Can you recommend a good and honest one?

I’m a subscriber to a vibrant and active online group of homeschooling parents in my area.  Like most vibrant and active groups – members of the group discuss more than just homeschooling issues.  People on the list frequently ask for recommendations for doctors, chiropractors, insurance agents, auto mechanics and everything in between.  Those requests to list often end with the same line which closed a recent request for a recommendation for an orthopedic surgeon:

“Can anyone recommend a good and honest one?”

This is the BEST reason to maintain a business blog

One of the best reasons to maintain a business blog is so that when people offer their recommendation for you, your products or your services, they can also include a link to your business blog as well.  Ideally this business blog contains ample “evidence” that you are the expert who is ready, willing and able to quickly and efficiently solve their problem.

It’s important to recognize that requests for information are happening all the time – both online and offline.  Some of those requests for recommendations are happening “behind closed doors” – like the email list to which I’m subscribed.  The recommendations offered on the list are very powerful… perhaps the most potent “marketing” tool known to mankind –  the personal heartfelt recommendation – made without any possibility of compensation.

These recommendations are so powerful that several local businesses have joined the group with the sole intent of responding to requests like the ones above.  What keeps this list “vibrant and active” is that those who join with the sole intention of promoting their business are quickly removed from the list.

Such requests for trusted recommendations are also happening on “public” sites like Facebook and Twitter.  Recommendations and responses on public sites can play a powerful role in crafting your online reputation.

It doesn’t matter where those recommendations are made, they can become much, much more powerful when people can refer to your business blog – filled with helpful posts which illustrate your expertise.

When a visitor arrives at your business blog based on the recommendation of a friend or trusted co-worker -do you think they care whether or not the current post is 15 hours old or 15 weeks old?  The answer is almost always a resounding “no” – as long as that 15 week old post isn’t touting an event that took place 14 weeks ago.  😉

What the visitor is looking for is additional “proof” that this professional – whether it’s an attorney, a doctor, a chiropractor, a CPA or a even dog trainer – knows his/her “stuff”.

Providing that kind of content – content which exhibits your expertise in your chosen field – is the KEY to creating a business blog that really “works” for your business.

Providing  evidence of your expertise is probably the best reason ever to begin blogging for your business.

 

Halloween Humor and an Object Lesson on Trust and Marketing

I talk a LOT here about the importance trust plays in marketing your product or services.  Establishing trust with your marketing is especially essential if you’re selling “nothing but air” a.k.a. making an intangible major sale.

Trust is hard to win and easy to lose. In the world of Web 2.0, transparency is the key.  For example, In the “old days” (pre-web), if a business owner got a reputation for lying and ripping of his/her customer,  he or she could always pick up and start anew in a new location.  However, in the world of Web 2.0, your reputation can follow you ALL over the world!

Here’s a bit of Halloween Humor making the rounds these days which offers a thinly veiled object lesson on trust and marketing.

A cabbie picks up a  Nun.  She gets into the cab, and notices that the VERY handsome cab  driver won’t stop staring at her. She asks him why he is  staring.  He replies: ‘I have a question to ask, but I don’t want to  offend you.’

She answers, “My son, you  cannot offend me.  When you’ have been a nun as  long as I have, you get a chance to see and hear just about  everything.  I’m sure that there’s nothing you could say or ask that  I would find offensive.'”

“Well, I’ve always had a  fantasy to make out with a nun.”

The nun responds, “Well, I could probably oblige you under two conditions.  First, you have to be single and second, you must be Catholic.”

The cab driver blurts out, ‘HOT DOG!!!  Yes,  I’m single and Catholic!’

The nun says.   ‘Pull into the next alley.’

The make out scene that followed in that alley would make a hooker blush.

When they get back on  the road, the cab driver starts crying.

‘Why is wrong?” the nun asked.

‘Forgive me but I’ve  sinned.  I lied and I must confess; I’m married and I’m Baptist.’

The nun replies, ‘That’s  OK.  My name is Kevin and I’m going to a Halloween  party.”

It’s a beautiful thing when a liar gets taken by a con artist.

It’s not a beautiful thing when good people get taken by “gurus” and “experts” who don’t know enough to know they don’t know anything!

That’s why I’m a REAL fan of blogging.  See, there’s no better vehicle to build trust than with a blog.  It’s hard to fake expertise over the course of a couple hundred blog posts!

