It’s never been easier to start a business than it is right now. And that’s the problem.
25 years ago all most businesses had was a phone. Since no-one knew who you were or what you sold, you had to ring people up and try to get them to listen to you. Today, anyone can set up a business and begin trading with almost any — and every — country in the world within a matter of hours.
Business challenges such as marketing, distribution, supply-chain logistics, accounting, or back-office functions used to be a pain in the proverbial. Today there are a gazillion suppliers only too happy to help out any small business. They’ll handle payroll, payments, HR, inventory management, delivery, even sales lead generation. Many of them only as far away as a monthly credit card subscription.
But there’s a pretty big snag: Just as it’s easy for you to set up a business, it’s easy for everyone else. Organizing and managing the nuts and bolts of a business used to be complicated. But influencing and attracting buyers to the point they’ll buy is as hard — if not harder — than ever. Sure, systems and processes are vitally important. But treat the lead generation side of things too lightly and you’ll be in for a nasty surprise. Which is when the tears start.
Before They’ll Buy, They Need To Trust
Understandably, many small business owners get disheartened when sales numbers fail to meet forecasted targets. It’s as though it doesn’t matter whether their product or service is the best it can be — or even the best in its field. The spec is great, the pricing is competitive, and existing customers are happy. But it seems that, no matter what they do, their stuff just isn’t selling in the way they imagined. So what’s going wrong?
We receive calls from people fitting the above description every day. People who’ve spent a small fortune on app development, or amazing-looking websites. I’ve spoken with people who’ve invested thousands in state-of-the-art marketing automation software, video promotions, or advertising campaigns, yet have seen little return. Sales just aren’t coming in at the level they should be.
There are usually a multitude of reasons contributing to lackluster sales performance for any business. But it’s surprising how many can be rooted to a lack of perceived customer trust. Either the feeling of trust isn’t being effectively communicated, or the business is communicating in a way that’s inadvertently producing a negative trust effect.
The New Sales Currency
Revenue projections, cashflow charts, and profit forecasts are all well and good. But before you can sell anything in any real quantity, you need to assure that every customer-facing marketing touchpoint contributes to the creation of a safe, comfortable, and trustworthy customer environment.
But building and conveying trust isn’t easy. There isn’t a particular tangible object, process, or system that signifies trust by its presence. If there was, we’d all be doing it.
We all know what a trustworthy business looks like. But how do we define it? Trust is an ethereal, intangible, quantity that is created as a result of a variety of inputs. From a business point of view we could determine trust as being the subjective end-state resulting from a series of beliefs on the honesty, fairness, or competence of an organization.
There are many factors in how a business is evaluated that help determine its trustworthiness. Take branding, for example. I’m not talking about navel-gazing marketing unicorns like visual identity exercises, mood boards, or color palettes. At its most basic, branding is simply how customers perceive you. It’s direct and indirect clues that influence their perception of the business, and whatever is being sold.
An example of a common branding mistake? Presenting yourself as all things to all people. Positioning the business to the widest possible customer base gives the impression of a generic supplier. Jack of all trades, master of none. In contrast, targeting a particular niche can help increase trust by giving the impression of a specialist. An expert who, potentially, can be trusted more than a generalist.
Before They’ll Buy From You, They Need To Buy Into You
A common complaint we hear is how a small business has spent a small fortune on lead generation — ad campaigns, social media programs, tradeshow booths, etc — without much to show from it. Where have they gone wrong? Once we look a little closer, the trust-busting indicators are clear for all to see.
We’ll find a website that looks like it was designed in 1985, hasn’t been updated in years, and runs slower than a sloth on Xanax.
We’ll discover social media updates talking about how great (they think) they are. There won’t be any pro-active contribution to relevant consumer conversations, sales opportunities, or support inquiries. Moreover no-one else in the organization is supportive, involved (or even aware) of the organization’s online activities.
We’ll see poorly-created lead generation campaigns with no means of version testing, and little-to-no ways of measuring conversions. Oh, and they’re also probably sending people who click on their PPC campaigns to their website homepage (aka throwing money down the drain).
Get Your (Virtual) House In Order
Before you organize a dinner party, you make sure your home is looking in good shape, right? You’re not going to invite guests over when the living room looks like a bomb’s hit it, the fridge stinks of last weekend’s takeout, while the bathroom seems to have more mold than the cheese platter. Doesn’t really set the scene for the five-course fine dining extravaganza you’ve lovingly prepared for most of the day, does it?
It’s the same for marketing. Before you spent any time and money on lead generation, make sure you’ve got your own house in order. If you don’t, that ad campaign or email blast is never going to give you as good an ROI as it could.
Ensure your sales information is pertinent, relevant, and written in terms of how your product or service solves the perceived client problem. They’ll run a mile if they’re confronted with a ton of corporate rhetoric and chest-beating. Customers didn’t trust that kind of thing then. They certainly don’t believe that nonsense now.
Make sure your site looks great, says what it needs to say (in the words of your customer) and has been updated recently. Make sure the basics are there — contact information means more than just listing your cellphone number, for example. Make sure all your links go to to where they should (including any links you have that point to other sites).
Don’t give people the chance to distrust you. If you say you’ll call a prospect at 10.00am, don’t call at 10.30am. Be honest and open about pricing — is delivery, taxes, installation, or training included? If in doubt, under-promise and over-deliver. I’m constantly surprised at how many businesses get such basic stuff wrong. Don’t be one of them.
Trust-Building Is Common Sense. Shame It Isn’t More Common
Trust is one of those qualities that’s difficult to quantify, hard to acquire, vital to own, yet easy to lose. But creating an environment of trust around your business value is essential for an optimal customer buying experience.
The good news is that, by and large, implementing best practices across customer-facing marketing collateral to instil a feeling of trust isn’t that hard to do.
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