Many small-business owners are trying to get the most immediate impact from their marketing efforts—maximizing sales, maximizing ad clicks and revenues, and so on. Yet not many business owners are focused on the big picture when it comes to their marketing efforts.
Sure, a quick sale is great. But if that customer doesn't return to buy again, you're losing sales, not gaining them.
What about focusing on the long-term picture by creating a sales pipeline that stretches over the next five or 10 years? This is where smart businesses live. And they do it by building trust first.
Trust is the hardest thing to earn from a potential customer, but it’s also the most lucrative. Because when they trust you, more often than not, they’ll buy from you again.
Churn and Burn
I have a client who tries to coerce people to share or buy his content at any cost. That worked really well initially: His site traffic skyrocketed for a short while from social lift, and his sales grew as well. But eventually people stopped subscribing and caring. Now my client is constantly trying to sell his products to one-off customers.
Contrast that other friends who annually post bigger returns than the year before because they focused on building trust as much as possible with their customers and subscribers. Their sales didn’t explode right out of the gate, but the steady growth in repeat customers has built them very solid, profitable businesses.
Attracting Lucrative Return Customers
We’ve all heard the statistic that acquiring a new customer is six to seven times more costly than retaining an existing one. But did you know that the probability of selling to a new prospect is 5 to 20 percent, while the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 to 70 percent?
Your business desperately needs more repeat customers. And more trust means more repeat customers. So how can you build more trust with your customers?
1. Give first. Does the following scenario sound familiar? You find a site that's selling exactly what you're looking for. But as soon as you land on it, you immediately get blasted with a popup asking for your email address. So you type in your address, and before you’ve even had a chance to look around, there’s an email waiting in your inbox informing you of a sale "that ends in 15 minutes so act now before it's too late!"
Here are some problems with this tactic, right off the bat:
1. Why are there only 15 minutes left in the sale (false scarcity)?
2. You've been asked for your email without getting anything first (reciprocity).
3. You've been asked again for something—your money—without being given anything first (reciprocity again).
The site has taken a whole lot without giving you anything. In the days when sales used to be advertised via TV ads (Call now!) and made on rotary phones, this might have been acceptable to a public that really didn’t have many choices. But those days are long gone, and customers have hundreds of choices when it comes to finding the products they want.
When you give to your customers first, you’re making an investment in the relationship and building trust.
2. Ask, but do it without gimmicks. If you’re giving away lots of great content on your website, then it’s OK to ask for money every now and again for one of your commercial products. Or you can ask at the end of one of your posts for a share. If people understand that you’re giving stuff away before you ask for their money, they’ll be more likely to return the favor in some way (by sharing, buying, etc.). This is reciprocity at work.
Sites that ask me to enter a drawing for an iPad so they can get my email address leave me with a bad taste in my mouth. All the gimmicky ways business owners use to encourage sharing, buying or subscribing should be avoided at all costs.
3. Reflect your trustworthiness in your site design. The medium is the message. If your website looks or feels spammy, then potential customers will hit the back button in a hurry.
Here's a simple checklist to make sure your site is trustworthy.
- Popups. If you must have a popup, make sure it has a cookie that doesn’t make it pop up on every page load. The best scenario is to use a popup after the reader has reached the end of the post, which allows you to give before asking.
- Copy. Eliminate extra, jarring or other unneeded bits of copy. People want to be communicated with directly, and adding in repetitive copy doesn't help you gain trust.
- Email frequency. How often are you hitting your subscribers’ inbox? Too often can feel pushy.
- Sales. Why do you add in scarcity to your sales? If it’s for no good reason, people will feel hoodwinked. You might sell more in a shorter amount of time, but again, there’s a cost, and the cost is trust.
My friend, Leo Babauta of ZenHabits, has plenty of other good suggestions in his recent post on how he runs his business.
Trust marketing is about running a marathon, not finishing a quick sprint. When your aim is to build a list of customers who are willing to buy something from you again and again, you’re going to have to do things differently. You'll need to seriously reevaluate the parts of your website and business that erode trust and then make changes, no matter how big, in order to attract long-term customers.
And while that may take some time and an investment, in the long run, it’s worth it.
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