Your company’s brand sets you apart from the competition. Your brand is not only who you are at any one point in time, but who you aspire to be. It’s a connection with customers who want you to be something exceptional.
Some companies make the mistake of thinking their brand is all about a well-designed logo, pretty website or flashy ad campaign. If that’s all it took, companies like Enron and Bear Stearns might still be around.
Brand is about telling the truth about your company and remaining steadfast in that truth, no matter what. Potential customers are attracted by honesty, but it’s trust that makes them loyal to your brand. In fact, 95% of consumers base their loyalty on trust.
Consumers are thirsty for brands that don’t merely solve a problem for them. They seek those that do so with authenticity and transparency. And they’re making those judgments based on what they read online.
That means your company’s online visibility is critical to success—but visibility can be a double-edged sword. Not visible enough, and you won’t be found. Highly visible, and you can’t hide.
Being online is only the first step in building your brand. It’s what consumers learn about you there that’s critical to your success, so be strategic. Here are three ways online visibility can make or break consumer trust in your brand.
Reviews have replaced traditional word-of-mouth advertising. Some 95% of consumers read online reviews before deciding to make a purchase. Many won’t buy unless customers have delivered a five-star rating.
No, few, and/or poor reviews can cause potential buyers to pass by your brand for another that looks more trustworthy. I’m a huge believer in the power of reviews. However, I’m reluctant to make the purchase that qualifies me to “be the first to review this product.”
Nothing will break consumer trust in your brand faster than negative reviews about a product’s failure to meet or exceed expectations. Ignoring them will not make them any less potent. You must be willing to respond to poor reviews with solutions that turn breaking brand trust into making it.
On the other hand, reviews from delighted customers should be prominently placed across all online channels. Make them shareable to social media platforms. Put them front and center on your website.
If you aren’t getting enough reviews, solicit them using text or email requests sent to customers. Although companies have been known to use incentives to attract positive reviews, beware of this tactic. Even the appearance of dishonest reviews can destroy consumer trust in your brand.
Nothing sells products better than happy customers. If yours are pleased, don’t hide your light under a bushel. Spread the word far and wide.
2. Your Website
Before the rise of social media, a website was the online workhouse of a brand’s marketing efforts. Although you can now achieve online visibility through a plethora of channels, your website is still important to your content marketing strategy.
Purchasing a memorable URL and throwing up a website isn’t sufficient. Its content and functionality must be strategic and intentional. A bad website can break your brand.
Too slow loading on a laptop or mobile device? The user is already clicking the next link on the search page. Skimmed the homepage and couldn’t tell what you do or what you’re selling? Again, they’ve moved on.
Your website can still be one of the most important tools in your trust-building toolbox. You just have to make sure it’s focused on the right elements. You might be surprised to know that list doesn’t include your products or services per se. Instead you’ll want:
- Landing page copy that reels readers in immediately
- Conspicuous displays of testimonials, reviews and brand mentions in respected publications
- Results-driven copy focused on problems solved
- Content that engages visitors to interact with your brand in other ways than buying what you’re selling
To build trust, your story of the brand must match up with the story others are telling. When the voices of your customers, your industry and the media aren’t a key part of your website, visitors will leave. Savvy consumers are suspicious of a brand that’s talked of only by itself.
3. Digital Public Relations
It’s been said that PR is the best advertising money can’t buy. Of course, you may pay an agency to handle your brand’s PR efforts, but you aren’t paying for space. That’s what has always made PR more trustworthy to consumers than paid advertising.
The concept is simple. If I say my product is great, consumers are skeptical. If it’s used as an example of a stellar product by a third party, it gains serious credibility with consumers.
These days, brands are long past issuing press releases to mainstream and industry media. Like most things, PR has gone digital, and that means it has online visibility. Digital PR can distinguish your brand and provoke a sense of authenticity that, in turn, builds consumer trust.
Contrary to popular belief, there is such a thing as bad press. Sure, it may bring some attention to your brand. But the eternal nature of digital media allows bad press to live on, eroding consumer trust forever.
The only way to convert such a trust break to a trust make is by implementing a digital PR strategy with that goal in mind. Consumers won’t trust your attempts to talk your way out of a scandal or major misstep. But increasing positive online visibility across mainstream, industry and niche platforms can help restore trust.
Use a thoughtful and strategic digital PR plan to grow consumer trust in your brand right out of the gate. Lift the voices of advocates without a vested interest in your brand. Those may be the voices consumers trust most.
Without online visibility, your brand will not succeed. Nor will it succeed if that visibility only highlights your flaws. Your digital presence must be engaging, positive, and responsive if you want consumers to trust your brand.
Trust is earned, not given. So make sure your online visibility isn’t just showing up every day. Make sure it’s showing up to work.