It’s not always easy to build trust online, but it’s very easy to break it.
Last week I had an email from a marketing automation company. I usually ignore cold approach emails like this, but this one was written very warmly, and I replied. Rick and I had a friendly email chat, and agreed to reconnect in a few months.
This week I got another email from Rick, asking if I’d overlooked the first one, as if we were strangers.
Boom. That was it. The fledging fragile trust we’d built together evaporated. I shrank back from feeling like a somebody, to feeling like just another lead in their system. And their system was obviously crap.
Online trust is exceptionally precarious, especially in the early stages of a relationship. Here’s another example that illustrates the point, plus a few tips for making your own marketing more trustworthy.
On Monday my 17 year old son broke his phone. Smashed both screens, internal and external. Completely kaput. He said he’d buy a new phone to replace it, with his own money. He’d seen one on Ebay, a second hand iPhone 5. £170. Bargain. He’d give me the cash, but he wanted to use my Paypal account to pay. Okay Mum?
Well, not exactly.
Me: What if the phone doesn’t come? What if it comes and it doesn’t work? What if it’s been nicked? Why is it being sold in Ebay? Far better to buy a cheaper phone from a shop, then at least you have somewhere to go if it doesn’t work, and a warranty.
Him: If it doesn’t come, then EBay will help. Anyway it will come. Trust me.
Me: I just don’t want the hassle. And I do trust you, I just don’t trust the person selling the phone.
So my son had to prove why he trusted the EBay seller, and convince me to trust them too.
Him: Look Mum, here’s a picture of the phone.
Me: But that could be any phone. We don’t know that’s THE phone. (thinks –ooh, that table cloth is a bit like ours.)
Him: Look, here’s a video of the phone starting up. (redirects to Youtube.)
Me: That still could be a different phone, and it could start up and then stop working. It doesn’t prove anything. (thinks – yes, that tablecloth looks very familiar. That’s safe reliable fabric.)
Him: Look, he’s got other videos up there too. Here he is doing a speech at a wedding anniversary party. He’s called Phil.
Me: Hmmmmm. (thinks. Oh, he’s in his fifties. He’s not a teenage IPhone thief. He’s Phil. He looks okay.)
Him: And here’s Phil on holiday with his family in Dubai. Good old family man Phil. You’ve gotta trust Phil. He’s a nice guy.
Me: Maybe. (thinks – okay, Phil does look legit. The man who posts videos of wedding speeches and his holidays, and has a familiar looking tablecloth is probably, on balance, trustworthy.)
So we bought it. And two days later it arrived as promised. And it works. (That’s Joe holding it in the picture above.)
Lessons in online trust
What did I learn?
Apart from the fact that I am deeply suspicious and cynical when it comes to handing over money to people I don’t know, these things resonated with me.
- Soft furnishings count. Trust is built in tiny ephemeral details. The tablecloth really was a turning point.
- Sharing personal stuff helps. The fact that Phil was so easily traceable, and looked like a nice friendly family guy made me trust him.
- Video is powerful. Not necessarily the video on Ebay, but the stack of other videos helped convince me that it would be okay to trust Phil.
- Consistency matters. Telling the same story on different platforms helps build a picture people believe in.
- Marketing automation is really hard to get right. If marketing automation companies can’t even do it, what hope is there for the rest of us?
The lessons for your business are the same. We’re all picking up visual and other non-verbal clues when we’re sussing someone out, so when working to establish trust online, don’t overlook the tiny little details. Pictures, videos, podcasts, content that feels authentic will help build trust. Show who you really are, have a story that stacks up, be consistent, and handle marketing automation systems with immense care.
So, who do you trust?