A Matter of Online Trust: Give customers a reason to trust you over the other guy

By Mikal E. Belicove|For Entrepreneur magazine|August 1, 2009

Brick-and-mortar sells. Your customers can see it, touch it and drive to it. Upon entering, they can look around and then look you and your colleagues in the eye and gauge your trustworthiness. On the web, however, most companies–especially startups with no track record–are suspect until they prove themselves dependable. Rather than take a chance on a startup, potential customers will often pay more for identical products and services offered by a business they feel they can trust.

When battling for market share, imagine competing against the Amazons of the world. If I’m looking to purchase a blender and have the choice to buy it from you or from Amazon, chances are good I’ll buy it from Amazon, even if it’s more expensive.

I know my information is safe, my order will be processed quickly and correctly, and if anything goes wrong, Amazon will stand behind its sale. With you, since you’re a startup, I’m not so sure.

Your goal should be to make me–your potential customer–confident that if I do business with you, I won’t be disappointed. Design your site with trust in mind (see “The Gold Standard”) and you’re more than halfway toward earning my business.

While your website is home base, don’t be afraid to wander from home into the communities where the people you want to serve congregate. Posting quality content on social and professional networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn and through microblogging services like Twitter establishes your startup as a credible source–if done with integrity and transparency.

Also keep in mind that what you do offline will have repercussions online, so no matter how good your design or user experience, your offline actions could cause your online efforts to…

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