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How to Boost your Business by Developing Bulletproof Trust

A Guest Post by Johnny B. Truant writes from Learn to Be Your Own V.A

The other day, while we were on the phone, a client sent me $500 via PayPal for a series of tech consultations. Toward the end of the call, I noticed that I hadn’t received the money. She thought for sure that she had sent it, but offered straightaway to make the payment again.

I said, “Maybe you want to wait. I mean, what if you’re paying me twice?”

And she said, “Oh, I trust you.”

Which was a really interesting thing to say, given that this was the first time I was speaking to this woman. We had never met in person; she didn’t have my address or phone number; I hadn’t exchanged more than three or four random emails with her. For all intents and purposes, neither of us knew who the other was. But the more I thought about it, this kind of thing happens all the time. Most of my clients never hear my voice. Few have the slightest idea where I live or what my background is, and I’ve only been truly visible online for maybe six months. Yet over and over and over again, people pay me in advance for work they’d like me to do.

It kind of destroys the paradigm of the internet being a skeptical place.

So I thought about it: Why, in a realm where Verisign has to vouch for the security of a website, will customers pay some merchants in full, in advance, without question? Why are some people trusted while others are not? If a man can pose as a woman online, if an adult can pose as a child, if a scam artist can pose as a legit businessperson — then what does it take to make customers feel that a person is true to his or her word?

If you want to conduct business online — if you want to turn passive readers into active customers — you need to find a way to build that kind of bulletproof trust. Here’s how.

1. Be human

If you’re on Twitter and Facebook as “Thermodyne Systems, Inc.,” knock it off and start interacting as yourself. Talk to people online person-to-person rather than business-to-customer. Be funny if you’re funny. Be deep if you’re deep. If it strikes you to write somewhere about your dog or kids, do so. Personally, I write a humor blog that has nothing to do with my area of business. Through that site, people see how I am when I’m not being a tech guy. They see that I’m a person, just like they are.

2. Admit when you don’t know something

People seem to feel a need to appear infallible in business. If a client wants to know X and you know nothing about X, the rule is to tell him about X in as much double-talk as it takes to make it sound plausible. But here’s the thing: Nobody is perfect, so infallibility always comes across as phony. But if you buck that trend — if you’re truthful when you don’t know an answer — readers will begin to trust your honesty. Put succinctly: If you’re honest when you don’t know the answer, people will believe that you’re being honest you when you do.

3. Interact with readers in public

When readers comment on your blog, respond to those comments. Get the “Subscribe to Comments” plug-in so that commenters will know when someone (like you) comments after them. When readers ask questions of you anywhere in public, answer them as fully as you’re able. Interact on Twitter, forums, other blogs, or wherever your readers hang out. You want them to see you as one of the group, not as an untouchable speaker on a high podium.

4. Be responsive in private

It’s amazing how many people thank me for simply responding to emails. One or two people have even given me permission to “blow them off” if I didn’t have the time. You don’t have to send detailed, lengthy replies to everyone who contacts you, but it’s amazing how much goodwill you can engender by being one of the (apparently) few businesspeople who respond to inquiries quickly, thoroughly, and personably.

5. Give away a ton of free information

Writing your blog is a great way to give away your knowledge, but think even deeper. Should you publish a newsletter? Can you answer more personal questions from readers? This may feel like a time drain, and you may even be tempted to charge for time spent giving answers, but tough it out. What you gain in favor and trust from answering gratis will net you far more more than a shortsighted hourly billing mentality. The $500 consulting client I mentioned in the intro? She came to me because months ago, I helped someone she liked, without billing that person a dime.

6. Tell customers what’s in it for you

There’s a big debate around whether you should disclose affiliate links on your blog. Personally, I love disclosing them. I love any opportunity to open my books, to show readers exactly where my money is coming from. Why? Because many of my services are inexpensive, and can remain so because part of “what’s in it for me” is an affiliate commission. I could hide that, but then customers would wonder how I could set up a blog for only $39. Are the blogs of poor quality? What’s the catch? By revealing my sources of income, I remove those suspicions and show customers that I have no hidden motives.

