Message & Media: Credibility and Trust
It doesn't matter what the economic climate is; it's always important to reassure those doing business with you. Customers need to be reassured the company they know and love hasn't and won't be going out of business, while prospects—always the skeptics—need to be convinced about your stability, reliability and commitment to quality before they'll do business with you.
Here are tools for creating marketing messages that build credibility and nurture lasting customer relationships.
• Your Guarantee: Most companies have a guarantee that assures satisfaction but then don't promote it adequately, especially to non- customers. Why is a guarantee important? It's the insurance policy you offer first-time triers. It addresses the buying objection, "I don't know you; why should I trust you?"
Keep your guarantee simple, strong and straightforward, and don't let your legal staff fill it with fine print, asterisks and qualifying phrases. Check out your competitors' guarantees for what to say and what not to say. Look for holes in it that you can cover, and use them to differentiate your company. Some direct marketers even test guarantee statements.
Feature your guarantee in your direct mail, e-mails, as well as on Web pages, product packaging, package inserts, shipping cartons, statements, invoices, even receipts. Your guarantee is the handshake that can seal the deal.
• Customer Reviews: Both customers and prospects—consumer and B-to-B—rely on product reviews to make smarter buying decisions based on objective, user-provided evaluations. Capture customer reviews online; then use them in all your media messages—space ads, e-mails, Web pages, direct mail, even radio and TV.
The most credible reviews address both positive and negative product and performance characteristics. It's also helpful to use an easily scannable rating system such as Amazon.com's one through five stars.
• Ratings/Awards: Has your company or product been recognized with an unbiased rating or review from a local newspaper or nationally recognized organization such as J.D. Power and Associates? If so, find out how you can use this recognition in all types of media and your marketing messages.
For example, if you're an airline recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration for surpassing safety standards and on-time performance, don't assume a potential traveler will click five times to find this info buried in your Web site. It's one thing to earn the accolades and another to maximize their marketing value by making them easily accessible.
• Customer Service: When customers have questions, they look for your 800-number so they can be reassured by a real live person. Don't hide your customer service number. Make it big, bold and easy to find. Then train your customer service reps to be top-notch customer consultants offering candid and reliable advice.
• Memberships/Affiliations: Having the DMA, Better Business Bureau or some other professional affiliation logo on your site adds credibility. You've already paid the membership dues; now maximize the benefits you get from your membership.
• About Us: A good place to educate customers and prospects about who you are as a company is the "about us" page on your Web site. A customer survey will tell you what people are looking for when they go to this page. As part of a recent online writing assignment, I was told visitors to a particular B-to-B Web site look for how long the company has been in business and the breadth of its client base. Those two points are now featured in the opening sentences of the "about us" content.
• Client Lists: Should you mention clients by name or include a client list? A partial or complete client list demonstrates depth and breadth of experience. But make sure you have permission to use a client company's name. If you don't want to name names but geographic distribution matters, show a map with client locations indicated.
When launching my own Web site, I took the advice of Jeanne Jennings, an online direct marketing consultant and favorite colleague. Jennings took one look at my client list and said, "Show them all." Here's why. During my career, I've written for companies and brands that start with every letter of the alphabet. While I'd never given it any thought, Jennings said showing clients from A to Z was a quick way to establish my broad experience.
• Specificity Counts: As with all direct marketing copy, when your goal is to reassure and build credibility, be specific. This is another one of those small details that makes a big difference. For example, don't round off numbers—1,157 is more believable than 1,100 or 1,150. Saying you've been in business 23 years is more credible than more than 20. And instead of stating, "We're a full-service organization," also list your services, and provide a brief benefit statement for each. Specifics build credibility and trust.
Pat Friesen is a direct response copywriter and creative strategist writing copy for online and offline media. She can be reached at (913) 341-1211, firstname.lastname@example.org and by visiting www.patfriesen.com.