If you’re here and you’re offering “real deal” services, then get a blog.   There’s no better way to demonstrate the breadth and depth of your knowledge!

The Name of the Game is Trust

Lately, I’ve been talking a LOT about the importance of TRUST as an essential element of your marketing efforts.  Here’s a word picture to help you “visualize” how the whole “trust building” process works.

Think of trust like you would a bank account.  When you first meet someone, the balance of the “trust” account is zero.  Then, as you interact with this other person, deposits are being made into the trust account.  To borrow from Tom Volkar’s blog – when you honor your agreements, explicit AND implicit, you’re making deposits into the trust account. When you don’t honor those commitments,  you are debiting the trust account.

You do this all the time with friends, family and other people you come into contact with during the course of your daily life – including the “entities” with which you do business!

In the case of your trust relationship with business “entities”, when it comes time for real MONEY to change hands,  when it’s time to write the the check for legal tender, you’ll make a quick mental check of the balance of the “trust” account.    Unfortunately, there’s not a way to “log in to” the trust account to check the balance.   When you’re trying to establish with a new client, you’ll know you haven’t accumulated enough “trust” in the account if you ask for the sale and the potential client “balks”.

This is the word picture in my mind as I read a recent post over at David Airey’s blog.  In his post,  A Conversation About Spec Work“, David shares a somewhat heated exchange between a prospective client and a designer over working on spec.  In case you didn’t know, the BANE of a graphic artist’s existence – SPEC WORK!  (If you don’t get why a graphic artist might be upset over the prospect of working for “free”, check out Jacob Cass’ post, Why logo design does not cost $5.00)

All I could see in the exchange was a battle of two individuals whose trust accounts were empty when the trust checks were presented for payment.

Jacob makes a point in the comments section of David’s post where he points out that you don’t expect your dentist to work on spec.  (OUCH!  That illustration really “hit home” with me thanks to my little “dental drama” of late and the ensuing anti-word of mouth marketing campaign.)

However, Jacob is only partially correct.  While it’s true that ESTABLISHED dentists don’t offer to work on spec, it’s a different story for new dentist.

When you see an incredibly low cost initial appointment advertised by a dentist, it’s actually another version of working on spec.  While the dentist IS charging a small fee, the advertised price that doesn’t BEGIN to cover the variable costs associated with the exam let alone the fixed costs of running the practice!  If that’s not working on spec, I don’t know what is!

Working on spec is nothing new to anyone who is in the business of selling “nothing but air“.  Service based businesses usually have to do a LOT of spec work in the beginning!  Chiropractors, attorneys, coaches and consultants are just a few of the other professionals who are selling their expertise who must establish a significant level of trust with their potential clients.  I personally created a LOT of web sites in the beginning for minimal cost to build my practice.

However, as the service professional continues to build trust with an ever expanding circle of clients – then the need for spec work decreases.  Not only do you begin to get client referrals, but you can also share client testimonials to help build trust.

David Airey has openly credited his blog with building his business from a local business to one with an international scope.  David’s blog is acting as a GREAT vehicle for building trust with potential clients.

Not only can you feature client testimonials on your blog, but you can also share your expertise freely – which has the effect of making HUGE deposits in your trust account with your blog’s readers.

Building your service based business is a catch 22 type of deal.  In order to gain the trust of potential clients you have to have testimonials/referrals which you can’t get until you get clients!!!

That’s the reason for working on spec.  However, the good news is that  blogs are GREAT for building trust with prospective clients.  They can help you to build trust for your service based business.

It’s Like Christmas in September: Building Trust Through Blogging

It’s like Christmas morning here today – except it’s the kind of Christmas morning where all your presents are from sadistic narcissists.  When spending the holidays with sadistic narcissistic relatives, you don’t make any sudden moves, you make sure not to take your eyes off of your valuables (or relatives) and most importantly, you don’t have high expectations of what is contained within the packages addressed to you.

My first “present” to arrive today was an actual old fashioned CHAIN LETTER via snail mail! A real live CHAIN LETTER! I mean, I’d heard about chain letters when I was a kid but to actually receive one in my mail box at the end of my driveway – well I just never imagined it would happen to me!

