Last year, I cleaned out my closet and found an expensive dress from Anthropologie that still had the tags attached. I purchased that dress nearly three years earlier.
Looking at it again, with three years of distance from the purchase, it was all wrong for me. I bought it when I was working full-time and had clearly thought it would be a good work outfit. Now that my working attire means donning a clean pair of yoga pants, I couldn’t think of a single occasion where I’d be excited to wear this to, which meant I had to get rid of it. Selling it would only bring in a fraction of the price paid, so I went back to Anthro to see if they would take it back. After all, their return policy doesn’t say anything about time limits as long as the tags are attached.
Without hesitation, they not only took it back, they also refunded my credit card. That’s right — they didn’t even give me store credit! So aside from the pretty paper and nice smells, I will forever shop at Anthropologie because if it doesn’t work out, I know they have my back, even three years later. I trust them wholeheartedly as a retailer.
As business owners, we can facilitate the same kind of kinship with our audience and clients. Even before making your next sale or booking your next client, trust in you as a service provider or retailer is really what determines who will invest their money in your business.
Aside from long-term trust building strategies like Anthro has in place, what can you do today to start earning the trust of your audience so they eventually become your clients, customers and biggest fans? Here’s 8 steps to start with:
- Set the tone for new clients by presenting yourself professionally. You can build trust with a potential client well before you make contact through the way you present your business online. A professional website with a modern (read: mobile-friendly) design and up-to-date content goes a long way. Notice, I said professional, not perfect. Your social media profiles and your website should have some synergy, and the easiest way to do that is with cohesive photos and professional headshots, which can be taken care of in a day. Remember, if you don’t appear organized and polished online, you will lose business opportunities. It’s 2017 and websites are ridiculously easy to build on platforms like Showit and Squarespace. What’s your excuse?
- Share testimonials or product reviews. Anything you say about your business will be magnified by 10x when your happy customers echo it. It’s the reason infomercials on TV have customer testimonials… how likely are you to believe the business owner vs. someone who is like you and tried the product? Every time you wrap up a job or sell a product, make a habit of asking for a testimonial or a review. Display them proudly on your website and share them on social media on occasion. Even the bad ones are worth sharing: show your audience how you’ve changed as a result of negative feedback from time to time.
- Be responsive in your communication. Make a stellar first impression by replying quickly to email and social media inquiries and continue to keep the lines of communication open throughout your working relationship. One of my biggest pet peeves is getting an autoresponder. It’s commonplace, and I understand why people have them, but an autoresponder to me says, “I don’t care enough about your experience to answer this quickly, or to even find someone to answer it for me.” I had an autoresponder for about five days, and I was nauseous and worried about it every second it was up. To solve this dilemma, Katie, my email assistant, came to the rescue and now vets everything that comes through my inbox so that clients, potential clients, customers and anyone else can get a personal response quickly.
This not only makes my client and customer experience much smoother, it also boosts my clients’ confidence that when they need me, I’ll be there. If an assistant isn’t within your budget, instead of putting up that impersonal autoresponder, try to answer emails within 24 hours. Clear your inbox out with tools like Unroll.Me and block off time once or twice a day just for email. Instead of sending late night emails, schedule them for the next morning with a tool like Boomerang (bonus points for looking super productive before the birds even wake up).
- Put others first, always. The golden rule applies to business too. Don’t try to squeeze every little penny out of a client. If you quoted a price that’s too low and the client booked, or you said there was a discount and didn’t mean to, honor it.
When a client or customer senses that you aren’t being consistent, they’re going to feel defensive. Show that you have their best interests in mind and can prioritize their needs without them having to ask, go above and beyond (even if it means totally eating the cost or time on this one) and learn your lesson for next time.
- Do what you say you’ll do. And then some. If you say you’re going to do something, do it! (And do it well.) Never miss a deadline, and never deliver anything less than exactly what you promised. Follow through is key to establishing trust with your clients. It’s the classic cliche: underpromise and overdeliver. If you need to, outsource this so it’s sure to get done. For example, send a client gift when they’re not expecting it.
- Ask for feedback and listen to the response. Everyone likes to be heard. Asking your clients for feedback over the course of working together allows you time to adjust so that you can meet their expectations (or, if they are totally out of line with your expectations, it gives you a footing to discuss and clarify). After you’ve finished your work, follow up with a personal email or an automated email survey to make sure your clients were satisfied, or what you can improve upon for next time.
- Tiny tokens. It doesn’t have to be something physical, but a little bonus here and there goes a long way. Deliver early on a big project or add a little extra to your services. Wrapping up your work by sending a pretty handwritten card also leaves a great impression. Figure out when your clients’ birthdays and anniversaries (and their kids’ birthdays) are, then surprise them with a card (e-cards are free).
- Think outside your business. Volunteer with organizations, donate to charities, or sponsor an event. It’s a great way to show your passion for your business, meet new people, and show your commitment to serving others even though you don’t have to.
What are some things you have tried to gain a client’s trust? Have you ever lost a client or customer due to lack of trust? What happened? Feel free to share and get feedback below!