I’m going to warn you now, this a long blog post with two main points. First we are going to talk about why you need your audience to trust you and how that relates to fulfilling your vision for your business. Then I’m going to show you 8 ways that you can start to build trust with your audience.
You might be wondering how does audience relationship fall under branding? Remember your brand is what people think/feel/say about your company - so audience relationship is essential as they actually determine your brand. Branding influences that perception. I like to think of branding as an experience (for that audience) that moves them along a path to develop the perception you want. That sounds confusing - I’ll simplify: if you want people think of your brand as happy and positive and uplifting, they have to journey through your brand - from first exposure all the way to developing a real opinion about you. That experience you guide them through will be how they develop an opinion about you - how they decide if you are happy, positive, and uplifting. So your branding is ultimately an experience.
There are a lot of moving parts to branding, right? First you need to determine answers to the ‘who’, ‘how’, ‘why’ questions, which I consider the foundation of your branding. Those answers help you to determine your overall vision for your business. A vision tends to sound a whole lot like a promise. My vision is to be invaluable branding resource for women in business. It’s not something that you can definitively say, “today I fulfilled this promise, done” but over time someone can develop the opinion that I am a branding resource and fulfill my brand vision.
The idea of an experience and this promise work together: if I’m successful in moving people along this path (or through this experience), then I’m starting to fulfill that promise (or vision).
But what about trust? Well, if I want that experience to be positive and I want people to begin to put me in that branding resource category, I need to establish that I actually am a branding resource. I need to build a relationship, develop trust, and create loyalty. Successful businesses focus on that relationship, and in turn, people return to them over and over again. If you want people to eventually buy from you (which, it’s okay to admit it – you do!) then you need to establish that you can be trusted to fulfill whatever it is you promise.
I’m going to give you a different example, just for reference. Amazon’s vision statement is “to be the earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might need to buy online.” This also sounds a lot like a promise, right? They have their target audience, which is very broad since they offer a variety of things, but is limited to people who are capable of shopping online – therefore must have computer or smart phone, credit or debit card, and somewhere to receive packages. They probably can also make some assumptions about their level of patience (short, they don’t want to go and wait in line at stores – probably why Amazon has quick check out features, also). Anyway, so how do they make sure the experience of shopping on Amazon further propels this idea of their vision statement (that they can find and discover anything, etc.)?
Well, think about what Amazon looks like from a customer perspective. How many other things are you shown while shopping for something specific? I’m serious. I don’t want to direct you away from my website, but go look at Amazon.com. There’s a banner at the very top, an advertisement for their product (mines currently advertising a Kindle), there’s recommendations based off the fact that I looked at a Yeti microphone a month ago, there’s diaper ads (not sure about this one… I do always read those ‘interesting baby name articles’ though), there’s a TurboTax ad (I googled HR Block earlier), there’s graphic design books because I was shopping for my expanding personal resource library, there’s a whole slew of bar-related things (how do they know of my drinking habits?!) and so on, and so on, and so on. Fourteen rows of things I could buy, plus other advertisements. So the experience, albeit a little overwhelming to me (but then again, I rarely use Amazon and am not their target audience. I LOVE wandering through Target), definitely does fulfill the promise that I could “find and discover ANYTHING I might need to buy online.” And we were only on the home page.
If you are wondering, but wait, we were talking about trust – yes, we were. In Amazon’s case, from that home page visit alone, I am a believer that they offer everything under the sun on their website. They build it other ways too – returning things to Amazon is very easy (customer centric), they offer two day shipping (customer centric), they offer huge deals randomly throughout the year (customer centric). All of these things are an experience that someone that fits into Amazon’s target audience would appreciate, value, and utilize. They trust that Amazon is the best option. Now Amazon differs from us in the online small business industry, but I just wanted to show a different way that the branding experience needs to fulfill, or at least build up to, the brand vision (or promise). Amazon doesn’t necessarily adhere to the following 8 tips exaclty, but in their own ‘big mega corporation’ type way, they actually do fulfill a lot of these same ideas.