I knew there was something fishy about the letter. It was addressed to my husband, but the return address was of someone I don’t know. Could it be that my husband has another family in Kansas? Perhaps he has a secret identity? As I began to open the mystery letter, a thought flashed through my mind- “Nobody sends anthrax through the mail anymore, do they?” I held my breath as I carefully opened the letter.

Turns out my husband isn’t a spy nor is he leading a double life.  So much for my drama fix for the day.  The envelope contained 4 pages sloppily stapled together.  It lead with, “I’m a retired attorney, so you can trust me.”

I haven’t laughed that hard in YEARS!

When I was able to stand upright again – I wiped the tears from my eyes and kept reading.  The gist of the letter is that you send $1 to each of the 6 names on the list with the request to “ADD ME TO YOUR LIST”.  By paying $1 to add your name to the list, it’s not illegal – according to the letter.  Why would he lie?  After all, he’s a trusted retired attorney!

They say laughter is the best medicine and I’m about to overdose!

It’s official.  The scammers are leaving the internet and going back to snail mail.  WHEW!  I knew if we all kept ignoring those spam emails that eventually they’d leave.  (By the way, the 30% of you who CLICK are encouraging them to stay!!!)

It wouldn’t be Christmas with just one present, so I then went to my email and got a message from a client.

“Is this legitimate and/or do you know anything about this?”

The attached email is typical.

Would you like to earn auto-pilot commissions every time you post to your blog? And at the same time use the Power of Twitter to drive massive amounts of traffic to your blog.

Notice the key elements in this pitch:

  • auto-pilot – aka get something for nothing
  • the power of Twitter – a “magic” program you’ve heard lots about but probably aren’t using
  • massive amounts of traffic- because all you need for your blog to succeed is massive traffic.

Why is it that every one of these programs begins with

“Here’s a no fail, no learning required, minimal time and effort on your part way to achieve massive traffic to your blog!”

Unfortunately, it’s human nature.

I told my client I’d check it out for her and I learned a lot.

First, I didn’t know that the Butterfly Marketing stuff was still being used.  The whole “OTO” thing is a thing of beauty.   It’s a great way to automate the “impending doom” close on the web.   However, when you’ve been burned before, you usually aren’t anxious to put your hand on the stove again.

Here’s the deal for those of you who don’t know the “system” behind Butterfly Marketing.

Offer an attractive free resource via a squeeze page.  (Squeeze page:  where there are only two options – sign up or leave.  You don’t let them “learn more” by surfing the site – they either want the freebie or they don’t.)

Then, when visitors sign up to receive the free resource, they are taken to a page that offers you a ONE TIME OFFER (OTO).  The page is programmed to display only once, so if they click away, they are “robbed” of the opportunity to purchase this amazing product/service.

In this case, they’re selling you a program to create WordPress plug ins even if you know nothing about coding.  You may not know PHP from CSS, but with this system you can create your own WordPress plug in.

Once the sucker – ahem, buyer has clicked away from that appealing offer, you offer another resource – again letting them know that this offer will go away just like the last one did.

“Aren’t you sorry you let the last one go?  If you’re smart, you’ll jump on this chance.”

They’re serious.  They want your money.  Buy something NOW!

If you’re a total tightwad, you’ll say no again because by now all you want is to get to the free resource you were promised.

VIOLA!  You arrive.  It’s a pretty stark page though.  The most prominent feature of the page is that you are offered an opportunity to earn AFFILIATE COMMISSIONS if you’ll promote this program to your friends, family and website visitors. Just because you were too smart to buy doesn’t mean your chump friends and family won’t.

Oh, and there’s your promised freebie – a WordPress plug in that will automatically “tweet” your Twitter account.  I’ve got to confess, at this point, I’m worried about installing this on a blog I care about.  These people haven’t done ANYTHING to gain my trust.  Am I jeapordizing my blog AND my twitter account by using this?

We live in a world where it’s hard to TRUST anyone these days.  The other morning, I was listening to a local radio show where they were talking about a video they saw on YouTube.  The topic of discussion – was the video “real”.  Despite video evidence, they were still unsure whether or not this phenomemnon was true.

We live in a world where you can’t believe your eyes or your ears.  The Bejing Olympics was full of fakes – from fireworks to birth certificates.  If you live in the US, you’re being bombarded by political propaganda disguised as “news”.  What’s real?  What’s fake?  What can you trust?

One of the drums I pound frequently here is that your blog is a GREAT way to build trust with potential clients and customers.  It’s hard to “fake” your expertise over the course of a few hundred blog posts.

