‘I don’t have time to listen – and I don’t believe you anyway!”

‘I don’t have time to listen – and I don’t believe you anyway!”

If you have ever been visited by a salesperson or received a telemarketing call smack bang in the middle of dinner (or perhaps any time at all), you may well have thought – or even said:

‘I don’t have to time listen – and I don’t believe you anyway!”

These days, consumers are so inundated with intrusive and irrelevant advertising that it’s almost impossible to give them a reason to listen.

And in the digital world, it’s no easier. Although people may choose to visit your website (and may well be ‘in the market’ for your product or service), the web is swarming with countless unknown businesses, big promises and too many unsubstantiated marketing claims.

Plus don’t forget that online, your competitors are only a click away. In fact, you have no more than a few seconds to convince people that your business is credible – and that you’re worth listening to.

So here goes: 5 ways to make your online credibility stand out

1. Purge those beaten-to-death terms. And don’t exaggerate.

The internet is bursting at the seams with overused and abused phrases such as:

  • award-winning customer service
  • market leading product development
  • best of breed product range
  • world class facilities
  • cutting-edge systems

So what’s wrong with these terms? Well, today’s consumers despise hype and anything else that insults their intelligence. So unless you can instantly verify a claim, people will assume it is false.

When you write, substitute vague descriptions with specific facts. For example, if your service is indeed ‘award-winning’ then tell us what awards you’ve won – and when.

And if your facilities are world-class, show me some pictures to prove it.

In other words, don’t market. Communicate.

Also reassess all your ‘verys’, ‘extremelys’, ‘absolutelys’ and ‘amazings’. Why not let your customers be the judge of how truly amazing your service is?

2. Let someone else do your bragging

The web is drowning in ‘over-marketing’. So it’s no surprise we’re dubious of most unfamiliar businesses we stumble upon.

Smothering your audience with boasting and self-praise just adds fuel to the fire. Instead, let others do your bragging – customers, partners, trade press, media and so on.

Here are some things to remember as you gather your testimonials.

  • Be genuine. Include real statements from real people. Okay, so we may need to tweak people’s words slightly (readability is paramount), but always ensure your source approves the final statement before it is published.
  • Keep testimonials varied, specific and relevant. Ask customers to comment on different aspects of your product or service. And try to avoid vague statements such as ‘was great to deal with’.
  • Accountability is crucial. If you can’t specify the source of your testimonial (name, business, date), don’t bother including it.
  • Don’t bury your testimonials: Make sure your testimonials will be noticed by people within those first few seconds of landing on your homepage.

3. Promote (and deliver on) a worthwhile guarantee

A clear and solid guarantee will add credibility to your offer – and set your business apart.

A worthwhile guarantee provides tangible evidence that your business is reputable and it will lower the risk that people perceive when assessing your business.

Isolated statements like ‘satisfaction guaranteed’ are a waste of time. Go further by stating clearly what you will do if your customer is dissatisfied. For example, will you give them their money back within 30 days? (Note: it doesn’t always have to be about money. Be creative.)

Guarantees should be as simple as possible – and with minimal conditions. Even better, aim for no conditions at all.

My guarantee is simple, without conditions – and it doesn’t mention money.

Also, if you say it, mean it. Follow through on your promises – and ensure your staff members fully understand the guarantee.

And finally, promote your guarantee where people will see it. Your homepage is a great place to start.

4. Admit your weaknesses

When people write for the web, most tend to talk only about their strengths.

But by also promoting your weaknesses, you can build trust – and immediately distinguish yourself from your competition.

Here are some examples.

  • ‘This survey may take you a long time to complete. But for something this important, you’ll be glad you invested the time.’
  • ‘It may take us up to one week to complete your application. But by not rushing things, we ensure we get it right first time.’
  • ‘Our product performance is similar to others you will find out there. It’s our round-the-clock technical support that sets us apart.’

5. Proofread

Spelling and grammatical errors make you look unprofessional and unreliable. And that’s the last thing you need in the online credibility stakes.

Don’t be too eager to hit the publish button. Proof-read methodically. It will be worth every painstaking minute you invest.

So how can you improve your proofreading? Here are three quick tips:

1. Allow time to forget: Never proofread your writing immediately after you have written it. The longer you can leave it, the better. It will help ensure you read what you have actually written – rather than what you think you have written.

2. Fresh eyes: Find a second pair of eyes to review your web content. Other people are not as close to your writing as you are. And they are more likely to pick up errors that you will simply not see.

3. Read your work out aloud: I know this might feel awkward in a busy office environment. So take yourself away and read your web content out aloud elsewhere. It will force you to pay attention to every word and punctuation mark. It works.

This post is the fourth and final instalment in a four-part series titled:
Three facts about your online audience you didn’t want to know.