So, now that I’ve laid a small encyclopedia of groundwork just to get to the real point of this post… here are the 8 ways you can start to build trust with your audience. I’m going to put a disclaimer here, because I realized as I wrote this – there’s a way to follow these tips and do it wrong. So, for all of these tips, I have a requirement: be authentic. Don’t just learn names because you ‘have’ to. Learn names because you want to connect. Don’t just interact because you ‘have’ to, interact because you really do value the person on the other end. These aren’t supposed to be “trust hackzxx” these are supposed to be your reminders on how trust is built and ways to adapt it to your online business.
CREATE A BRAND VOICE THAT IS UNIQUELY YOURS
This is part of humanizing your brand – attaching a personal and real voice to your content starts to build relationships with your audience. This is something that people tend to overthink, especially in blogging. They want to ‘put on airs’ or write in a more formal voice. I get that. We were raised and taught in school to do that. But, for us online business owners, making connections is really important. We don’t have the face-to-face benefit (or the exclusivity of being the ‘only one in town’), so we have to use what we can to stand out and connect with people.
If you’ve seen me on periscope or a webinar I think you’ve started to learn that I write exactly how I speak. In fact, most of my blog posts are initially spoken into my phone’s recorder, because I find that to be easier. I could go through and try to fix my run on sentences. Or my fragments. But I don’t, because that’s how I talk and my message isn’t lost because of it. A word of advice – if you start to lose your message because of terrible grammar, then maybe stop and rethink why you want to use terrible grammar. Also, spelling errors don’t get a pass (she says, as she desperately hopes she didn’t mess up any spelling in this post).
CREATE CONSISTENT EXPERIENCES
We’ve been talking about experiences this whole post – but it’s so important that everything you do is consistent and cohesive and makes SENSE for your vision. What if halfway through this post I just started showing you pictures of, like, my dinner? What would that do to you? Would it confuse you? Yes. Would it make you think I’m unfocused and that my content less valuable? Quite possibly.
There are exceptions to this, obviously. It’s a balancing act, especially on social media, but here’s what I do: I think, “If this was someone’s FIRST TIME seeing my business, would this pull them in? Would this make them want to know more? Does this clue them into what I am all about?” If it doesn’t – then don’t do it.
RESPOND, COMMENT, RESHARE, INTERACT
Being available to your audience is SO important in online businesses and in building trust. Again, people crave to know there’s a human on the other end. If you never show that by interacting, then people will lose interest quickly.
So, if someone takes a moment out of their day to comment on a blog post, or tweet you, or reshare your content with their audience… you need to show gratitude, you need to respond, you need to acknowledge they exist. You need to be a human. Humans are more likely trust other humans, than cold, dead, heartless robot.
This is the equivalent: if you were a brick and mortar store and someone came in and said, “wow your window display is BEAUTIFUL. I love it!” and you just sat there and ignored them, what would happen? First, it’d be hella awkward. Second, they wouldn’t like you. Third, they’d tell their friends that you are rude and ungrateful.
Instead, take a moment and really value that this person was affected enough by you that they had to say something about it. That’s amazing! You impacted someone! They are asking for the relationship to be built, they are offering their trust. Don’t spit at it.
KEEP TRACK OF YOUR AUDIENCE
This is one that I find particularly important and it’s probably because I have personal experience with it. My handle on social media is “TheCrownFox” so when someone remembers my name, it means the world to me. I’m forever grateful and instantly feel more connected with them.
Knowing that, you should be concerned about really getting to know people, too. I don’t mean this in a creepy way. I just mean if someone is in your periscopes every night giving you the good vibes and hearts, take a moment, ask them their name and then remember it. I know, it’s hard. I have a list of names that it has taken me a minute to remember, but I try really hard to do it.
Again, think back to the equivalent of your online business – the brick and mortar example. When you walk into a place and someone greets you by name how do you feel? Special right? More inclined to return? Probably. Again, it is about that experience for your audience. Being spoke to as a real person and not just another page view makes the overall experience better.
