2006-12-26 — Since the advent of the internet infrastructure, couple with its subsequent explosive growth and advancement from the year 1972 when the 1st Email program was created by Ray Tomlinson. Ever since that time the internet has ferocious transformed into the world’s number ONE market place mankind has ever witnessed. Well from then, however, many rivers as they say have passed under the bridge of this massive phenomenon called Internet.
Anyway, before I delve into issue proper, let me, albeit briefly tell you why I applied the above dictum. You see, in the early stage of the internet, even up till early 1990’s, it was quite possible to earn gobs and gobs of money with just a lousy website. Even without website, people were still making killings using the internet to sent unsolicited Emails. However, over the last couple of years, those same processes that were responsible for solid responses and income have either become spam, offence and combination of everything akin to ineffectiveness.
In fact, no well meaning online company get involve in such unwholesome process any longer. And to add salt to injury, the issue of credibility – who are you? What are you? What do you stand for? Why should I trust you? Are you legit? Are you not a flash in the pan? Would you be there for me tomorrow or treat me like a skunk if I complain about your product/service? Are you…
Such doubts no dotted the inner minds of almost all online visitors before doing business with you. Ands you must face this reality or continue to swim in murky waters.
The reason for this change? Apart from the fact that many have been burnt online and competition is increasingly tough among businesses. It is also proven that over 352 million people surf the Internet daily. Out of that number 235 million are buying online. The Direct Marketing Association stated that web driven sales was over $52 billion in 2004 alone. It also predicted that online retail sales will account for 10% of total U.S retail sales.
Now can you compare today reality with obtainable in the days of yore? No of course! People’s perception of online business and competitiveness have changes that it demand that you have a solid professional website to have a lick of chance of success. However, in the contrary, mere presence of a website does not promise success.
There are credible reasons for this truth. Let me ask you a simple question: can you do business or order a product or service from a company you don’t trust? I believe you will say NO. Maybe I should reframe this question in another way. Can you easily flip open your purse and send payment for a product which promoter does nothing or little to assure you of their credibility, trustworthiness and friendly? Again I believe your answer will be no!
Now, at this stage, let’s round up this piece by taking more than cursory look at few proven factors that are guarantee to credibility to your website if you imbibe them properly. I admit that the point I’m about to discuss with you are not entirely new, but as I said earlier, most websites owners are using wrongly.
Are you ready? Here they are:
1. Providing contact information like phone, address, etc
Have you ever experienced moments of finding a website after a thorough search and gleefully read the content on the landing page. Meanwhile, a new surge of excitement brewed through your inner system:
“Oh thanks goodness. This is the information I’ve been looking for. I absolutely love it … love it. Now let me quickly call the guys behind this offer for more information…” Getting carried away in this discovery, you danced through the website searching for the telephone to dial. What happen after 5 minutes? No telephone number provided on the website!
Crash – down went your excitement. The trust and love you’d previously exuded got deflated and replaced with utter disappointment. You silently yelled within: “What sort of website is this?” “Are these guys human at all?” And, unfortunately that signaled end of the romance!
Most online promoters erroneously believe telephone has little importance to play in their online success game. And many who try using telephone rather place them in obscure positions.
Super TIP: Place telephone, if possible on upper right corner of your website. Better still, if you could, employ toll-free telephone to encourage as many visitors as possible to call for further enquiries. Additionally, create a “Contact Page” parading the following:
- Mailing address
- Fax number
- Support phone number
- Hotline phone number
- Email address
NOTE: Your credibility will be further enhanced if you let visitors know upfront how long it will take you to return Email enquiries, fax and physical mailings. Also, for Email applies set of pre-set message to be received by enquirers. Look below for a proven sample:
This is to confirm the receipt of your mail and that we are attending to it at the moment and reply will be sent to you within the next 24 hours.
(signed / name)
2. Being a member of a professional body/affiliation
Affiliation to a reputable professional body or highly regarded association is an icing on a cake for your online presence. A marketing consultant who belongs to internationally heralded bodies like the American Marketing Association, Business Marketing Association will enjoy higher credibility values and benefits such as:
- Professional competence will be enhanced in the eyes of visitors and potential clients alike.
- Visitors would like to come back again and again because they will regard you as an authority that can be trusted and rely upon.
- Referral will improve. People naturally like to tell their friends associates about whatever excites them.