7. Genuinely, honestly, truthfully look for the win-win

Be careful on this one. Everyone gives lip service to the idea of a “win-win,” but most people are really trying only to benefit themselves. I never, never, never steer clients toward something I feel they don’t need. I will actually steer them away from a sale I think won’t benefit them. But — and here’s the rub — I can’t count the number of times one of those people have come back, given me more business, and told their friends about me because we both “won” in our interaction.

8. Establish social proof

Buyers want to know that other people have purchased before them and have been satisfied. Your goal should be to create raving fans — customers who can’t say enough good things about you. Solicit testimonials. Ask satisfied customers to refer their friends. And if you can swing it, try to write for (or otherwise associate with) well-trusted websites and personalities. You’re judged by the company you keep, and association with trusted people allows some of that trust to rub off on you. My business ratcheted up when I started writing for IttyBiz.com, and again after I had a few posts on sites like Problogger and Copyblogger. Intentionally or not, authority sites give at least a little bit of tacit approval to everyone who appears on them.

If you want to do business online, you have to know your stuff. You have to be credible. You have to be good at what you do. But without trust, you’ll never make it. So, how trustworthy are you? The answer may well make or break your business.

About the Author: Johnny B. Truant writes Learn to Be Your Own V.A. and is the creator of Zero to Business: A Ridiculously Simple Guide to Turning Your Online Business from Tech Headache to Profit Center. You can follow him on Twitter at @johnnybtruant.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. “You’re judged by the company you keep, and association with trusted people allows some of that trust to rub off on you.”

    That SO resonates with me. I’m finding more and more you can pick and choose the friends you have online. Luckily there are so many wonderful, true-blue, sweet, caring folks out there. My blog is a virtual love-and-trust-fest at every turn.

  2. Yes building trust in the business is very important, it’s been said that reputation is more important than anything.

    Because reputation is not easy to build and the foundation of the business.

  3. Awesome article Johnny!

    It’s ironic in a way because when we’re starting out we are desperate to demonstrate we’re experts in our field. In the past I’ve tried to emulate the voice of sites that made acclaim to be beyond reproach. I was able to generate reasonable traffic through SEO but was not getting conversions.

    But then after listening to sites like ProBlogger and Copywriter, and reading “write to sell”; I’ve gone through and completely re-written all my copy in a down to earth manner on my websites. I’m also doing photography commissions for free.

    Now all of a sudden I’m getting glimmers of people approaching me to inquire after my services. I still have a long way to go but I am totally behind your sentiments here.

    I’m already honest, so I just need to be myself and not try so hard :-)

  4. Very cool post.

    Move the free line is probably one of the most important tips here. Without it, others may very well not work at all.

    Igor

  5. Wasim Mughal says:

    Hi Darren!

    I was reading your article and thinking about me & My confidence! Yes about my Confidence………………

    Infact I read many more BLOGs, like your one, and I desired to make someone like these Bigs. But today I realised that I ws just trying to catch the Moon!

    Now I have to re-think about my Passion and about my current BLOG, which I made to do experiments for Next my Main Blogs! I think that I am not prepared to launch my these MAIN BLOGs……………..now!

    Your article let me feel My Situation, infact It opened my eyes and opened new horizons in my mind just in a moment, ya just in a MOMENT only!

    Thanks for your advice (hidden in this – for me)

    Regardssssss

  6. Asswass says:

    $500 in consultation services is a lot of money. I agree with you that in any business you need to be human and reachable by your clients. I really liked this tips, visiting your site right now :).

  7. Dan says:

    You know, I would just add to #2 that if you don’t know the answer, but you feel like you should, offer to get back to the potential customer with the answer. It’s one thing to pretend to know, another to admit you don’t, but still another (in my opinion) to offer to get the answer.

  8. It is very necessary to keep inform your reader with quality information.
    And this is the only way to win the hearts of a reader and make better relationship.
    Thanks for another great article.

  9. Shajib says:

    I think so … trust is very important in business also in blogging..
    Thanks for nice post.

    Shajib
    High Paying AdSense Keyword

  10. Mr Uku says:

    Another quality post.
    Building trust and having a professional attitude is so important in business. And it can give you a real edge over the numerous companies who don’t seem to care.
    Be honest, be professional and you won’t go far wrong.
    Thanks Johnny.

