The legendary author and salesman Zig Ziglar said, “If people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.” Any owner should take this sentiment to heart if they want to grow a small business.
You may have a great product, a catchy slogan, a beautiful storefront and be doing everything right, but if customers can’t trust you, then they aren’t going to want to do business with you either.
Generating trust is a fast way to grow a small business, whether you’re operating a physical storefront, an eCommerce website or a combination of both. The challenge, however, is getting people to trust you in as little time as possible. This is especially true for new startups that need to gain favor with their future customers and build trust quickly.
We’re more connected now than ever, and that means consumers have more options. Price and quality are no longer the only deciding factors that people use to measure a company.
Now, brand reputation and the customer experience are both significant factors into the success of a small business. To generate trust, you need to focus on these two areas and provide more value and maintain a better reputation than competitors.
Deliver A Quality Product/Service as Promised
While reputation and customer experience are definitely part of the equation now, that doesn’t mean you can underdeliver on your products and services, even if you have a stellar reputation and experience.
Building trust is vital for getting customers to buy, but your products will be one of the most significant factors towards convincing them to come back and buy more.
Transparency is tremendous with generating trust, so you have to be completely honest about the quality of your goods and services, the price and everything in between.
If you’re selling the same product or service as competitors, but at a lower price, be honest about the ways that you save money. Your business will always be more negatively impacted by distrust than by merely admitting that you use less expensive materials, for example.
Build a Website
Some businesses still don’t have a website. The service industry is particularly dense with website holdouts because many of these companies thrive through pure word-of-mouth business. However, having a site is becoming more and more of a necessity for businesses.
Not only are more people searching for companies online and hoping to land on a website, instead of relying on the yellow pages, but a site also helps build credibility. Your business appears more established when you have a website, even if you don’t directly use it as a portal to do business through.
The other benefit of having a website is it allows you to have a professional email address. Anyone can have a Gmail or Hotmail account, but only a business has a professional email with their company name. Again, this is all about establishing credibility and turning that credibility into trust that helps grow small business success.
Create A Google My Business Account
People no longer turn to the Yellow Pages to find local business listings. Instead, they turn to Google. In fact, 81% of shoppers conduct research online before visiting a store and making a purchase.
Many of the customers using Google to find local businesses are motivated to shop, so these are potential customers that are ready to buy today. Considering how many motivated shoppers are searching on Google to find local businesses, establishing a Google My Business account is critical for building trust with these potential customers.
Google My Business is a free service provided by Google that allows you to create a listing of your business on Google. When patrons search your small business on Google, this listing will appear along with the other search engine results.
Included in the listing is critical information like your location, hours, contact details, website and more. It also shows pictures and customer reviews. All of this information being so readily available helps improve your small business’ customer experience because they don’t have to move off Google to find the info they are after.
Encourage Customer Testimonials
Reviews, on your Google My Business listing and websites like Yelp.com, YP.com, and others, are essential for establishing your credibility on the web. The more review sites you’re present on, the more visible your company is and the more reviews you’ll generate.
A study found that 80% of consumers surveyed trusted a review as much as a personal recommendation and many consumers need at least three reviews before making a final decision, so you want to accumulate as many reviews as possible.
The best way to generate reviews, and thereby trust, is by actively encouraging your customers to leave reviews at these sites. You can even direct them to the review services that need more positive reviews than others.
By asking for reviews, you’re creating an opportunity for the customer to get involved, which creates a more substantial relationship between your business and that individual.
Manage Customers Through CRM Software
With all of the new ways and channels that customers and brands use to interact, businesses need a way to track their relationships with customers across all of these different touchpoints.
It’s no longer just a matter of knowing when a customer last visited or remembering their favorite order; between social media interactions, reviews on listing sites, email marketing responses, website purchases and in-store visits, your relationships with customers is a lot more complicated.
CRM software makes it easy to track customers and their interactions across all of these different channels. This makes it painless and time-efficient to get to know your customers and get a complete view of how each customer interacts with your small business and how that influences the business-client relationship.
Ideally, you want to integrate your CRM platform with your POS system, as this allows you to see how your relationship with the customer is positively or negatively affecting their willingness to buy.
Provide an 800 Number
This is in the same vein of having a professional email address. Anyone can have a phone number but only established businesses and organizations have 800 numbers. This helps legitimize you in the eyes of customers. Not to mention, calling an 800 number is easier to dial, and it’s free to call.
