Who Are You? Building Instant Credibility
BY Jason Ciment | September 21, 2001
In my last article, we discussed how giving away free links to prospective linking partners would actually produce tremendous goodwill and value in addition to free traffic for our own Web sites.
The idea of giving away something free is always welcome in this age of the "what's in it for me" society. However, once we have initiated the give-to-get strategy, we face a new challenge from all the visitors or affiliates who find their way onto our sites: Who are we to deserve their attention — not to mention their money or their partnership?
We Web site owners are slaves to our own credibility.
Is Your Web Site Trustworthy?
Do you have years of experience in our industry? Do you have clients that will go out on a limb and vouch for your pathetically trite yet valid "total commitment to customer service"? Exclusively Web-based businesses, because they lack the brick-and-mortar reputation their competitors may enjoy, have an even tougher uphill battle to satisfy new users.
This article is devoted to three simple techniques designed to comfort and reassure your new visitors and partners to stay awhile and join you for some virtual tea and perhaps even spend some money or share in some sage advice before leaving.
1. To make your site credible and desirable, make it easy to use and intuitive.
You can refer to Bryan Eisenberg's brilliant articles at Future Now for guidance; you will need a full dose of his most recent series of articles to achieve success in this area. He has done loads for me personally, so stop reading this article until you absorb his simple building blocks for Web site usability.
2. Provide relevant, yet independent, credibility.
Targeting potential linking partners with free links to their Web sites may be insufficient when your site has nothing to offer them in return. In this shift from just giving to giving and satisfying, you can quickly address some initial concerns from new visitors by greeting them with symbols of unbeatable convenience and reliability.
The first symbol can be something as simple as displaying the logo of an independent and reliable verification service such as BizRate. This puts the user one mouse click away from a variety of comments and ratings about your site. A second symbol might be a shopping verification logo of an organization such as the BBB (Better Business Bureau) OnLine. These two emblems simply reinforce the notion to a new visitor that the business that they may develop a relationship with is credible and capable of backing up its integrity.
3. Make the visitor feel special and needed.
People want relationships. But they may come in many forms. Some want a really quick experience with no follow up — get in and get out. Others may want the cushy feeling — like their mom is up all night waiting for them to get home from a late night out with friends. Regardless of the nature of the relationship that will develop between Web site owner and Web site user or partner, the bottom line is that your customers and partners want to know that you care and that you will make yourself available to provide help.
This is really the easiest technique and can be addressed by focusing on one mantra — "no time, no time, no time." No time is what everyone has tons of. Therefore, since people have no time, don't make them waste it hunting for answers. Make your frequently asked questions (FAQ) section obvious. Make your phone number bold and beautiful. Make whatever experience you provide online really fast and easy so that your users leave happy. I call this the "FEH Principle," from an old Yiddish word that I'll more properly describe one day.
To recap, running a successful affiliate program requires more than just affiliates. It requires that your Web site experience be enjoyable to each and every customer. To make sure that your newfound affiliates keep sending you targeted traffic, just obey the FEH Principle. Because by doing so, the "who are you" question will answer itself: "I am Web site, hear me roar."
Jason Ciment is CEO of MagMall, which he founded 1997. He designed, programmed, and developed the fully interactive java and perl-based magazine subscription Web site that has more than 10,000 individual and corporate partners. He has also worked with manufacturing companies such as Liz Claiborne and Jones New York to maintain quality standards and prompt order fulfillment.
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