Who Do You Believe?

I spoke with a prospective client on the phone today, and the conversation made me remember the importance of really understanding our goals. She’s a successful businessperson, pretty adept at marketing despite the fact that’s not her background, and she’s done fairly well with her e-commerce business.

But, she knows that she’s made mistakes along the way, and that things could be even better for her. This is true of a lot of business owners trying to find their own way to digital marketing success. Because it’s in their nature, small business owners want to figure it out for themselves. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, doing so can be tough. There’s a lot of really good information out there for the DIYer, but finding it can be hard in a sea of useless or, even worse, inaccurate information.

The same holds true for students in the program I manage at Full Sail University. How can they know what to believe? Whose advice should they take?

Here are a few of my personal recommendations for deciding what’s believable online and what’s not. I fully expect that some will disagree with me, and I acknowledge up front that some of my comments are based on overly broad generalizations. Nonetheless, here’s my list:

  • If the page is a long-form sales letter, with a call to action that says “limited time offer” every time I scroll, I’m personally going to subject the site to a more serious sniff test. I dislike being ‘sold to,’ though I’m happy to buy what I need. If you can’t convey the benefits of your product – to me, personally – concisely, I’m going to be suspicious. I’ve never bought a product from an infomercial and probably never will. (I acknowledge that there are plenty of people who do.) Realistically, though, I have to think that most sophisticated web users are too busy to scroll through loads of repetitive information. Show me what’s in it for me, and that you value my time by being succinct.
  • If you make grandiose promises, I’m not going to believe you. And if I don’t believe you, I won’t believe anything on your site. Perhaps it’s  because my mother always told us as children that if she caught us lying she wouldn’t believe anything we say, but the feeling runs pretty deep for me.
  • Users tend to evaluate the quality of a website first by the design. I’m no exception; if I get to your site and it looks like it was designed in the 1990s or has poor usability, my finger’s already on the back button. You’d have to do something pretty spectacular to make me stay.
  • If you can’t spell or use proper grammar, I’m probably gone. I realize not everyone is the greatest writer in the world, but if you can’t use spell check or hire a proofreader, you’re not that serious about your business.
  • If there are no trust signals, I’m going to be hesitant. I know many small businesses operating online don’t yet understand this, but without something telling me I’m safe to do business with you, I’m going to be a little reluctant. Eliminating the reluctance is your job.

If you’re not able to evaluate your own site (true for many business owners who put blood, sweat and tears into creating their site), then ask someone who can be honestly critical what they think. Watch how they perform the action you want (e.g., purchase, sign up for email newsletter, etc.). Then take their advice to heart and make changes if necessary.

Credibility is the key to success online. Consider how readers experience what you’re sharing online, and decide how you want to be perceived – as a smarmy used-car salesperson (no offense intended) or a legitimate business.

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