Building Trust in Your Small Business Rated:

Small businesses may have a competitive advantage over their larger counterparts in at least one respect: trust. According to a 2007 Harris Interactive poll, 96 percent of people have either "a great deal of trust" or "some trust" in small business. No other private or public institution received this large a vote of confidence.

But what if you are just starting out? Here are some tips for building trust and courting customers whose patronage will give the numbers in your business finances software a boost:

Honesty

The quickest way to lose trust is through perceived dishonesty. You can help avoid this situation by emphasizing clarity in all communications. Be upfront about your pricing and policies regarding returns, changes to orders and other issues likely to raise questions. Steer clear of concealing extra charges in the fine print.

Consistency can also make a difference. It is your prerogative if you consult your business finances software and decide to give a particular customer a discount on a certain day. But make sure you are clear that this is a one-time offer or you risk offending them the next time they expect a similar price and don't receive it.

Accountability

A business whose employees always give out their names is more likely to build trust because this practice is recognized as a sign of accountability. Many customers prefer to deal with people rather than impersonal machines - and adding a name will further emphasize this individual relationship.

Small businesses will also gain people's trust if they have a strong guarantee behind their products and services. If a customer is hesitant about whether they should make a purchase, a guarantee can help supply the confidence needed to follow it through.

However, know that sometimes this guarantee may end up costing you a bit of money - for example, if you have to take back a damaged product - but earning a loyal customer will benefit the sales recorded in your business finances software in the long run.

Give face time

Many customers prefer to know more about the business they are dealing with, rather than less. Including a photograph of you and your team on the wall of your shop can help people feel as if they know you better.

This tactic can work particularly well for a web-based business. Pictures of you, your employees or even your family will humanize the process of buying online and help build trust.

If you enjoy writing, consider including a blog or other personal account on your web page to invite customers into the workings of your company. It's probably best to keep this interaction light-hearted, rather than business-focused.

Share your values

Perhaps you already have a company mission statement prepared when you were writing your business plan or for motivating employees. Why not share this vision with your customers as well?

Many people are drawn to socially aware and environmentally friendly companies. If these values are part of what your business stands for, make people aware by publishing the information on your website and in your store.

You can also get involved in the local community by sponsoring local events - a great way to increase name recognition while emphasizing your hometown values.

Referrals

If you want to find a good local school for your child, a dependable doctor or a trustworthy landlord, where do you start? Most people ask a friend, family member or colleague to recommend someone.

The same practice holds true for small businesses. Once a few people have developed a favorable opinion of your company, word will spread and you will notice a difference the next time you consult your business finances software. Make sure you are devoting adequate resources to keeping your existing customers happy - they can be your best advertising.

Meanwhile, there are always steps you can take to push the referral process along. For example, some firms offer incentives such as giving a customer a free gift or discount if their friend signs up for a service or purchases a product.

Engage in some self-promotion

In the absence of the direct referral of a friend, a potential customer may still respond to the positive words of a stranger. Solicit recommendations and testimonials from some of your current satisfied customers and place them prominently on your website or on the wall of your store.

Once you have these testimonials, feel free to excerpt these quotes for use in marketing materials and advertising - with the speaker's permission, of course.

One word of advice about testimonials - they should be authentic. Don't be tempted to create your own, using stock photos of smiling people. Today's savvy online customers are likely to see through this attempt to build trust, resulting in the opposite result.
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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 Comments
Diane+Stewart | June 16, 2009
It is always a good idea to have simple common sence information. Too often we think we know everything and forget to listen. Thanks!
Robert | June 11, 2009
Great advice, we use all of these ideas.

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