- Competitive advantage over and above competition that didn’t belong to such reputable association and bodies.
Super TIP: If you’ve got it flout it – goes a popular saying.
Don’t just muse about your membership and/or affiliation, instead, let visitors SEE IT upfront. Place the logo of your association on the left top corner of your website and also, at the bottom. Attach a little note explaining what the association/body is all about and a link to its website.
See the logo of the American Marketing Association and Business Marketing Association below:
In the same realm a non-professional online website owner can join a reputable body of respected body dedicated to promote trust, honesty, integrity and utmost accountability. For example, the i-Cop – The International Council of Online Professionals, allows its accredited members to paste the seal or logo on their websites for increase credibly and trust.
3. Providing privacy policies and terms and condition
If you tell you someone about your business and he, in return ask: “What do you stand for?” How would you answer him?
In addition, you need to clarify what sort of people your website target or meant for. Are you targeting every Tom, Dick and Harry or select segment of the society? WHY? Do you comply with basic laws of the land and online transactions? HOW?
In essence, privacy policies require you say what you do and do what you say.
In a document released by egain.com titled “TRUSTe Guidance on Model Web Site Disclosures” it stated that the golden rule of privacy statements is “Do Not Lie.” It further said: “The only thing worse than not posting a privacy statement is fraudulently claiming a certain business practice. State and federal governments do not look kindly on companies that claim one set of practices, and follow another.”
You see, creating and stating the above clearly and weave them together to form your operational policies will dynamically spell out your website as one standing for top notch credibility online. Also let your policy/condition includes ‘Money Back Guarantee’ in case of product/service rendering.
4. Being Html w3c valid/professional web design
If you constantly go out for shopping in the offline world you would have discovered that something within you normally show positive bias for those stores that carefully lay out their items on neat and sparkling shelf than those carelessly placed and allowed to gather dirt over time. Do you agree with me here?
Okay, how would you feel if you visit the doctor’s consulting room and find the whole place disorganized; chairs are flung apart; files are misplaced while other items generally made his office unwelcome. In such situation, what would you conclude in your mind? That place (the doctor’s office) is not worth your time to go there next time?
As human beings, we do feel disgusted and irritated why we should pay money for a product/service in places that presents itself as dirt or kept in undignified position. Once we encounter such we are quick to pass very negative remark and won’t want to do business with that company again.
Here is a danger…
Many websites are daily experiencing failure because visitors are, unfortunately, qualifying them as pieces of undignified, unprofessional, childish and somewhat lacking in CREDIBILITY. For the seasoned and discerning online practitioners, the answer is not far fetched. Just as the general look and feel of your grocery store ramp to image quality in your mind, so also your website represent the professionalism of your online business or other wise.
Failure to adhere to this simple rule is inviting low credibility ratings for your online presence. Anyway, I am not advocating adding mammoth bells and whistles and all sorts of self-glorifying and fanciful apparels to decorate your website. No! in fact, taking this route will definitely invite more troubles because your WebPages will take ages to load, thereby will waste visitor’s precious time, and cause them to leave in annoyance.
Here is what I mean:
A professional website is not something to be toyed with. You either embark on it yourself or outsource to professionals for a fee. If you care to design yourself, you can start with popular web authoring software like FrontPage and Dream-weaver. Also, if you must get involve in the management of the website (which is advisable) I really suggest that you learn HTML code.
Mr. David Frey, the online marketing genius once shared with subscribers of his well-read newsletter, marketing best practices that one of the best advices he ever received (from online veteran Jonathan Mizel) was to learn basic HTML codes if he intends making living online in the long term haul. But before I talk more on the issue of HTMl, let me give you some tips to rank your website high on the credibility ladder via operating through a professional image:
1. General outline and layout:
Let every page sing loud of whatever product/service at stake and the intentions behind them. For example, if it’s paid membership forum, then talk more about benefits on the Home Page instead of ranting about mission statement you’re your business and academic intelligence.
2. Color combination
Watch it! Great outline and/or layout without taking the issue of color combination as utmost consideration will lead to permanent failure! Remember I told you earlier about a website I visited and was difficult to read? The major wasn’t the text but color combination! But it came about due to poor and unprofessional website design and management.
Science of successful color formula dictates that one or two color schemes is essential and must be used throughout the entire pages. Don’t use blue scheme on the home page, yellow scheme on ‘About Us’ and splashing green on other pages.
