The barrier to entry when starting an online business can be tiny. Think of a name, sign yourself up to a free publishing platform and there’s nothing to stop you from setting up shop.
You can start up in less than a day without a budget or overheads. But should you? Can you really create a professional online business in just one day? No. And you shouldn’t. Here’s why.
In my role as an online business consultant there’s one client type I don’t enjoy talking to: the ‘Online Business Dreamer’. An interaction with an OBD can be both depressing and frustrating, and usually follows this script: I get an email, the gist of which is: “Hi, can you help me with my website? I just put it together and the idea is to get heaps of people to the site to click on the ads so I can get rich.”
I know before I visit their website that it’ll end in tears. But still, I make myself and then I put my head in my hands.
OK, I admit I’m feeling a touch jaded writing this, but it’s an all too common scenario.
They’ve had a bright idea one morning, and with dollar signs in their eyes, they’ve proceeded to put together a website with help from someone who has read a handful of SEO articles and considers herself a bit of an expert, capable of singlehandedly building a world-beating website from scratch.
The OBD has got itself a terrible website, no business plan or branding, and a few pages of badly written copy. Then, they jump straight into trying to generate traffic. Oh, dear!
Apparently, it needs to be said once again that if you’ve got a poorly designed website you’re wasting your time trying to attract visitors and you’ll find it next to impossible to create trust. And trust is the end game.
If you haven’t got trust, you won’t be able to convert visitors into any type of meaningful transaction, no matter if your online business deals in products, services or an engaged audience.
Why do you need trust? For the same reasons people choose to deal with each other offline; but with the added barriers of being unable to touch or try products, or talk face-to-face, before handing over hard earned dollars. Also, other online operators, spam or scams may have burnt your customers, so they’re likely to be cynical about you in the first place.
Trust builds authority and loyalty and encourages transactions and strategic partnerships. It’s not something you do once; it’s an ongoing effort that starts with a good website.
How do you build trust? Here’s a shortlist of the must-haves when it comes to building credibility through your website.
Consistent branding across your web presence: a professionally designed logo is compulsory. Use the same avatar when you comment on blogs and participate in social networking sites and forums.
- Social proof – publish customer testimonials and client logos or recent work.
- Physical proof – display professional photos of yourself and your staff, a street address and contact phone number.
- Updated content – signals website is not dormant.
When you’re trustworthy, with a good reputation, people will visit your blog, read your content, sign up to your email list, recommend you to others and buy what you have to sell. Without it, you’re just another OBD.
Clare Lancaster is the founder of Dot Marketing, a website strategy, review and marketing consultancy in Brisbane. She has been working online since 2001.