. That’s why I love the internet! I believe it is the absolute best way for your business to build trust. Not only has it morphed into the world’s greatest communications tool, but it has exposed thousands of shady businesses, and prevented would be consumers from being cheated out of their hard-earned money. There is no hiding online! Product reviews, customer service and price comparisons have blocked fraudulent money leeches from doing business.
To establish trust online, you have to be honest. Honest in everything you do. If you fail to tell the truth, even slightly, your customers will sniff you out, and act to notify their social connections. That could mean a Facebook status update, Tweet or blog post. Positive mentions about your business will spread, but negative comments will turn into a bad rash. It’s kind of a scary concept for business owners to digest, but that’s the reality of digital transparency. No longer are the days when you could just ignore a problem customer, or disregard the rumor of a particularly bad interaction. Every negative experience could fester and turn into a nasty infection that will result in the death of your business.
But lucky for you, building trust online is simple!
As long as you don’t deceive your customers or clients, and your goals are built around providing value, you’ll have no problem conveying your message online.
You will not please every customer. But don’t let them get a head start! Remember, a negative review will spread, but it will only spread farther if you’re not there to listen. If your customers are talking about you on Facebook, than I suggest you build a profile on Facebook. Ignorance is no longer blissful, especially if it means closing down shop. Social media has, for many big name companies, replaced the need for a customer service department. Information is shared quicker online, and responding to complaints with a solid fix action is the only way to repair a negative experience. And when done in the public eye, it holds more value than a simple email or in-store coupon. Others will see your response, and applaud your efforts.
Authoring a blog serves several different purposes. It works wonders for your visibility on search engines, but it also provides your readers, and potential customers with an inside look at who you are as a person. You are the face of your business. The way you conduct yourself outside the walls of your establishment needs to congruent with how you run your business. A blog allows you to share snap-shots of your personal life. This limits the customer’s apprehensions about spending money on your product or signing up for your service. A blog allows your customers to communicate with you. They might reveal a product that they wish you sold, or provide you with feedback on your latest in-store event. Work on turning your prospects into friendships and the flood gates will open.
Networking is not limited to offline engagements. There are probably a hundred forums (discussion website that concentrates on a particular subject) out there about your line of work. Get involved in the conversation! Answer questions from people looking for advice about something in your niche or pose your own question on topics relevant to the growth of your business. The more you participate in the discussion, the more visible your name becomes within the forum. The other members will notice that the content you are providing is valuable, and will soon recommend you as the go-to source for information. Forums also allow you to include links within your profile that directs the reader back to your website. They’ll stumble on your blog, read more about your experience, and after building trust in you, become a customer or client. Awesome!
You don’t have to sit around and wait for someone to approach you about an interview. There are thousands of bloggers out there just begging to interview experts with their industry. Conduct a Google search for a blogger that’s discussing a related business or career. Email them and offer yourself up as a subject. More than likely, they’ll send you a few questions via email. Answer each question in as much detail as possible. Be sure to highlight your experiences, and discuss what sets you a part from your competitors. Remember, be honest! People love to hear about your failures. It let’s them know that just like them, you are human and have made mistakes in the past.
Most business owners don’t understand how negative reviews can help their business; they view them as blemishes, and want nothing more than to hide them from the world. But just like a celebrity is viewed a little more human after they are seen on TV with a pimple, your business will appear more genuine and honest if you allow your prospects to see that you’re not perfect. A bad review every once in a while is nothing to get upset about. As stated above, you will never please every customer. But as long as you take the time to acknowledge their complaint, and make peace, your reputation will flourish. Post these reviews on your website, social media and blog about your interactions with customers. Good or bad!
Be proactive when it comes to building trust online. Don’t wait until you have a bad experience to start building a reputation of someone who is honest and dependable. Sell people on yourself, and your business will reap the rewards.
Every kind of peaceful cooperation among men is primarily based on mutual trust, and only secondarily on institutions such as courts of justice and police” ~Albert Einstein