  11. Ashwin says:

    Spot on! Trust is something very had to build with clients but once you have it, then there is no going back. So the first thing everyone providing services over the web should target is “Trust”

    Thanks for sharing

  12. Being human, showing yourself, being interactive in public, responsive in private – are all lessons I continue to re-learn how important they are. Thank you!

  13. Good stuff! Glad your website tells us what a VA is cause I had absolutely no idea! :)

  14. teratips says:

    thanks Darren, you are great
    http://teratips.com

  15. Zach Younkin says:

    Awesome post!

    As someone who is growing my blogging presence, I guess I should be a little more open with the links in my blog.

  16. Kulbir Saini says:

    running a business without trust is just not just difficult, its impossible. great tips :)

  17. Romson says:

    Trust is essential in every business both off- and online!

  18. Sudeep says:

    It just the fact that trust is important still why has some of us behave in an untrusted way I do not understand . Its that some times that bothers us more than any thing else ..

  19. shahzaib says:

    It seems funny when you say ” Interact with readers in Public” Cause i remember leaving message for you both on comments and also on twitter and you don’t reply a one single time, so may be you yourself learn something from your own tips. Peace !

  20. Jan says:

    Great article. I think transparency is a main issue for trust. like i keep my website open for user feedback like comments so that even negative feedback will be shown.
    something that the customer can access the reputation instruments directly. so the business owner has a real risk to damage his reputation in case he is not honest.

  21. Ms. Freeman says:

    This is very good. I can see how you have built up trust with your readers. You have a visible image of yourself that matches up with the videos you post. The information in your post is verifiable and consistent with others in your field.

    I’m not sure if I want to post my image on my blog, at least not yet.

  22. krissy knox says:

    I think “be human” and “be responsive in private” may be the most important things.

    krissy knox :)
    follow me on twitter:
    http://twitter.com/iamkrissy

  23. Bambi Gordon says:

    Love it. Love admitting that I dont know it all. Love telling them why they are important to me (what’s in it for me, not just them). Love being transparent. And honest.

    I think the key to bulding trust (not just showing that you are trust-worthy) is to do what you say you will do and then being pro-active in telling people if any part of the ‘do-ing’ needs to change – so that they always trust that there will never be any nasty surprises.

    If you want people to trust you – not just like you or respect you or admire you – be giving!

  24. Lane Burdett says:

    To quote your first commentator on this one: Jannie Funster – ‘“You’re judged by the company you keep, and association with trusted people allows some of that trust to rub off on you.”

    A great article reminding us that trust is everything. Especially in this day and age.

    Lane.

  25. Yes building trust in the business is very important, it’s been said that reputation is more important than anything.

    Because reputation is not easy to build and the foundation of the business.

  26. Young says:

    One more to add, keep all the 8 tips on your mind and do as they said forever, it will take a long time for people to trust you.

  27. @shahzaib – Can you point me to where? I don’t respond to literally everything because plenty of things don’t seem to need a response (things like “Great post” are nice, but don’t always seem to require a response), but would be surprised if I didn’t respond if you asked a question or something. Especially surprised about Twitter… I answer everyone on there except when someone just says something really weird.

    I wonder if I missed your comments, or if you’re confusing me with someone else? I think I’d remember your name, so I’m at a loss on this one.

  28. Myersdp says:

    I like the tips
    I think Social Trust is the key if you are starting a new buisiness.
    And tell customer what’s in there for you, may be we can hire some pro that can have the power to convince.
    Regards

  29. poorblogger says:

    I don’t know the subscribe to comment plugins is very important.
    I must use it now..

  30. Good post. Trust is an important part of any business.

  31. BloggerDaily says:

    Wow. This is absolutely inspiring! Yeah, it’s a terrible mistake to digitize ourselves through online as we and the customers are inf act the human being.

    Act and interact like human and more customers will be attracted to us =)

  32. Dan Rippon says:

    Johnny B Truant IS the future of the Internet. This should be etched inside the front cover of the “How To Run A Business In The 21st Century” handbook. Good work Johnny, thank you.

