Hey, lean in real close. I have a little secret to tell you. It's about how to get more customers.
Stop being sketchy.
Did I just blow your mind? Probably not, right? Then why are there still so many companies out there eliciting the stink eye from leads and prospects? Probably because they're doing things that come across as really untrustworthy, and they don't even know it.
You could hire a branding consultant or agency to help your company be more likeable, but I have a better idea. Before you drop a dime on that, run your company through the sketch-o-meter to see if there are any things you can cross off the list of major turnoffs. Chances are, if you're doing any of these things that tend to make people distrust companies, nixing it from your marketing repertoire will do some serious wonders for your likeability index. Take a look!
21 Reasons People Don't Trust Your Company
1) You're rocking an erratic website design.
First impressions are everything. And these days, simplicity and ease of navigation is key. Is that the experience your site visitors are getting? You're probably familiar with the blink test, the commonly accepted 3 seconds you have to orient new visitors to your website. If you're hampering it with distracting animation, cluttered navigation, or slow-loading images, you're making them think one of two things: this site will give me a virus or this messy site is symptomatic of a messy company. Neither are good, and both leave your visitors confused enough to click the "back" button in their browser. Click here to learn how to do a website design right.
2) There's no way to contact someone.
Why can't I get in touch with you? If your website doesn't offer contact information -- a phone number, an email address, even a physical address -- you give the impression you don't want to actually talk to anyone. You'll take their money, but you sure as sugar won't talk to them. And no, a "Contact Us" button that leads to a form is not an acceptable replacement for providing a phone number or email address.
3) You have absolutely no pricing information available.
No pricing information? Not even a hint of what your products or services might cost? You know what that says to most people? I want to sell to you. And we all know how much people love to be sold to.
I know, I know, you have a consultative selling process! You have to assess what each lead needs! If you put the price up, you'll scare people away! You don't have to publish your price down to the exact cent, but you should give visitors a general idea of what your products or services cost so they know whether they can even afford to consider your solution.
4) You're writing vague copy.
Speaking of being a tad too secretive ... your copy shouldn't leave site visitors guessing. Show website copy to someone outside your company, and ask them if they understand what you're talking about. If readers don't understand what you're trying to say, it's easy for them to assume a company is trying to pull the wool over their eyes. Hosting an event with an extra cost for entry after 10:00 p.m.? Don't hide that last little tidbit from readers -- emphasize it so you don't lose their long-term trust.
5) You're spelling and grammer isn't well.
Being specific in your copywriting isn't enough, either. You need to actually look like you gave a hoot while you were writing it. Nothing looks less professional than writing that's chock full of spelling and grammar mistakes. You don't have to be Shakespeare, but for goodness sake run your copy through spell check! It's disrespectful to readers to make them try to parse unintelligible copy, and frankly, they won't bother. After all, if you can't manage to run a spell check, how could you manage to provide a high-quality solution?
6) You're writing for search engines, not people.
Most inbound marketers are very concerned with their organic search presence, and for good reason. But sometimes, that concern manifests itself in copy that looks like this:
Our marketing solutions services software is ideal for enterprise organization marketing software solutions looking for help with their marketing email automation.
Would you really write out a check to a company whose website reads that way? I think not. If not because it looks like the company's stuck in the 90s, but because you'd have no idea what they actually do after reading a sentence like that. Write for humans, using search terms that make sense within the context of your sentences. Google's crawlers are smart enough to understand what your website is about nowadays without you squeezing round hole terms into square peg sentences.
7) You haven't established a thought leadership position.
If you aren't creating content that establishes you as an authority, it's hard to convince prospects that you're a trustworthy source. And people don't tend to jump at the opportunity to give their money to untrustworthy companies. So publish blog content, write whitepapers, create ebooks, record videos and podcasts, get quoted in other people's content ... the more you show people how much you know, the more credibility you build with them!
8) You're givin' the ol' bait and switch.
Once you have all that content, you need to ensure you're representing it fairly, particularly with lead and customer generation content. If you're offering a 50% off coupon, make sure any fine print is really more like big, bold, glaring print with flashing lights. If a lead goes to redeem their 50% off coupon, only to find it's only valid on the first full moon of a leap year, you're going to look like a bit of a schmuck for not telling them before they got to the checkout process.
9) You have overly personal form fields.
Do you need to know my zip code? My favorite color? My greatest fear? Why? Look, if there's a valid reason for collecting a piece of intelligence in a form field, your leads and customers will understand. But if you're collecting a ton of personal information for no apparent reason, it looks like you're stockpiling for the lead intelligence apocalypse, or channeling that information to a third party. Which brings us to our next point ...
11) No third-party organizations are vouching for you.