An 800 number can be particularly valuable if your business has multiple store locations, as it creates a centralized number that customers can dial for general information. Similarly, it’s also a must-have for eCommerce businesses; you don’t want people having to pay long distance fees to call your business!
800 numbers are very versatile because you own the number. If your business moves, changes its name, you add locations, or you need more lines, it’s no problem.
Most 800 number providers will also give you call forwarding, voicemail and unlimited extensions. These are small benefits next to the simple fact that having an 800 number adds another layer of credibility that helps generate trust and grow small business profits.
Create Professional Marketing Materials
Whether it’s an email marketing campaign, a brochure, a flyer at the local coffee shop, a social media post or otherwise, all of your marketing materials should be clean, professional and high-quality. They should also create a consist brand persona.
Again, your customers are going to be interacting with your business across multiple different channels. If your email marketing campaigns are vastly more professional than your social media content, it’s going to feel disingenuous and interrupt the customer journey.
To ensure that you have a consistent brand persona and all your marketing materials are professional-grade, you really want to invest in some professional help, like a digital marketing agency.
These individuals will be adept at not only crafting useful marketing messages but also ensuring that your overall digital marketing efforts feel consistent and cohesive, which can be invaluable for a small business trying to generate trust.
Stay in Compliance
No matter how trusted your small business is, it only takes one crisis or negative consumer report to crater all your hard work at earning that credibility. Companies have to comply with industry standards and regulations, many of which are enforced by government-controlled agencies.
This ensures that businesses abide by laws and produce products or offer services that are safe for consumers. When a business doesn’t comply with these standards, it can be devastating. History is littered with companies that fell apart over one lousy compliance issue.
The best way to avoid a potential compliance issue is to look for them actively. Some of the most significant corporate non-compliance and safety scandals were born out of a single customer complaint, or a collection of claims. The at-fault companies failed to recognize these complaints as the seed of a much, much bigger problem.
Avoiding compliance issues can be done by actively scanning reviews, mainly negative reviews, for the early warning signs of a more substantial crisis. The more active you are at monitoring reviews and handling customer complaints, the easier it is to catch a compliance issue in the early stages, manage it and maintain a positive reputation.
Respond to Customer Reviews
While you’re scanning customer reviews for any potential compliance issues, you can help build trust further by also responding to those customer reviews. Negative reviews are especially critical, regarding sending out a timely response.
When people lodge a complaint or had a bad experience, they are expecting some form of intervention or resolution. You may not agree with their criticism, but it is important to acknowledge their issue, apologize and, if possible, find a way to mend the relationship by offering a discount on a future purchase, a refund or something of that nature.
You also want to address good reviews too, even if all you say is a simple, “thanks for your input, glad you enjoyed the product.” The more reviews you respond to, the more approachable your small business becomes.
It shows that you actively care about what people have to say about your business and are open to input. In turn, this can help encourage other people to leave reviews.
To grow small business trust, appearing open and actively communicative is vital. Responding to reviews is a great start for creating this approachable persona. You can also engage customers through social media, email marketing, and other tactics.
The more time you can dedicate to communicating with audiences, the more they’ll see your business as a person (or team of people), rather than just a faceless company. In other words, communication humanizes your brand, which makes it easier for customers to trust it and you.
That said, being communicative isn’t just about responding to comments on Facebook and reacting to negative reviews. It’s also about communicating your brand persona to customers and showcasing to potential customers what sets you apart from the competition. You can achieve this through all different types of content, email marketing campaigns and more.
Once you’ve been able to grow your small business through establishing trust and credibility successfully, you want to retain that business. A loyalty program to reward customers over time is a great way to encourage future sales and return visits, while also providing extra value in the customer experience.
It can also be a way to stand out amongst your competitors, especially if your small business can create a rewards program that goes beyond the traditional punch card systems that other companies often offer.
Luckily, creating an exciting loyalty program today is easy. Not only are there third-party services and tools that you can use to craft an engaging, customizable loyalty program, but a lot of point of sale systems also have loyalty features that allow a business to create a loyalty program through their POS software. When customers make purchases, the system automatically tracks their reward progress.
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Building trust can take time. Some businesses exist for years before really developing a solid customer base that trusts their business.
For startups and small businesses, you want to hit the ground running, regarding generating trust to grow small business sales. By taking advantage of all of the tactics described above, you can begin establishing the brand credibility and engaging customer experience that fuels consumer trust.