Transparency Wins in Online Marketing

Your prospects are suffering from trust issues. Here's why and what you can do to turn them into customers.

Have you noticed that in the last few years there’s been a trend toward more open kitchen restaurants?

(In case you’re wondering, an open kitchen restaurant is an eatery where the food is prepared in full view of its customers.) This type of restaurant is popular for a couple reasons:

  1. Thanks to The Food Network, people are more interested in watching cooks do their thang.
  2. It’s reassuring to see how the sausage is made, literally and figuratively speaking.

Transparency is the key driver here. Consumers want to know more about the ingredients restaurants are using, where they’re coming from, and how they’re prepared. The open kitchen says, “We have nothing to hide. Our ingredients and preparation are top-notch. And even if you’re mean, we won’t spit in your food.”

But this trend towards transparency doesn’t stop in the kitchen.

Consumers are demanding transparency from all kinds of businesses. Why? Because they simply don’t trust them. And nowhere is this lack of trust more prevalent than on the web.

According to a survey published by Harris Interactive in 2012, 98% of the 1,900 Americans polled distrust information on the internet. And what were some of the main reasons why people said they don’t trust the web?

  • Too many ads — 59%
  • Risk of fraud — 51%
  • Information is self-promotional — 53%

In other words, they don’t trust what they’re reading because they don’t trust the motivation behind it.

In a world where dirty laundry is aired on the regular, trust is a valuable commodity.

So how do you gain a prospect’s trust?

Look at open kitchen restaurants. How do they gain trust? By showing their customers exactly what’s going into their food preparation.

They don’t just say, “We use fresh, local ingredients and adhere to strict food health and safety requirements.” They put it on display.

To win the trust of your prospects, you have to demonstrate your willingness to show them how the sausage is made. If you’re a business that "makes great sausage," transparency can be used to your advantage.

And your website is the perfect place to start.

Be one with the prospect.

Any good copywriter will tell you that to write great copy, you have to put yourself in the prospect’s shoes. By thinking like your customer, you can identify some of the areas where transparency could have a huge impact on their decision to engage your services or buy your product.

Let’s say, for example, you offer free insurance quotes on your website and you’re wanting to improve your Get a Quote page. Right now, this is what the page says:

Request a Free Insurance Quote Please fill out the form below for a free, no hassle quote from several of the nation’s top insurance carriers.

Okay. Not bad. It’s pretty blasé, but it’s clear and gets to the point.

Now think about the copy from a prospect’s point of view. What would keep them from filling out the form?

Perhaps they’re afraid their phone will explode? If you’ve ever filled out a quote form on one of those big name insurance comparison sites, you know what I’m talking about. You fill out one form, and what do you get in return? An endless stream of high-pressure sales calls!

Assuming you're the kind of business that would not do this, why not give them insight into what will happen when they fill out your form?

Like this:

Free, No Hassle Insurance Quotes Please fill out the form below for a free quote comparison from several of the nation’s top insurance carriers. What happens when I fill out the form? We’re a small independent agency. We work for you, not the carriers. When you fill out the form, we’ll send you an email with your personalized quote comparison. You’ll also receive one call from a local agent to answer any questions you may have. That’s it. No pressure. Our agents are here to help.

By giving the prospect a peek behind the curtain, you can position your business as the good guy -- because that’s what you are!

What are some steps you can take right now?

Making your business more transparent online isn’t hard. But it does take time. Here are a few things you can start doing right now:

  • Set up Google Authorship on your site so your face will show next to your blog posts in search. People trust faces and are more likely to click on a post with your smiling face next to it.
  • Ditch the stock photos when you can and use real, high-quality photos of your staff and customers. You want people to see your a business with real, live people working there.
  • Use your blog as an educational tool for prospective customers. Give them the unbiased information they need to make an informed decision regarding your service or product. Don’t sell.
  • Put yourself in the mindset of a prospect and pretend like you’re visiting your website for the first time. As you click and read through the site, note areas where honesty and plain speak could alleviate some of the trust issues the user may be experiencing.
  • Remember that Facebook page you set up three years ago? Start using it. Not as a way to sell but as a tool for showcasing your business's personality and to share the helpful content you're creating.

There was a time when anonymity was the norm on the internet. But that time is long gone.

If you’ve got nothing to hide, then why hide? Surprise your prospects with your candor, gain their trust, and then make the sale.

Written by Jackson Armstrong on June 5th, 2014

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