Marketing/consulting and business advice:
One page websites’ selling products/services:
Popular Ecommerce sites:
3. Easy navigation
The last but not least is easy navigation. Though it has been discussed in previous paragraph, however, let it be known that these 3 factors must be weaved together to churn out solid professional website.
Now, let me round off by connecting back to the issue of HTML code I briefly mentioned earlier. Apart from acquiring necessary HTML basic skills, you (or your professional website designer/manager) must ensure that the HTML source codes are completely error free at all time.
For a start HTML means “Hyper Text Mark-up Language” which is the authentic authoring language employed to create web based documents, through definition of complete layout by assigning varied ELEMENTS (TAGS) and ATTRIBUTES.
Basically it starts this way:
(type or copy/paste your document here)and ends with
Special TIPS: Since there are different versions of web browsers in the market, it is advisable that you adequately test your website after uploading them to the server. Basically, test on major browsers for compatibility and proper viewing. Sometimes, what may appear fine in MS Internet Explorer may go awry on Netscape or Mozilla.
See these few resources talking about this vital issue at length:
5. Mission statements
An online dictionary described a mission statement as “the core purpose of the organization – why it exists! The mission examines the “raison d’etre” for the organization beyond simply increasing shareholder wealth, and reflects employees’ motivations for engaging in the company’s work. Effective missions are inspiring, long-term in nature, and easily understood and communicated.
Your mission statement is so crucial in building credibility because through it your online business for existence must be clearly and sufficiently stated. Let it also include socially ideal or meaningful concepts like public image, the moral/ethical position of your business, products/services, target market, geographic domain and desired growth and/or profitability.
In a written by Patricia Jones and Larry Kahaner, titled: “Say and Live it: The 50 Corporate Mission Statements That Hit the Mark” a portion stated thus: “Corporate mission statements…are the operational, ethical, and financial guiding lights of companies. They are not simply mottoes or slogans; they articulate the goals, dreams, behavior, culture, and strategies of companies.”
Super TIPS: In order to boost your credibility online, create a palatable “Mission Statement” page that objectively summarizes your business visions and goals. However, avoid jargons or unnecessary language meant to impress visitors, instead explain it in simple language that people can relate with. Also don’t make the mistake of mixing the mission statement with other non-essentials. Finally, make it conspicuous on the upper bar.
I saw a website that clearly misapplied the power of mission statement. Apart from clustering the page with other stuff, here is what it stated as its mission statement:
Our Mission is to provide small Business simple but powerful products and information for them to grow their business.
6. About Us Page
Today, many are operating mysteries while some love to be regarded as ‘sharks under the water’ online. What do I mean? Basically not letting visitors ‘know’ or ‘see’ you as you are. It is proven that almost all online visitors love to have personnel touch with the people behind websites they are navigating.
If done well, a page dedicated to introduce YOU and members of your team will prove another upward measure in the credibility scale. Although, most websites now parade “About Us” pages, unfortunately, such are mostly dry mere introduction key personnel.
Marcia Yudkin, the widely acclaimed master marketer advised that for credibility and increase sales, the “About Us” page of your website should be used to connect with your visitors by writing a little bit about yourself; how and why you set the website in conversational, third person, friendly tone. She also advice that you provide your pictures and appropriate links
7. Ease of navigation
On a popular forum recently, the signature of a fellow poster caught my attention. Promptly, I clicked on it and I love the idea on the website. It was fully dedicated to work at home mums. But… but I was disappointed and didn’t bother to explore much further.
Here is the reason:
Firstly, the color combination was riotous and makes reading almost impossible. Even when I trudged on a little, still some of the links returned error results. Now, before the issue of easy navigation of website is considered, you must ensure that appropriate colors are used and texts are NOT difficult to read.
Anyway, there should be working links conspicuously either at the right side and top level bar displaying each session such as home page, Mission statement and others. Look below for a sample of Jay Abraham’s website:
Few years ago, online marketing and copywriting expert, Marlon Sanders enjoyed wide credibility for his successful products called “The Amazing Formula That Sells Products Like Crazy!”
In selling that product, Marlon provided visitors opportunity to preview, in real-time, over 100 pages of raw testimonials. Those were real words from satisfied customers attesting to the quality of his products and personality. Needless to say it became the talk of the town and was subsequently responsible for massive sales and elevation of Marlon’s as an online legend to this day.
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