We are in the midst of an entrepreneurial boom. Start-ups have never been faster, easier, and cheaper to develop than right now, as social media platforms and free or low-cost online tools connect business owners with massive audiences instantly. Entrepreneurial consultant Mark Evans calls it “a start-up renaissance”, and the proof is in the Pinterest pudding.

It’s an exciting time to grow your brilliant business idea online, but the competition is high. You need more than a differentiation strategy to make your start-up stand out from the rest. You need to convey trust.

Without a physical place to affirm its existence, web-based businesses face a unique challenge in proving trustworthiness. As Usability.gov contributor Susanne Furman says, “lack of trust has been identified as one of the biggest barriers to people engaging in e-commerce.”

Break down the trust barrier first, before offering flashy sign-up incentives or investing in logo-branded water bottles and mini footballs for your company. Trust is fundamental to a user’s first impression of your business; make it as much a priority as the user does when scanning sites online. Here’s how:

1. Keep your site looking up-to-date

“Frankly, a cheap website will make you look cheap,” says Guardian contributor Katy Cowna. Fair enough. But we don’t think you need a stupendous budget to convey polished professionalism and trustworthiness to your users. Our blog post, “Keep This, Save That For Later” has tips for finding cheap or free professional web layout and branding solutions online. Today, you can crowd source fresh logo designs for under $200.00, and manage a responsive, easy-to-navigate website for free with WordPress.

To look outdated or “cheap” is to admit to being non-committal and undependable. Explore the options that suit your budget, with the understanding that the design of your site will probably be your user’s first interaction with your business. Convey trustworthiness from the get-go with fresh web design and content delivery.

2. Blog

Your company blog is like a living historical document. It’s the online proof that you launch new services, write whitepapers on industry-specific topics, and connect with prospective customers. Blogs often showcase real-life company culture, and provide a voice for customers to relate to. A blog can also be a platform for showcasing company transparency. As Mashable.com contributor Sharlyn Louby says, “transparency is about being honest, open, and accountable.” In your blog posts, be upfront about the work that you do, and take pride in what goes on behind-the-scenes. This kind of confidence shows users that you have nothing to hide, and cultivates trust.

3. Offer proof of awesomeness

Publishing customer testimonials is the obvious method of proving that your company has made people happy, but it’s not feasible for a start-up that is, well, just starting. Get creative. Give your prospective customers the opportunity to experience your business’ excellence for themselves before requiring that they make a commitment or purchase on your site. Build your own online quote forms with Socket, and let users test-drive your pricing options with instant results. With Socket on your site, users get an interactive experience with your company that is efficient and memorable. Socket provides website owners with proof of awesomeness, and bolsters the trustworthiness of the site.

4. Do what you say

Follow through with your company claims. Users know that they have options online, and are not likely to stick around after you fool them once. We all want to stand out from the rest; do so in a way that truly puts you on the cutting edge, by actually delivering on your marketing promises. An “Instant Online Quote” sounds impressive and is completely actionable with Socket.

Instead of boasting about “instant” pricing delivery, and having a salesperson contact inquiring users, subscribe to Socket and make good on your promise. Instant quotes, delivered to your users’ email inbox. Service they can trust.

5. Be there

Offer multiple streams of communication for your prospective customers, and be prepared to man all posts for quick response to queries and comments. Display email, social media accounts, and telephone contact information above the fold on your website homepage. “Remember,” says Cowna, “if someone has contacted you after browsing through your website, it means you’re doing everything right.” Be there to help your user take the next step!

Conclusion

Offer multiple streams of communication for your prospective customers, and be prepared to man all posts for quick response to queries and comments. Display email, social media accounts, and telephone contact information above the fold on your website homepage. “Remember,” says Cowna, “if someone has contacted you after browsing through your website, it means you’re doing everything right.” Be there to help your user take the next step!

Socket instant quoting software helps build businesses based on trust. Ready to take the first step?

References

Cowna, Katy. “Building trust is the key to promoting your organization online.” 24 November 2011. Guardian.co.uk: http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture-professionals-network/culture-professionals-blog/2011/nov/24/build-trust-online
Evans, Mark. “Is It Too Easy To Start a Startup?” 20 June 2012. Forbes.com: http://www.forbes.com/sites/markevans/2012/06/20/is-it-too-easy-to-start-a-startup/
Furman, Susanne. “Building Trust.” Usability.gov: http://www.usability.gov/articles/092009news.html
Louby, Sharlyn. “5 Ways to Make Your Business More Transparent.” 30 September 2005. Mashable.com: http://mashable.com/2009/09/30/business-transparency/

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