February 19, 2010

Is Your Online Marketing Believable? The Online Trust Ladder

Have you ever wondered why you’re not getting as much traction as you’d hoped with your online marketing?  With the explosion of digital media, social networking and other online resources you want your voice to be heard, and to be trusted by your readers.

If you think you can achieve it by simply setting up a great website, corporate blog, Facebook profile page or a company Twitter feed, think again!  You must also build a critical mass of followers who believe in you, and who trust you.

Would you believe me if I told you Al Dente Marketing is on the cutting edge of the digital marketing revolution, delivers all projects on time, and has an endless stream of satisfied customers?  Most likely not, and here’s why…

“Corporate blogs rank at the bottom of the trust scale with only 16% of online consumers who read them saying that they trust them”  Source:  Forrester Research

(We find the above quote as ironic as you do, given that you’re reading our blog to learn how to build trust.)

By simply putting yourself out there and trying to leverage the increasing number of people online, there is no guarantee of success.  So what works?

Our Secret:  The “Online Trust Ladder” (OTL)

The OTL is the invisible ranking that people give to what they read, and who has written it online.  At the core, OTL comes down to how much the reader feels they can trust the source of the information they are reading.  They develop their trust level in a staged process we call the Online Trust Ladder.

So it turns out it’s not just what you say that makes a difference, or even where you say it.  What matters most is who talks about you and who actually listens to them!

People buy more intelligently than ever before.  According to a Business Week article “Amazon:  Turning customer opinions into gold”, 70% of Americans say they consult product reviews or consumer ratings before making a purchase.  Wow!  That’s a lot of research going on!

If you’re paying close attention, you’ve also noticed that Google recently beta-launched “Social Search” to help consumers do online product research.  They even promoted the site in a CNN.com article.  Google “gets it”.  They understand that people now regularly look for consultant, user and peer reviews before they make a purchasing decision.  So, it’s becoming pretty obvious that if you want traction through digital marketing, you need to embrace the OTL and tap into this opinion stream.

To do that, just “being online” isn’t enough.  Instead, you have to build relationships with independent resources that can review, comment and provide feedback on your products and services via channels that are separate and distinct from your website or corporate blog.  As Ford’s CMO James Farley put it "You can't just say it. You have to get the people to say it to each other." So how do you get started?  Below are 5 top tips for building trust online:

  1. EDUCATE INDEPENDENT ANALYSTS.  Set up meetings with independent analysts who are paid to focus on your industry, so they can review your business, services or products.  Learn what they think is important and why, and make sure they understand the benefits you offer.
  1. TEASE CRITICS AND THOUGHT LEADERS.  Develop relationships with independent online resources who can spread the word for you.  These relationships should include key critics or thought leaders in your industry. A great way to get their attention is to through online press releases.  Write a good one containing the right messaging, and you might be surprised who calls Monday morning wanting to set-up a meeting or request a product demo.  Cha-Ching!
  1. MAKE BLOGGER MAVENS MORE BRILLIANT.  Identify key bloggers considered to be informal experts in your field and reach out to them. These folks love to know more than anyone else. Make ‘em even smarter.  Offer them a preview of an upcoming product or new service before it’s available to the general public - they are sure to want the ‘scoop’ before anyone else.
  1. PUBLISH CLIENT FEEDBACK.  Encourage open client feedback by making sure you give them plenty of opportunities to have their voices heard online.  This might be through testimonials, product recommendations or interactions they have with others online through social networking pages.
  1. “GIVE TO GET”.  Don’t forget….give to get’!  By giving something for free you are encouraging a “no pressure” opportunity for a potential new client to evaluate your business.  In addition, they are likely to tell their friends or colleagues about it if they like it!
  1. EMBRACE THE NAYSAYERS.  Don’t be afraid of negative feedback.  Often times embracing negative feedback can lead to a big win (such as “Dominos pizza user group TV ads”), and let’s people know you are trying to constantly improve, no matter how good you are.
Yes, we realize that there are 6 tips above instead of 5.  At Al Dente we like to give just that little bit extra.  In the spirit of this blog, tell your friends and comment below!


Mac said...

very good advice. as we move into the economics of 2.0 and even 3.0 it is obvious that the open slate mentality vis-a-vis social media is vital for companies. most still don't get it but this blog offers some good practical advice

Andy Martin said...

Thanks Mac for the nice comments! Glad you found the tips useful. "Social" today is too big to ignore & the more folks understand how it works, the more effective they will be.

Jose said...

Good read. Kind of remind me of the 'offline' world analogy where people need to understand choosers vs users, influencers (consultants, analysts, etc), and peers (case studies, success stories, etc).

Keep it up!

Andy Martin said...

Glad you liked the post Jose! Too often folks forget that digital is really just using technology to do what we did well before anyway! I tried coming up with a framework that folks could easily explain to others.

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Anonymous said...

Great and fantastic blog.I have read your blog it's really very nice, it’s my first visit.I like very much your way of presentation.I am so much interested to join your network.very few people know that online trust is the key of success of any kind of business.Thanks for sharing this post.Keep blogging.Online trust

vcim said...

I have learned a couple of things from your presentation. Nicely done!
Digital marketing is the promoting of brands using all forms of digital advertising channels to reach consumers. So go ahead and All the best.

SHOBHANA said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. Online Marketing is just one of those things that you have to learn through trial and error, unless your pockets are so deep that you can hire a marketing department. However, I appreciate your message of doing it with integrity.