One challenge for any sales page or website is winning over skeptics and worriers – those who are leaning toward buying but held back by questions like, “Can I trust these guys?” “Is this really different from the last company that didn’t deliver on their promises?” or “Am I going to sorry about wasting time and money on this new tool?”
Again and again while reviewing websites and advising their owners I have been surprised at how often they had powerful ammunition for slaying doubts and worries that they weren’t using. Perhaps people believe so fervently in their own ideas and plans that they can’t or won’t put themselves in the shoes of those who need convincing.
You must always make the strongest case that you possibly can. Deploy these often overlooked credibility boosters to persuade the fence sitters to cross over to your side, as believers and buyers.
Third-party Bona Fides
Were you written up in the Washington Post or New York Times? I can’t count how many times clients of mine got great media coverage and didn’t add that fact to their website. Publicity in well-known newspapers or news sites boosts credibility because journalists tend to be professional skeptics. Potential customers think that if you passed the B.S. detectors of media folks, you have something genuine going for you.
Nima, a startup making a device that tests foods for gluten, bolsters its credibility at a glance by presenting logos of magazines, TV programs and news sites that have featured its product.
The same goes for having won a government grant, being one of only three small-business suppliers for a big-box retailer, being named to the “30 Under 30 to Watch” by your local Chamber of Commerce or having your book in the collections of 2,500 public libraries around the world. And ditto for having had your writing featured on well-known blogs. Normally these are all statuses that you must earn and deserve and cannot self-anoint your way into.
Ace marketer Ian Brodie tells you the names of his kids and his favorite sports team in his website bio but not that he has an MBA degree and has published a book, Email Persuasion. What was he thinking?
In addition to citing accomplishments that set you apart from your peers, mention feats that don’t necessarily distinguish you but may seem impressive to customers. For example, did your product pass strict FDA scrutiny? Even if that’s required, that fact helps ease worries of shoppers looking for safety and quality.
RMC, which collects money owed to its clients, lists specific laws it complies with. This explicitness boosts trust, even though the company is actually supposed to comply with the laws no matter what.
About Page Specifics
When someone is deliberately looking for reasons to trust a company, they click to its About page – usually labeled either just “About” – or “About Us” or “The Company” or “Who We Are.” Visitors expect to find some verifiable facts there, grounding the company in time, space, and experience.
Blue Acorn found that users who visited a site’s About page were five times more likely to make a purchase than those who didn’t. And the more informative and engaging that page, the higher that statistic rose.
Some About pages aim at creating rapport with their ideal clients, relating I’ve-been-there stories, their work approach or philosophy, or an outline of their capabilities. However, when real-world particulars are missing, or have been stashed on an unrelated page, credibility suffers.
Private Label Neutraceuticals’ About page contains nothing but fluff. The company’s FAQ page contains a bit of background, but very vague.
To earn trust points with readers on your About page, imagine that you’re being vetted for a security clearance or as a service provider for a reclusive, suspicious millionaire. How would you convince them that you’re for real and qualified? Include names, dates, educational credentials, licenses, number of years in business, memberships – not as a data dump, but sprinkled into your narrative.
The About page for The Skimm, a daily email newsletter, goes for cuteness. Missing are the founders’ names, how long it’s been around, its substantial media coverage and Oprah Winfrey being its fan. Would you imagine from this page that The Skimm has pulled in millions in venture capital investments?
How did the company come into being? What does its name signify? How did the founder start off as a line cook and then become a celebrated inventor? Dramatic stories rooted with strategic details provide an aura of reality that often increase likeability and relatability as well.
Consider the difference between thinking that Isaac Newton simply liked to spend his time playing around with scientific equations and the story that the concept of gravity popped into his mind when an apple fell from a tree onto his head. The falling apple origin story domesticates Newton and puts his discovery into a context anyone can relate to.
When you explain that you started the company to help your ailing grandmother, or that you named your company after the Jamaican beach where you spent your happiest childhood hours, psychological resonance takes place in the audience. Internally, people are nodding their heads. Although they may not realize quite why, a level of comfort has been laid down. Even more trust comes from the values revealed in the origin story.
L.L. Bean’s story about the founding of the company conveys many values, including Yankee ingenuity, reverence for tradition, perseverance and going to great lengths to satisfy customers with a quality product.
Some companies, including eBay and YouTube, have later admitted their origin story was a complete or partial fabrication, though, and I do not recommend this.
One day in Costco, a vendor table with a big sign listing various skin conditions (including one I suffer from) caught my eye. When the saleswoman said, “There are more than 200 kinds of aloe vera, and our product uses medical grade aloe vera,” I was hooked. This kind of statement interspersed in copy generates significant credibility. It’s like content marketing, which works by educating users and developing a reputation for what you know, but on a micro scale.
These knowledge snippets aren’t necessarily directly related to what you’re selling. They may convey background information about the problem a product solves or distinctions that experts know but the general public does not. Ideally, the reader responds “Huh! What about that!” when encountering them and thinks more highly of you for having informed them.
Note how far beyond what the user needs to know this description of ResQ Organic’s aloe vera goes, including its scientific name, countries where it’s found, and more. This makes the claim that it mimics the healing effects of steroids without side effects more convincing.
