Building Trust by Developing a Real Online Personality
So, you have a website? Congratulations! Thanks to a number of no- or low-cost website creation tools, even the least techie among us can enjoy an online presence. It’s an important place to highlight the services you offer and tell the world something about not just your business but also you.
However, many websites stick to a sort of cookie-cutter design that’s perfectly fine but not very interesting or personal. When was the last time you really looked at your website, as though you were a first-time visitor and potential customer? How does yours look and feel compared to others? In a sea of websites, what makes consumers feel connected to yours?
Why Is Humanizing Your Website Important?
The Internet has changed our world quickly and dramatically. It’s also changed the way we conduct business. We rely less on face-to-face introductions and instead, look to search engines to tell us where we should spend our money and effort. While this saves us time, it lacks a certain human component. Consumers still want a peek at the person behind the business being advertised. Do they really exist? Is it a legitimate business? What do they have in common with us?
Humanizing your website reassures consumers that you’re indeed real, trustworthy and someone they’d like to do business with. Good websites (those that provide necessary information as well as some humanization aspect) typically provide the following:
- A virtual workplace tour or invitation to “stop by”.
- An “About Us/Me” page with history and owner bio(s).
- Consumer testimonials.
These are all steps in the right direction. But let’s take your website from good to great, creating more than just an online identity but a real personality that will resonate with your customer, making them feel connected with you both as an individual and on-screen.
Building an Online Personality
Once you have the basics of your website down, it’s time to start adding human elements. Here are some easy tips to get you started:
Appeal to emotions. An “About Us” page is a good starting point but a video or shared personal stories allow you to connect further with audience members through common interests (they already have an interest in what your business represents if they’re visiting your website). Expand on that interest by talking about how you started your business, how it’s grown or how you want it to grow, how you interact with customers and why you’re passionate about your business.
Respond to your readers. Take the time to see what’s being said on social media and respond in a professional, thoughtful way, keeping track of which pages or articles are getting the most views and what your audience might be saying to you directly. If someone asks a question, go the extra mile to reach out to that person directly. If they email you or fill out a “Contact Us” form, respond to them in no more than 24 hours. Or, if resources are available, consider a live chat format.
Offer a no-excuses guarantee. Starbucks is famous for their version: Your drink should be perfect, every time. If not, let us know and we’ll make it right. It tells the customer in advance that they’ll be happy with their purchase, no matter what. Megan Pedersen, Destination and Event Director at National Laser Institute, underscores what her company’s website clearly states: That client care is their main priority. “My team is trained to do everything possible to accommodate the client to the highest standard,” Pedersen says. “We work with the client to create a treatment plan to achieve their desired results, suggesting appropriate treatments and/or products along the way. Our goal is to ensure the client always leaves wanting to come back—not only to get a treatment but to see the staff as well!”
Get in front of your audience (literally). Inviting readers to tour your facility is good, but take it even further by hosting training seminars, happy hours or other events that will help your consumer learn more about what you do. This helps the customer put a face with your business’ name. National Laser Institute does this in a number of ways, one of the most popular being their monthly “Skin Scene” parties held in cities across the country. They’re a fun, casual and educational event that allows staff to personally connect with potential clients, and clients to learn more about the latest skincare technologies.
Blog regularly and consistently. Blogs can show your fun (or serious) side and let you express your thoughts and feelings about industry happenings. However, there are a lot of mediocre blogs that are slapped together for the sake of getting something, anything “out there” in hopes of improving search engine results.
While Google, etc. might appreciate your efforts, you probably won’t attract a regular or loyal reader (i.e., your customer) and isn’t that the point? A blog doesn’t have to be lengthy (300-600 words max) or complicated but it should be interesting, relevant, edited and spell-checked. Megan Rende, Marketing Specialist and Spa Care Coordinator at Quintessa Medical Spas outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin, agrees. “We place a high emphasis on customer education,” Rende says. “Blogs provide an excellent opportunity to address multiple questions about a particular topic, whether it’s something that’s seasonal or trending. Knowing that all of their questions will be answered (both personally and via blogs) really adds to our clients’ customized experience.” If you have permission, let your reader know when your latest blog is available by email, Twitter or text.
Include personal bios of you and/or your staff. This is your chance to let your customer know who you’re as an individual, a real live person who happens to run a great business. Include some details about where you grew up, family, pets, hobbies and community involvement. Include a nice headshot, too. These days, bios without photos are considered highly suspicious. Anyone can take a decent selfie!
Anticipate and overcome consumer objections. In a perfect business setting, there would be no objections because you offer a superior product or service! But every business has at least one or two things that trigger hesitation: maybe it’s price, uncertainty about the service itself or the results it can offer, even fear of pain. A well-written FAQ page and/or plenty of customer testimonials are excellent opportunities to address potential road blocks, overcome objections and reassure the customer that you’ll take excellent care of them. Using both words and video, let your customer know exactly how your services and/or products are unique, different or special.
Round out your resume by helping others, too. If you think about it, your website is really your resume and your reader is your potential employer. Employers like to see well-rounded resumes including your involvement in community activities, fundraisers and nonprofit organizations. We call these a win-win situation: You’re helping others and others perceive you as a more compassionate person. According to Lisa Killeen, Spa and Marketing Director at Golden Glow Medical Spa outside Tampa, Florida, “Local charities are also small businesses and need support from other small businesses. There really is strength in numbers.” Her company holds a yearly event that donates a percentage of sales to a specified charity. “Via our website and social media, we can entice people to do all sorts of good things,” she laughs. Pictures from these types of events are equally important for an added human element.
Be newsworthy. Staying active and well-connected in your community also provides opportunities to get mentioned in print and digital newspaper and industry-specific magazine articles, interviews and even local television stations. Providing links to all of these things confirms your involvement and lets your customer know that you’re well-respected in your field.
Have Fun With It!
Adding human touches to your website makes it a more enjoyable experience not only for yourself but also for your reader and ultimately, your consumer. This is more than just another item on your To Do List. Have fun with the process and enjoy the personal and financial rewards of better connections with your customers.