Get the message about trust over quickly

I was on a website yesterday which I realised had endeared me to its owners fairly effortlessly. This is no mean feat, because most people’s experience tells us that we don’t give anything on the internet the benefit of the doubt. Compare that to, say, a trade exhibition, where it’s fair to say that we step on to an exhibitor’s stand assuming that the company is above-board and trustworthy. So how do we get an impression of trustworthiness over to website visitors?

Deconstructing what gives exhibitors the benefit of the doubt at trade shows is not a bad start. I think there are two factors at play here: firstly, that they’ve already had dealings with the exhibition organisers, and secondly, that they’re real people willing to put themselves out there. Sure, the worst company in the world could have an exhibition stand, but we don’t expect such a company to be accepted as an exhibitor, or to face the public like that. So we tend to trust the exhibitors.

Getting over this sense of reality and reputability on a website is essential. There are many ways to do it, and it’s perhaps surprising that so many websites don’t bother. Showing real people is a start. A stock image of a model wearing a headset might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but it doesn’t ground you in reality like a photo of a real office with real people in it. Show the people your prospects would expect to be dealing with. Get real. And you know that unimpressive building where you’re based? Guess what: it’s exactly the sort of location that your prospects would expect you to have. So don’t be afraid to show it, right from the outset.

Above all, the most reassuring thing for prospects is that you have other customers. So put those awards, testimonials and case studies right there in visitors’ faces. It doesn’t matter whether people read them or not – their existence is the key, and what gets the message about trust over quickly.