Return to: GROK Dot Com 4/15/2001

Establishing Credibility

In case you haven't noticed, it's crazy out there. Dot-coms dropping right and left. Word that investors are keeping their wallets in their pockets. NASDAQ dancing a limbo to a pole that's getting lower and lower. You gotta figure this stuff is going through your customers' minds when they come to your site. There they are, sitting at their keyboards and monitors, wondering whether or not you are going to be the next bomb. It's not a situation that inspires confidence - nor does it inspire buying behavior! And that’s on top of the security concerns many of your potential customers still have.

If you lack credibility, your prospects simply won’t buy from you. So, what are you doing to help your customers to know you're the sort of company they want to do business with? How are you soothing their very real and very understandable fears?

We all should know by now online sales are here to stay. What we're seeing is just a pretty intense shake-out period. (See my article, “Dont Let the Pendulum Hit You in the Derriere <>.”) And despite it, more folks are buying online now than ever before. So you want to do everything in your power a) to stay afloat (duh!) and b) to encourage folks to buy from you over your competition. One very important way you do this is to establish your credibility. Here are a few ideas to get you started, so when customers land on your site, they get right away that you are honest, trustworthy, reputable and credible.

Contact information needs to be available, not just on the home page but throughout the site. Folks find it reassuring to know there's an actual phone number or an actual address associated with your business. Sure, it's a basic tenet of Customer Service 101 so people can get help (and know you care enough about them to offer help), but it is also an indication of your credibility. Even if no one ever calls!

One dead give-away that compromises your credibility pertains to managing what insiders call "the freshness factor." Have you still got that seasonal content up there four months after the fact? Is your most recent press release a year old? Do you tell people when content has been updated? It might seem trivial, but folks are put off when you can't be bothered to keep your site current. It tends to suggest you can't be bothered to treat them promptly and well. And it also means they can’t be confident what they’re reading and seeing even applies anymore.

Your policies are another indication of your credibility. Is your privacy policy accessible, clear, simple, and uncompromising? Do you have guarantees? You do, right? But are they, again, accessible, clear, simple, and uncompromising or do they read like they were written by a lawyer intent on making sure none of your customers can ever actually use them? How are you going to service a product that has a problem? Will you ship on time, and what will you do if you can’t? Will you accept exchanges and refunds? How complicated is that for your customers? What can you say that will assure them you deliver on your promises?

Yet another big component of credibility has to do with your credentials, and I don't mean the ones that get framed and hung on walls or listed on resumes. I mean the ones that demonstrate to your customers that you get the job done in a way that not just satisfies but delights them. Personal testimonials are one of the easiest ways to communicate this to your prospects. Seeing that other folks were blown away by your service or product is an enormous boost to your credibility. Another useful testimonial, if you can get one, is from a well-known public figure, and there’s also the “implied” testimonial in a statement such as, “Our bowling ball used by more professionals than any other.”1

But over and above all these specific examples, you must make sure the entire tone of your site focuses on your customers, not you. Use language that let's them know they come first. As a matter of fact, my friends at Future Now have just developed a great new free tool to guide your efforts in that direction. Check it out at <>.

When you make the effort to build credibility, your customers are going to feel a lot better about taking the plunge, and that's going to make everyone happy!

1. For a great discussion on this subject, see "How to Establish Credibility with Your Customers." Sam Robbins. Web Gold Electronic Newsletter, vol. 3, #26, October 13, 2000. <>.

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