Every time you include specific facts instead of generalities, you earn trust points with your audience, as long as the facts are genuine, of course, and as long as you keep your prose flowing and readable.
For example, instead of writing, “Migraine is amazingly common, and afflicts more women than men,” it’s more credible to write, “Worldwide, 12 percent of the population suffers from migraine, affecting three times as many women as men. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, it’s the sixth most disabling illness in the world.”
Fact Check and Proofread
A few months ago, I received an email promotion for a course on writing for the Christian market. In support of its argument about the extent of this market, the text listed a number of “Christian-based companies” that sounded fishy to me. Whole Foods, really? I looked it up: Nope. Timberland? Definitely not. Tyson? The company has a chaplain program, but it is non-denominational. At best, this is carelessness in spades, the sort of negligence that can quickly demolish any credibility for your efforts in the mind of your prospect or when it gets around on social media.
When your copy talks about “Tuscaloosa, Mississippi” or cites a statistic that was discredited by a long article in the New Yorker last year, reader worries increase. Prevent self-sabotage by verifying names, places and facts that appear in your copy and content, prior to publication.
Don’t trust random blog posts from unknown authors when you fact check, because they may be spreading urban legends. Look for reputable organizations on the level of big-city newspapers, the Mayo Clinic, university-sponsored sites and so on. Then show that you’re careful with what you claim by adding phrases like “According to the Centers for Disease Control” or a link to indicate where your information came from.
FinancialMentor.com cites a supposed Harvard Business School study (often attributed to Yale instead) that has been definitively debunked, first by Fast Company magazine in 1996 and by both Yale and Harvard.
Garden-variety typos damage readers’ trust, too. A doctoral student at the University of Michigan found that spelling mistakes in lending requests on a peer-to-peer lending site lowered the dollar amount of funding received by borrowers and increased the time needed to fully fund the loan. In other words, lenders were less willing to lend money to those whose write-ups contained typos. This study also established that the lowered credibility from spelling mistakes was not just a prejudice. The loans whose requests had contained typos performed more poorly for investors than those without mistakes.
Research conducted by Global Lingo found that 74% of UK consumers said they noticed faulty grammar and spelling mistakes on websites, and 59% said this would stop them from doing business with that company. Keep in mind that people are warned that misspellings in emails are a crucial indicator that it’s a phishing attempt rather than a legitimate message coming from the company in question.
The Damaging Admission
Just as customers trust reviews more when a few criticisms are mixed in with five-star accolades, readers may develop a more positive opinion when you candidly acknowledge a flaw or two in your product or service.
For example, if your company makes handcrafted musical instruments, you might be wise to say straight out that folks on the waiting list will need to wait more than three years for their order. Some customers will decide to buy now from another source, but others will sign up and pay a deposit right now upon reading that. It increases trust for people to find this out from you rather than from complaints on the grapevine.
For a humorous instance of a damaging admission, consider this sentence on the website of Linton Labels: “Where nice people answer the phone (with possibly one exception).” Marketing guru Dan Kennedy often talks about how curmudgeonly and technically clumsy he is. This makes other things he says more believable because he’s obviously not always trying to put himself in the best possible light.
Informative Photos or Videos
Researchers have established that human photos increase the perceived trustworthiness of a website. Images of real people from a company do this better than stock photos. But why stick to plain old head shots? Descriptive photos of your personnel at work have an even greater flavor of realism. Consider a photo of you walking a tall pile of packages into the post office or of your top executives drawing on a white board while investors listen.
Hangloose Hammocks Hawaii pictures its suppliers giving the “shaka” sign, which roughly signifies “aloha.”
Likewise, talking-head or explainer videos certainly have their place, but also consider videos that show rather than tell. For example, I remember watching a video of a business coach interacting with a client. In just three minutes, the coach brought the client to understand a hidden obstacle holding her back. This demonstration of her expertise skyrocketed the coach’s credibility for me.
An expertly produced video on the About page of Urban Martial Arts in Brooklyn, NY introduces martial arts as a way of helping others and dramatically conveys the upbeat atmosphere in its work.
An Illuminating Analogy or Metaphor
When you suspect that prospective customers may view something in your marketing as fishy, lay their doubts to rest with an analogy that gets them thinking, “Oh! That makes sense.” If you sell home heating systems whose price might make some people wonder, for example, you can remind shoppers of other items where reliability is definitely worth paying for, such as a Volvo or fine wines that never disappoint them.
Using analogies with herbal tea, soy milk and veggie burgers, Teeccino takes away new users’ discomfort with the concept of “herbal coffee” for its coffee alternative drink. This makes the very product category more credible.
An analogy or metaphor can also help people appreciate the significance of a credential or accomplishment they might be unfamiliar with. Book publicist Sandra Beckwith, for instance, explains the Silver Anvil award she received as “the Oscar of the public relations industry” on her About page. That’s much more impressive than just the name of the award, don’t you agree?
Other Credibility Boosters
You can also enhance your believability by addressing “but what about…” objections, providing examples or case studies, presenting fully attributed testimonials, inserting updates for facts that have changed and including user reviews that are not all “five stars.” Most of these moves require extra thought and effort, but improved responses, greater word of mouth and unexpected opportunities are the payoff.