Can you Actually Build Trust Online?

Given just how much gets done on the internet these days, it's always a bit shocking to me that people still ask this question.

However, I've noticed something: the people who assert that you can't build trust online are often professionals.

As a result they have learned from the people before them, who learned from the people before them, who learned from the people before them… that the only way to get new business is to give seminars, drink coffees and have long lunches.

They're wrong.

Let's work through it and find out why.

online trust

First – Let's Applaud the Hypocrisy

I'm going to make some broad generalisations here, but in order to fully dismantle the assertion that you can't build trust online, we have to take a look at the habits of the people making the claim.

In this list are just a few of the many ways that people now exhibit “trust” online in varying different ways. Many of them are the kind of people who think you can't develop trust online in a professional sense:

  • internet banking – you trust your ISP, your computer software and your bank. This is because you want the convenience that it offers, and you're willing to take the risk.
  • Facebook – you trust Facebook enough to tell it your job, your age, your friends, the pages you visit on the internet, your hobbies, music, likes and dislikes and to give you the news that it thinks you should know.
  • eBay/Gumtree/Whatever – ever bought anything online? From the pre-ordered shopping trip so you can just pick it up, to the Christmas hamper to the newspaper order to the apps you have on your phone to the Microsoft Office you run on your computer – you trust the security of your purchase, you trust the provider, and you trust the delivery people.
  • courses and seminars – every time you purchase an online course you're trusting the provider, the payment gateway and the website itself to do all of the things that you expect and not let you down.  Did they make a promise to refund if you didn't like the product? You're trusting that too!

It becomes obvious, right? It's clear that people have a bunch of trust in a variety of different areas – even those who have convinced themselves that, for some reason, you can't build relationships to sell professional services online.

It's a Matter of Degree

So let's change the question a little, since it's so obvious that people DO trust online brands, people and connections.

The real question is this: can I build enough trust online for someone to buy what I'm selling?

It's that word “enough” that's really the question we need to be looking at.

If I'm going to buy a $2.99 app the amount of trust I need is significantly less than if I'm going to commit a $1.2m piece of commercial litigation into your hands.

Two Important Questions

Your job when it comes to incorporating an online strategy into your marketing is to determine two things:

  1. what are you tipping your prospects towards; and
  2. where is their tipping point?

Yes – there's a lot of tipping involved in this exercise.

Unfortunately, most people don't ask even one of those questions, let alone both.

Instead, they blindly copy a bunch of tactics from marketing gurus who actually don't know anything about their business. As a result, they are using scatter-gun approaches without considering the subtleties and context of their own situation.

The answers to these “tipping” questions will determine whether your efforts are successful or not.

What do you want to Tip People Towards?

The tipping point for a paid app is: “buy the app”.

If it's a free app, then it's “download the app”.

But for you, the chances are that it's more complicated. If you sell services, the chances you will convince people to engage you with purely online endeavours are fairly slim. There's a chance you could do it with a personalised email conversation, but generic materials probably ain't gonna cut the mustard.

So perhaps your tipping people towards calling you for an initial consultation? Or perhaps initially you're tipping them towards giving you permission to contact them (by entering their email, phone or other details to get something valuable you promise to give them).

For me, my goal on this site is to tip you towards applying for a free marketing strategy session. Once you've done that, my job is to offer you such a great marketing strategy for free that you feel confident to engage me to help you implement that strategy going forward.

What I know, however, is that a consulting relationship like that probably won't happen without some kind of personal interaction – and nor should it. It's also my chance to demonstrate that I actually know what I'm doing, to help you out, and to paint a picture of the opportunities that you have to grow your business.

Where is the Tipping Point?

So there are really two tipping points we need to consider here:

  1. the tipping point where you get permission to start building trust; and
  2. the tipping point where you get the prospect to become a client and pay you some money.

Again, the precise point at which any of your prospects hits those tipping points is going to depend upon your business.

Let's say you're following a fairly typical path these days:

  1. your permission point is getting someone on an email list
  2. your sales point is getting someone to engage you to provide services.

The first is getting a bit harder than it used to be, but the focus here is obviously all about listening to your clients and knowing what your prospects are actually going to care about. If you haven't done that, then how are you going to hit the best pain/desire points for your free material?

What's that, you say – free material? Yes. It's got to be free. And it's got to be helpful.

But let's say your prospect gives you that permission, then question is: what to do next?

Do you:

  1. call them immediately and ask for their money?
  2. keep sending articles at them until you die of old age (or they unsubscribe)?
  3. just hope that they'll actually read/watch your free thing and then call you to send you some work?

Probably none of the above, but you can see the extreme ends of the spectrum there.

The easiest place to start is this: look in a mirror. If you were interesting in engaging yourself to do something, at what point would you feel comfortable getting a call?

That's the tipping point.

It's a good place to start, and a good place for this article to finish.

Where's the Tipping Point for Your Prospects?

Let me know in the comments – where is your prospects' tipping point for the two elements above? What's your system for managing the tipping point?



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