  33. I’m totally adding Dan’s quote to my testimonials.

  34. Zemalf says:

    I wrote about building a personal brand this week on my blog and went through the same kind of thought process. As I see it, a successful personal brand is built about personality, expertise and trust.

    Following the advice on this post will go a long way in building up that trustworthy reputation. Know your stuff and be credible like Johnny mentioned here. Be yourself and you will see just how much a trustworthy, reliable reputation can do for you and your business.

  35. Carl Ocab says:

    It’s kinda what you do too when interacting with women on pickup (please bear with me, just bought couple of awesome videos about pickup :-)

    You have to humanize, connect on a personal level, tell stories (free information), WIIFM if I talk to you and give social proof.

    Great article Johnny.

  36. Rebecca says:

    Excellent points. About a year ago my grandmothers car broke down in the middle of a busy street. She had no idea what to do – money was already tight and several of her friends depended on her to help them with shopping and other tasks which required a vehicle. But then a youngman stopped and pointed out the tiny little garage nearby that he was part owner of telling her that he would have some of his mechanics roll the car to the shop and fix it for her for free. When she asked him why he didn’t want payment he explained that his small garage couldn’t afford the expensive advertising that larger garages could but that he knew that once he fixed her car she would tell all of her friends and family about them and that at least some of those would come to him for service.

    Today though it seems most businesses are far more interested in the hard sell than they are in the more important parts of business such as those your article has demonstrated. Thank you. I think I shall go read your own home blog and see what other great advise you might have there.

  37. fas says:

    Its a good thing to disclose about your affiliate links, this way you dont cheat them and nor do you cheat yourself by acting secretive.

  38. Paul Hassing says:

    I like this post very much, Johnny. That’s two on the trot! What a bonus it is to find your stuff in here. Best regards, P. :)

  39. Jeremy Mckay says:

    Notable, Remarkable. I am printing and framing above my studio and meeting room. Thanks this is what I need this morning.

  40. I am totally attracted to testimonials, ratings, thumbs up of any sort. When I see a blog with these plus the enthusiastic interaction of the blogger with his/her readers, I’m hooked. Good tips.

  41. GR Passwater says:

    Great post. I totally agree that without trust, why would anyone want to associate with you or do business with you. I always work to build relationships and trust first then sales second.

    I really like the be human and responding in private. I love to communicate as myself to everyone. If they don’t like communicating with me, how will they like doing business with me?

  42. This is a fabulous post. I do many of these things already, but look forward to implementing the others.

  43. Jamesf says:

    Nice article Johnny! It seems you’re everywhere these days!

    “Trust no one unless you have eaten much salt with him.”

  44. Jeff Ramos says:

    This is some great advice. The really funny thing about it is that on paper, this advice seems sort of weak. But, that’s because most people are taught to believe the “old” system of marketing and interaction.

    Most of these ideas are at the core of a few sets of materials and classes I am going to start teaching in the NYC area to under 30s who are indie artists or business owners.

    This is a great post, thanks!

  45. Seth W says:

    Being human is so important to succeeding online. Otherwise people think you are trying to rip them off! Usually its because robots really are.

  46. Bibokz says:

    Giving trust is awkward.. but in online business you need to. I always ask money in advance, 50% to be exact… and 50% upon completion. I guess that’s fair.

  47. Thanks to everyone who dug this. I really think it’s a very simple, very obvious… yet very unheralded and unrecognized truth.

    People like to do business with people they like and trust. Period. Think of the people you trust. Why do you trust them? Take notes.

    @Rebecca… it’s amazing, that’s the sort of thing I’ve done. Do stuff for free, and it feels good but like a waste of productive time when bills hang over you. Yet one day, you get a sale you would never have gotten without that good will in the past.

  48. Amit Mehta says:

    I think the biggest step most marketers and other business people miss online is #2: Admit when you don’t know something.

    The words “I don’t know” make life so much easier; I wish more people were willing to admit when it is the best phrase for the situation!

  49. Hey Darren, I want hear your article, not many guest post.

  50. rajput says:

    Hi Johnny B,

    Thanks for the article. For building a trust we need to be trustworthy. Be a Good person and you will be a better person.