Not all third parties are bad, though! Third-party organizations like the BBB, VeriSign, McAfee, and TRUSTe all provide badges for trustworthy websites that act as good visual cues for visitors that they're a legitimate company to do business with. These cues are particularly important for service businesses and ecommerce businesses that are handling monetary transactions online.
12) And customers aren't promoting you, either.
It's not just third-party organizations you need to woo to establish a trustworthy image -- you need plenty of customer testimonials, too. Including testimonials on your website can help convince those leads and customers on the fence about your offers, products, and services that you're a safe bet. Take a look at how maid service franchise Molly Maid does it on their site.
13) You've got bad online reviews.
Just having great reviews isn't enough to ensure you've got a trustworthy company image, though. You should also be monitoring for and addressing negative online reviews about your company. In fact, Socialnomics reports that 25% of search results return user-generated content from review sites, blogs, and social media updates ... and 65% of Gen Y users are considering that information when making purchasing decisions, according to eMarketer. It probably doesn't behoove you to have hordes of disgruntled customers be the first impression people have with your company, eh?
14) You have no social presence.
Did you set up a Facebook business page last year as a New Year's resolution, use it aggressively for two weeks, then half-heartedly post once every other month for a while until you finally just gave it up completely? That's a fine little secret to keep to yourself, but it doesn't look too good when leads stumble upon it. Social media has become ubiquitous, and when companies have abandoned social profiles, it looks like they don't have all their ducks in a row. Put serious effort into maintaining an active social presence so your leads see you as a 21st century company.
15) You're not engaging in social media conversations.
Maintaining an active social presence means that your fans and followers will be engaging with the content you publish. Are you engaging back? Social media is a two-way street, and companies that don't carry on the conversation they start with their networks ... well ... they kind of look like jerks. I mean, how would you feel if someone asked you a question, you answered, and they just walked away? Doesn't sound like someone who is too interested in building a strong relationship with customers.
16) You're getting all defensive.
Part of being an active inbound marketer and content creator is just putting yourself out there -- especially in social media. As such, pretty much every company is going to get called out at some point for saying something "wrong." Sometimes it really is wrong ... and sometimes it's just taken the wrong way. Either way, the right response is apologetic, not defensive. Companies that don't know how to handle criticism come off very negatively with their leads and customers, and it's a quick way to alienate a group of people who once may have been huge supporters of your brand. Don't turn your back on the fans, leads, and customers that have gotten you where you are today!
17) You're emailing people that didn't opt in.
Is there any greater breach of trust than illicitly bombarding someone's inbox?
Okay yeah, there totally is. But in the internet marketing world, emailing people that didn't opt in to receive communications is definitely high up on the list of most-trust-breaching activities you could perform. The last thing you want to combat is a spammer reputation -- that's one that could hurt you in not only your leads' and customers' eyes, but also ESPs and ISPs, too.
18) It's not easy to unsubscribe from your emails.
Speaking of sketchy email marketing behavior, even a list full of opt-in email addresses can result in a tarnished company reputation if you don't make it easy for those contacts to unsubscribe from email communication.
Here's the thing about the "Unsubscribe" button in emails -- other than it being a legal requirement and all. I don't always unsubscribe from email communications because I hate that company so much. I do it because I moved. I changed jobs. I can't afford their products. I don't need their services. I stopped opening their emails months ago and I'm just now getting around to unsubscribing. You know when I do unsubscribe out of pure, unadulterated ire? When I go to peacefully unsubscribe and that button is hidden better than a fugitive on the run. This is a surefire way to get people to not only distrust your company -- but also to loathe you.
19) You're sending poorly targeted email content.
Segmented email lists that send highly targeted content are awesome, and they make a company look like it magically knows all your innermost desires. Poorly targeted email content makes people feel like a sales target. Email marketing is a two-way communication, just like social media -- don't send email AT people. Send messages to them so they feel like you actually care about providing something they'd find valuable. Want to start segmenting? Here are 27 ways to slice and dice your email list.
20) Your emails keep going into SPAM folders.
Who is the least trustworthy person in your inbox? All of the people in your SPAM folder. Don't let your company be one of them. Make sure you're optimizing your emails for the inbox, and have a great Sender Score so your email actually gets delivered!
21) Be excellent to each other.
Alright, this isn't a reason people don't trust you, but it's a way to get them to. Whenever you get the chance, you should be proactively showing customer love, lead love, fan love, follower love, employee love ... all of the love. Got a nice comment on a blog post? Pop into the comments and say thank you. Received a retweet? Reply every now and then expressing your gratitude. Employee finish a marathon? Congratulate them on Facebook. Regularly showing gratitude for everyone involved in your success makes you a generally likable company. And not doing it makes you look like you're all take-take-take. And when that happens, eventually, people will stop giving.
What do you do to establish a trustworthy company image? What do you explicitly avoid?
Image credit: Neal.
Originally published Jul 25, 2012 9:00:00 AM, updated June 09 2021