How do you use your blog to create trust with your readers?

Trust Building Business Practices

The letters on the soap box I stand upon frequently around here read “Building Trust”.  Blogs are great trust building tools.  They offer businesses the opportunity to begin the difficult process of building TRUST with potential clients and customers.

Trust is so hard to gain and so easy to lose, which is why business owners must pay careful attention to follow trust building business practices.

Building trust is such a HUGE part of marketing and advertising, yet I don’t hear anyone talking about trust and marketing in those terms. Marketing is just an invitation to your business. Advertising is paying to deliver those invitations.

However, if you aren’t engaged in trust building business practices… how can your marketing invitations build trust as well?

Trust is a HUGE deal for anyone engaged in making Major Sales.

5 Essential Trust Building Business Practices

1: Under promise… over deliver

Trust is established when behavior matches expectations. Set the expectations too high and you’ll destroy the trust you’re trying to build with current and potential customers.

The easier software way of creating marketing messages is to scream “Bigger Faster Stronger” . However, the dirty little secret that marketing professionals know is that when you set expectations too high, return rates can run 25% and higher for products marketed in that fashion – for services, those rates can run even higher.

However, when your marketing messages set realistic expectations and you end up delivering more than your marketing messages promise – well, that’s what it takes to ignite the holy grail of marketing… word of mouth advertising!

2: Transparency = Trust

If you’re transparent with your customers as well as with your employees, then you’ll be laying a foundation for building trust.

Transparency’s hard when you’re not being authentic.

For example, I have a friend who works in sales training for a large company. The company has been calling for employees to make sacrifices for the good of the company. They’ve had to turn in their corporate credit cards and they’ve had to share hotel rooms on trips. Imagine their surprise, not to mention disgust, when the CEO drove into work one day in his brand new Bentley.

Word of the CEO’s new ride spread like wildfire throughout the company. Within a few weeks, sales had taken a dramatic downturn and suddenly, the sales training department was assigned the task of coming up with outlining a new marketing campaign to increase sales. (Don’t you LOVE how corporate works!)

Oh, did I mention that the top 6 sales reps left the company in the three months following the CEO’s new car purchase?

Transparency’s hard when you’re not being authentic. Losing trust almost always hurts the bottom line.

3: Focus on meeting your customer’s needs.

When your customer does business with you, it’s because your customer expects you to provide a product or service for them. They are not patronizing your business merely to fatten your wallet or improve your bottom line.

Your customers are doing business with you to meet their needs – to satisfy their wants – to solve their problems. When your focus is upon meeting your customer’s needs… you’re automatically engaging in trust building activities.

4. Make it easy for customers to buy….

I am AMAZED at how hard some companies make it to do business with them. If I, as a potential customer, have to chase you down to get you to take my money, how hard is it going to be to reach you when I have a problem AFTER you have my money and I’ve become your customer?

Trust me, if customers are having to chase you down for the opportunity to buy your product or service… you’ll soon be facing competition that will make it easy to buy the product or service you’re offering. PERIOD.

5: First Impressions Mean a Lot!

Trust is so hard to gain but so easy to lose and little things mean a lot, especially in the beginning.  Dead links on a website… a typo in the sales letter… a forged testimonial…. all can destroy the trust needed for a potential client or customer to make the move from potential to paying.

The obvious point to make here is make sure all your marketing materials make a GREAT first impression.  The old “design vs content” debate doesn’t apply.  Design + Content = Professional Presentation!

For example, I was visiting a blog about business blog consulting.  The design is less than crisp and professional, so that should have been my first clue.  There are 6 different business blog consultants who publish articles on this blog.  They’re great articles… but when you click to learn more you get broken links and error messages.

If you’re in the market for a business blog consultant, you’ve got to ask yourself… are you willing to trust these people with your business blog?  If the links on their own blog don’t work – links which promise to lead to you to the information you need to go about HIRING them- how can you trust them to build links on your blog that work?

Hey, believe me, I know that broken links happen ALL the time.  However, this wasn’t just one broken link – it was several.  One was simply the result of putting two sets of [http://] in the link.  The thing is- these people claim to be blog professionals and that’s a rookie mistake!

Blogs are great trust building tools.  When done correctly, they offer businesses the opportunity to begin the difficult process of building TRUST with potential clients and customers.