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Copyright © 2000-2013
by Barbara Brabec
All Rights Reserved
Barbara Brabec's World
Marketing in the
Age of Skepticism"
How to Build Customer Trust
and Get New Business
by Barbara Brabec
A NEW READER ONCE SAID of my subscription newsletter, "You may be a hoax and
you're really a grumpy gremlin raking in money in a cave—but your publication
comes across as being written by a warm and caring person, so I shall picture
you that way."
While that letter gave me a chuckle, it also reminded me that we were then
living in what Direct Marketing Magazine (now out
of print) called "The Age of Skepticism" or, "the age in which nobody believes
anybody, in which claims of superiority are challenged just because they're
claims, in which consumers express surprise when something they buy actually
performs the way it was advertised to perform."
What's interesting about this quote is that it was made years before the
Internet began to impact the daily lives of both business owners and consumers.
Now, thanks to the Internet, we're living in what one might call the "New Age of
Skepticism," because today it's not only consumers who have become skeptical,
but business owners themselves. Many of my readers have written to me about
their experiences with buyers in foreign countries who gave them a stolen credit
card, or asked to pay with a money order that turned out to be counterfeit (see
"Counterfeit Money Orders and Credit Cards That Seem Okay").
From the consumer point of view, we're also seeing a different kind of
skepticism than what we saw ten or twenty years ago. Now many consumers are
worried that they won't even receive the products they've ordered, let alone
whether they will be as advertised. According to
Consumer Fraud Reporting,
Internet auction fraud is now one of the most reported offenses by consumers,
and work-at-home scams, matrix, multi-level marketing. and pyramid schemes are
also high on the list.
Professionalism is Key
Whether you’re selling a product or a service on the Web today, your website
needs to look as professional as possible, have a good navigation system with no
broken links, and include sales and descriptive copy that is not only
grammatically correct, but clearly explains each or your products and services
in a way that leaves no doubt as to what buyers will receive
if they order from you.
You also need to guarantee satisfaction or money back. You can't just say it
simply like that, however. Your guarantee must clearly disclose the terms,
conditions, and extent of the guarantee, plus the manner in which you will
perform the guarantee. FTC standards require not just a statement, such as
"Satisfaction guaranteed or money back," but a detailed explanation, such as
"If not completely satisfied with the merchandise, return it in good condition
within ten days to receive a complete refund of the purchase price."
Other Ways to Make Buyers Trust You
and Buy From You
Here are some suggestions gleaned from discussions with various business owners
in my network:
"Give the best service possible," says a website designer. "Since most service
business rely on referrals and word-of-mouth advertising, this is absolutely
essential for success."
"Serve your clients well, charge a fair fee for your services, and always be
truthful," says a medical-legal consultant. "Truth and honesty are old-fashioned
virtues that should (though often do not) apply to today's world."
"Provide the best service and on-time quality work at affordable prices. I
truly listen to my customers and always give them a little extra on the job,"
says an artist and product designer. "Of course, it is important to point out
what extra you have provided at no charge, both verbally or on the written
invoice. It's often the little things that prompt word-of-mouth advertising and
"Add a personal touch," says an accessories designer.
"I still include a handwritten card with every purchase because I think folks
miss the personal touch and this gesture is my way of fulfilling it."
You'll notice a common thread running through the above remarks, which is the
importance of doing everything possible to get the good word-of-mouth
advertising that is so critical to the success of any self-employed individual.
You will always look good to your customers or clients if you are always sincere
when promoting yourself, your products, or your services, and always give good
service. Whenever possible, give your customers or clients something extra
they’re not expecting. This could be something as simple as a follow-up email or
phone call. In fact, a phone call would be an ideal way to ask if they would
give you a little testimonial, which you will offer to write for them, of
course, based on whatever kind things they have just said to you during the
phone conversation. (Be sure to run the finished testimonial copy by them for
their approval before using it in your promotional materials or on your
Ultimately, the degree of success you achieve in business will have much to do
with how credible you are perceived to be. In their book, Credibility: How
Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It, co-authors James M. Kouzes and
Barry Z. Posner offer this simple method for strengthening credibility: DWYSYWD—do
what you say you will do.
"Credibility is mostly about consistency between words and deeds," they say.
"People listen to the words and look at the deeds. Then they measure the
congruence. A judgment of 'credible' is handed down when the two are consonant."
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