INVITE THEM IN + BREAK DOWN BARRIERS
What I mean by this is opening those lines of communication and letting your audience know that you are reachable. Networking in an online business means lots of emails, so you have to be open to people reaching out to you about random things, ideas, posts they liked, newsletters that resonated with them, etc. You also have to make sure it’s obvious that you want that, appreciate that, and are open to building relationships. (Also you need to want that, appreciate that, and be open to building relationships. If you aren’t, I don’t know why you are reading this post…)
I think of people that I sat in awe of when I got started, that just seemed so high up there and unattainable, and then at some point in my journey with them it became evident that it was okay to email them, or tweet them, or reach out to them. You want to give off those good vibes. There’s nothing appealing about being an elitist. This isn’t like Internet business high school where you want to be the Prom Queen and everyone is slightly terrified of you. That doesn’t fly in online business. People won’t trust you, support you, and respect you if you have that attitude.
Another facet of this is making it clear that whatever it is you talk about, teach about, or sell about is something that you’ve experienced. You don’t have to go to into your personal life, obviously, but a story of how you were at one time in their shoes, but now have a successful business because xyz, resonates a lot more than just saying “I’m awesome, look at me.” It doesn’t have to be a triumph of rags to riches or anything huge - it could just be as simple as, hey, “I started a business and these methods are working for me. You might also benefit from them. I made a few mistakes and tweaks along the way, so I’ll clue you into what actually worked.” Opening up about those sorts of things shows your audience that you really have put the time, energy, and work into what you want to speak to them about.
GIVE AWAY FREE CONTENT
Hello! Especially if you are trying to sell online – you have to prove your worth it. Expecting people to hand over their hard earned cash (eh...credit card info?) requires you proving you have something valuable and amazing in return.
It doesn’t have to be a huge email opt-in course thing, either, if that’s not where your head is at. Blogging is free content, periscopes are free content, emailing back is free content - just be willing to share what you know. If you have so much packed into your brain about a particular topic - what’s a snippet of information going to really cost you? 1/100th of what you have to offer? Cool. Do it. You should have more to talk about, more to teach about, more to blow people’s minds with, that some free content is no sweat off your back.
This isn’t a novel idea, either. You can get a sample of a beer before ordering the whole glass, to make sure it actually tastes good to you. You can read the first few pages of a book on Amazon before purchasing, to make sure you like the writing style. You have to give people a taste of what you offer, prove your authority and knowledge, if you want them to invest in you.
Not only does asking about your audience build trust and relationships, it also totally informs you! The answers are valuable in the direction you take your business. I mean, ask them anything. Ask them if they’d rather you have “read more…” tags instead of a whole blog post. Ask them if they like when you offer technical tutorials. Ask them what steps they feel stuck on in whatever your process is. Get that feedback!
This shows that you are interested in your audience’s needs and journey, but also hella good and easy research for you. I think the idea that asking questions to your audience makes people fear they will lack some sort of authority or know-it-all-ness. But in actuality, asking questions to your audience proves you are invested in them and their success.
This is the overarching one for any of these other methods - and that is just to be honest. That’s rule number 1 of building trust, always. Be honest. I mean this in two ways. First, be coming from a really honest place in everything that you do or say. If you are just going through the motions and being ‘nice’ because you feel like you have to - that’s not being honest. People can spot that inauthenticity easily and it will harm your online business. Second, it’s okay to be honest with what’s going on in your business and life. Say when you made a mistake, or got stuck, or didn’t quite finish something you wanted to. Say when you were overwhelmed at how amazing something went, and that you weren't prepared for it. People value honesty and inclusion over you being someone aloof and unreachable. They definitely will value honesty over lies, deceit, or shady behavior.
Phew! This was a doozy of a blog post, but I hope you gained some ideas, knowledge, or inspiration from it.
I’m Kaitlyn, your design assistant! I work with successful creative entrepreneurs to create cohesive, clean, and compelling visuals for their businesses. You can keep being the #girlboss you are (but with more time to focus on growing your empire)! Let's set up a time to chat!