Offline, it’s often the bigger companies that succeed. It’s the Economy of Scale in action: they’re big enough to wear the costs of operating on a large enough scale to make real money.
Online, it’s a different story: in the Digital Wild West, startups duke it out with old-world corporate giants (and often win!), in a landscape that doesn’t favour size so much as savviness.
It’s a whole new world, and it’s pretty damn exciting, but it does raise some questions:
If anyone can start selling online, how do you know who’s legit? How do you know that a given company won’t take your money and disappear off to Barbados? Or get hacked and lose all your private information? Or go bankrupt before your product even ships?
Even more importantly: how can you show your potential customers that you’re trustworthy enough to deal with?
These are all good questions, and the online community is constantly evolving new ways to tackle them. Some methods are new and perhaps a little daunting – dealing with customer feedback in public, for instance – while some advice makes so much sense it’ll never go out of style (see How to Build Trust on an eCommerce Website, which I wrote years ago!)
Putting your best website forward
To continue the metaphor from my last post, the internet is much like a shopping centre – full of shoppers, noise, hawkers, spruikers, crying kids, prams that take up the whole aisle…
(Sorry, got a little lost there. I hate shopping centres.)
When a user finally comes to your website, though, it’s like a customer walking into your store. The question then becomes: what will they find when they get there?
Will they find a well-maintained establishment, with helpful signs directing them to exactly what they need? Or will they find a dusty old stall, with out-of-date products lying around without rhyme or reason?
Will they feel that they can trust the staff that run the store? Will they be greeted by a smiling face? Or will they find a two-bit operation? Or even worse: a faceless, uncaring corp?
User Experience (“UX”) is a whole complicated branch of web design theory, and every website that Technology Matters produces is carefully designed to maximise your perceived expertise, knowledgeability, security and safety. That’s the fuel that online business runs on.
After all, there’s no point driving thousands of users to a site that they don’t trust enough to buy from, is there?
But what can you do?
Enough about us – here are some helpful hints that you can use to up your rep online without a degree in design or business.
Get some testimonials. A thousand words of sales copy will never amount to as much as a happy customer’s own words. There are many ways to solicit a testimonial: over social media, in “thank you” emails, or even just when speaking to a customer on the phone. “Can I quote you on that?” goes a long way!
Get Social. While we can kickstart your social media strategy (with integrated blogs, analytics, Facebook Marketing and more!), only you can give your customers the real, face-to-face interaction they need. That personal touch – combined with our Social Media Kung Fu – will make your business a force to be reckoned with!
Put your face on it! While this is technically a design concern, I mention this because many clients are so reluctant. There’s nothing like an About Us page that Actually Talks About Us, though – users want to know you’re a real person, with a real name, a real face, and a real address and contact details. Even if they never use it, they want to know they can.
OK big guy, you’ve got a sleek, highly-performing website and a marketing plan that draws you a tonne of traffic. Are you set? Already Googling yachts? Not just yet. Tune in next time for the all-important Step 3: preparing for and managing the growth of your business!
Nathan has been involved in nearly every aspect of web development for 12 years – from scoping to design, and coding to copywriting. He oversees Technology Matters' Association Suite, bringing together a range of services catered to professional associations.