Building client trust is the gateway to running a successful online business. It can be difficult to establish, since the potential customer cannot see or talk to you. Before I started my online wedding business, I completed about eight months of research on why certain businesses in my industry were performing well. I would go to websites of my competitors and browse just to see how they functioned; then, I would make notes on why I would purchase from this particular vendor. This lead the way for me to build my business solely online and create successful client relationships.
Have a Professional Website
In most cases, the first thing potential customers will see is your website. Having a professional, easy to navigate site is the number one reason a customer will initially purchase from you. I have seen so many that are cluttered and disorganized, and this really reflects not only your business, but you as a professional. Here are a few tips to help you clean up your website:
About page: Write a page that reflects you, the story on how you got into your industry, and a little bit of personal data. This one page alone could make a huge difference. Also, include a picture - people want to know who they are purchasing from, especially if you offer a service or a custom product.
Contact page: Make sure you have a clear way on how potential clients can contact you, and have this available throughout your site to allow questions easily.
Testimonials/Reviews: Have a section on your site where customers can read about past experiences, or overall reviews on your products.
Press page: If you have been featured in other blogs, websites or written publications, let your customers know! This is a great way to self-promote some of the success stories you have had.
Up to date copyright: This seems minimal, but if it is April and you still have last year's copyright at the bottom of your site, this gives the illusion that you do not pay attention to details and can easily deter clients.
Make it legal: Create a policies page and privacy policies and make sure this is displayed on your site.
Blogging: I have learned this recently, but blogging with great content can show your potential customers your depth of knowledge. Make sure you blog with topics that you feel comfortable, and include some that will benefit your clients. This is a great way to show that you are an expert in your field.
Eliminate pop-ups: There is not another bigger annoyance than to have pop-ups when you are trying to read something on a website. I close out of many websites for this very reason!
Choose the right template: If you are on Wordpress, make sure your template is clean, easy to navigate, and mobile ready. For Squarespace users, all of the templates they offer are great - choose the one that best displays your business (and most importantly, your products or services). Also, use only 2-4 colors maximum on your site to avoid clutter and the feeling of chaos.
Related Post: Why I Chose Squarespace Over Wordpress
No one enjoys negative surprises when they are purchasing a product or service. Ensure you communicate what your product offers, what it is made of, timing, shipping costs, etc. If you are providing a service, be very clear on costs and what exactly is included. If there is any additional costs than those that I have disclosed to my clients, I let them know beforehand - I do not surprise my clients with anything on an invoice. Also, if you have a contract, do not leave communication solely to what is listed in it; not many will actually read through a 5-15 page agreement. Use a welcome email, as well as additional forms of communication so the client doesn't get unexpected news.
Another effective form of communication is put together well thought out email responses to your clients. Try to be as helpful as possible, whether they are asking questions before they purchase or after. Be clear on what you expect from them, especially if you are providing a custom product or service and include any deadline information up front. No matter what the situation entails, be friendly!!
Personally, nothing frustrates me more than going to a website regarding a product or service and finding very vague information. With so much online competition, one way to really stand out is to have clear pricing, ordering information, product information, timing, shipping, and package details. The largest jump in sales that I experienced with my business is when I created my landing page, which gives all of the information a client would need up front to place their order with me. Not only does this cut down drastically email communication, but it builds trust with my clients that I am organized and not hiding anything. I know that most in my particular industry require consultations first, but I have found this time efficient and easy for my clients. This is a business model that has allowed me to be very unique and successful in my industry, as well as build client trust before I even start working with them.
Make it Easy to Ask Questions
Seems easy, but have your preferred contact method available on all pages of your site. I always recommend placing a contact page on one of your headers and/or the sidebar. You want your clients to feel like they can reach out to you prior to purchasing if they have questions.
Promptly Return Emails/Phone Calls
I have gained a lot of business from clients for the simple fact that I was fast to respond to them. If you take too long to respond, then there is a good chance you will lose their business before you ever had the chance. Particularly with online businesses, responding to emails is very important as this is the fastest way to build trust. General guidelines:
Phone calls should be returned the same day/next morning
Emails should be returned within 1-2 business days
Also, if you know you will be out of the office, make sure your voicemail/auto responder reflects when you will be back and able to return the message. This informs the client that you are not ignoring them, and people in general are patient when they have information.
Related Post: Managing Email - 8 Tips for a Productive Inbox
Keep Your Commitments
If you say you will, then do it. It's really that simple! With my clients, I have a timeline posted on when I will print and produce there order, and when it will ship listed right on my website. I ensure that I always meet those deadlines, no matter what, because that is what I promised them. Nothing will bring down a client relationship faster than not doing what is expected, so make sure that you have timelines, other items, etc. that you promise attainable to you. If you tell them it will take 2 days, try to complete it in one day. Faster service is always acceptable, and often very appreciated. This is a great way to build trust with your clients for repeat business!
Give Them Something Extra
When customers receive something unexpected, especially from the beginning this could build trust very quickly. For example, when I first started my business, when certain clients would reach out to me with questions, I would tell them that I really wanted to work with them and was happy to offer a 10% discount off of their order. This made them feel special, and it was something that they were not initially expecting which allowed me to book clients faster. If you are in a slow season, think about when clients reach out to you about offering a discount, quicker service with waived rush fees, or free shipping to entice them to purchase from you.
Another idea I created recently was gift boxes for wedding invitation orders (shown below). This is not something that I advertise; it is simply included with invitation orders so they have a keepsake box for their memories. I have it engraved in silver foil with my logo and website, and also makes for great branding. Think about your business, and what you can give your clients as a little extra something!
Be a Resource
When I started blogging recently, I quickly realized that I could use it not only to gain potential clients, but to also have a resource for educating my current clients. I write a variety of posts, but primarily they are business or wedding related. For my wedding clients, it is a way that I can refer them to a resource of my own to help them. I try to write about topics that would help anyone, even if they decide to go with another stationer. My goal is to not only gain more clientele, but to also educate others based on what I am an expert at. This gives me another way to show my credibility in my industry, and to gain trust.
Reward Your Clients
If you offer any kind of product or service, you should always try to get repeat business. Offer your clients a discount on their next order, to build a relationship and gain repeat business. If you offer a service, (i.e. photography) try offering something a little extra, since as free prints, or a one year anniversary or holiday discount session with your wedding clients. Think about your industry and what you can use to reward your clients.
Give the Feeling of Partnership
When you are working one on one with clients online, you have to communicate in a way to make it personal. I try to use verbiage that expresses how I am happy to be working with them, and that I appreciate that they chose me. I want my brides to have fun and enjoy the process. Think about how you word your communication to your clients, and other ideas on how you can build a partnership right from the first piece of communication.
We all make mistakes. It is a fact; no matter how hard we try, we will never be perfect. What you do when that mistake happens is what will make or break the relationship. I believe in sincerely apologizing, and then rectifying the situation. Be honest with your clients, as it is much easier to forgive someone if they are being humble about how they are conducting their business.
Say Thank You
If you offer a service or a customized product, you should ALWAYS write a thank you note. This needs to be handwritten, and not a stock thank you to be able to personalize your gratitude for their business. A simple card will work, or you can have some printed with your logo.
While building trust online can be quite difficult, many businesses are very successful in accomplishing this. What other tips do you have to build trust with your clients?