Credibility is King.
What makes a company perceived as a legitimate? The answer has changed in recent years with the shift of the market from brick and mortar establishments into the near era of web based industries. In the days of old ( you know, 5- 10 years ago), websites aimed at bringing traffic into a store. Then, legitimacy was as easy as a reassuring customer service representative, or a handshake with a sale’s agent at the beginning of a conversation.
Now, more than ever before, we find that internet users are incredibly skeptical, and very suspicious of basically everything they encounter online- mostly because most of them have been burned before by something or someone. Whether it was mistakenly providing information to a spam website, fishing of their social media accounts, having their debit card hit with unexpected or unauthorized transactions, experiencing some level of identity theft, or even a bad online transaction with an ecommerce site – in one way or another most users have either fallen victim to an online scheme, or they know someone who has.
These shared experiences have changed the mentality of consumers, and as such has changed the landscape of commerce and digital marketing. What it takes, these days, to gain the trust (and therefor business) of the average internet user has changed, and unfortunately… the majority of small business owners didn’t even notice. This failure to adapt to the tumultuous consumer base and their ever-changing whims is costing them in big ways- and many of them are completely unaware of this unintentional self sabotage. We decided to take a look at both what makes a business seem legitimate, and the practices which are creating the opposite effect for many businesses out there. Look over this list, and make sure your small business hasn’t fallen into these newly emerging pitfalls, and retains it’s credibility online.
1. Whatever You Do, Don’t Think About a Unicorn
You did, didn’t you? Well, you’re not alone.
This is actually a result of a well recorded psychological phenomenon called “Ironic Process Theory”. Ironic process theory basically works on the idea that if you are told not to think about something, the first thing you are going to think about is that specific thing. Its unavoidable, and many small businesses are self sabotaging due to this, inherently human, response.
Reassuring your prospective clients or consumers of the legitimacy of your business is good practice. Beating them over the head with the idea is a sure fire way to make them feel on edge about your business. The overuse of phrases, badges and images that are intended to tell your potential clients that you are trustworthy, often has the opposite effect. If you keep telling your clients over and over how you won’t “Scam” them… its is unavoidable that “scam” is all they are going to think about.
Another way to think about it is this. Think back to your school days. Remember that one kid who couldn’t help but showboat about absolutely EVERYTHING, in an obvious attempt to seem like the best at something ( or everything ). We come across people who try too hard to explain how good they are at one thing or another, and it usually turns out that those people are just blowing smoke. The general consensus is that people who are legitimately good at something allow their actions to speak for them. Think of your business in the same way; the mention of the use of ethics, or trustworthiness in your business is absolutely acceptable, and recommended; but use with moderation. Whats the most frustrating about this faux pa is that in these instances, business owners are truly attempting to do all the right things, but unfortunately there is a such thing as “too much”. If your business comes off as trying too hard to show just how legitimate they are- inevitably consumers perceive the opposite.
2. I Have to Hire a PI to Get in Touch With You
This principle seems like a given, right? I mean, what company wouldn’t want consumers to be able to simply pick up a phone and talk to them, or their customer service? Exactly – those kinds of companies.
Unfortunately, business owners miss out on an immeasurable amount of opportunities because their fancy, animated, flashing, (annoying) website leaves out one incredibly important detail. An easy way to get in touch with the business. I shouldn’t have to scroll through pages, and click hidden side links and buttons, or even go down to your footer to find your number, and your consumers shouldn’t either. It is as simple as a including a page specifically for contact purposes, and having your company phone number listed clearly on every page. At a glance, your consumers should be able to be able to pick up a phone and call you. If they can’t they can only imagine the reasons why a company wouldn’t want people to call them; and we promise… they’re only thinking of bad ones.
As an added note – make sure that you actually get back to your customers. Having a contact form is completely useless if someone isn’t monitoring it and responding to client inquiries in a reasonable time frame (1-3 business days for emails, same day for phone calls). An added way to increase your credibility is to let your customers know how long it will be before they hear back from you.
3. Your Blog is As Updated As Your Member’s Only Jacket
One of the major aspects of maintaining credibility is consistency. Whatever you do, do it with consistency. Why? Because companies which show a long standing consistency in their business practices appear more credible.
Granted- a blog doesn’t make a company, however, lack of consistency in blog posting or social media posting is a symptom of a larger problem with organization or direction which can make your company seem wishy washy. When someone visits your website, and the last blog post was six months ago, they are likely to get the idea that: 1) the business is shut down, or 2) the business can’t be trusted to follow through with its commitments. Both of which undermine legitimacy and will cost you a ton of potential business.
If you start a blog on your website, then stick with it. Follow through is important.
Additionally- posting the same regurgitated articles copy + pasted from other blogs is not the answer. If a consumer ended up on your page, chances are they are doing many searches related to your industry, and as such, have come across your competitor’s websites and blogs. They will know if your copy pasted content. Do don’t, because plagiarism isn’t exactly conducive to legitimacy.
4. Your Social Media is Anything But Social
Social media is no longer an option, it is a necessity. Why? Because your clients are going to do their research before they do business with a new company. Don’t believe us? Here are the stats:
In a recent article (which you can find here) by Adweek.com, they give a great infographic on the behavior of consumers, citing that in 2016, 81% of consumers research a company online first.
Think about your own online purchases. Don’t you do your research? See what kind of reviews they are getting, how many search results relate to them? Most people do, and one major aspect of this research is related to social media. We can’t help it- when we see a facebook page for a company with 2 likes and no new updates for the last 2 years, we put that business in a specific category in our heads. We all assume that if a business is doing well, and serving clients well (i.e., they are legitimate), that they will leave an impact online one way or another. If you have zero social media presence, then you’re taking a huge blow in terms of legitimacy and online credibility.
In conjunction with having a social media presence – your posts should appear social. Just posting links or CTA’s about visiting your website makes a company seem fake. Be social with your consumers, talk to them, engage them. It will pay off.
Let’s face it – your company isn’t a household name (yet). We don’t know you, but we would like to. If your entire website hides behind a grandiose parade of corporate logos and cliche sayings, then your business seems unrelatable. You ever look at a stock photo and realize just how creepy they are?
We get these funky vibes from the corporate world, especially from companies that don’t offer any human relatability. Sure, when you’re in the league of companies like Coca Cola or Bausch and Lomb, you don’t have to worry about appearing relatable or human; but if you’re a small business owner, you should concern yourself with ways to not appear like a cold, faceless, unfeeling wall of corporate logos and stock photos. Otherwise consumers can’t help but wonder, “is there anybody in there?”
Anyone can set up a decent looking website, and many scammers are successful in their nefarious plots by doing so. In turn, internet users need more than just a good looking site to trust a company. Break down the walls and try a strategy of including personal information to humanize your business. Users still want to do business with people they know, like, and trust- and they can’t get to know you if you’re operating anonymously.
Don’t be afraid to feature information about yourself and your employees. Take photos of your team in your office and display employee bios on your website. It’s also a good idea to include your physical address, a map, and even a registration number from your local chamber of commerce.
Being a small business owner is hard, and with the internet being such a tumultuous sea of change, it can be difficult to find a strategy that works. At the end of the day, the most important thing you can do is to put yourself in the shoes of your consumers and consider the way that you interact with, and make purchases online. What makes YOU comfortable with doing business with a new company? What ways do you safeguard yourself? What do you look for to establish credibility? Take that knowledge and apply it to your business. Otherwise, you risk coming off like something out of They Live; and no one wants that.