Being liked is obviously important for your business. Apple comes to mind immediately as a company that presented itself as friendly and approachable and rose to the top of an industry that hadn't been noted for warmth. So yes, do everything you can to make your business likeable.

But you also need to be trusted. People are more likely to do business with a company they trust but don't especially like than with a company they like but don't especially trust.

Trust isn't just about truth-telling and reliability, as essential as those are. Trust also depends on self-presentation, how you tell your story. If you appear negligent, sloppy, or unable to put yourself in the consumer's place, that trust won't be there.

Here are some key areas in which you might be sabotaging yourself:

Your website starts you off on the wrong foot.

A poorly designed, clumsily executed website can be a catastrophe for any business, not just companies that are strictly e-commerce. Even for a brick-and-mortar establishment, the website is often where you'll be making a first impression. If your website doesn't inspire confidence, the potential customer is likely to conclude that you're slipshod in other areas.

A remarkable number of businesses don't even make it clear upfront what they do. You need to make your value proposition obvious: What do you do, and how does that benefit the customer? How are you different from your competition? Don't assume, communicate.

Make sure the pages--especially the landing page--aren't too busy-looking and that they neither skimp on information nor assault the eye with too many graphics, too much verbal content, too much movement, or images and fonts that simply don't go with your brand and voice. Make sure your site is easily navigable.

Quality control also goes for grammar, mechanics, and spelling. It's possible you're dealing with potential customers who won't notice or care much, but there's no point in alienating the ones who do.

Make sure the pages load quickly. The overwhelming majority of internet users consider four seconds the limit of their patience, and a slow site puts you at risk of Google ranking you below faster sites.

Remember: A sub-par website makes it look like you either don't care about the impression you make or that you're not successful enough to afford competent designers and writers.

People aren't talking about you and your product.

According to Invesp, 99 percent of customers read online reviews, while 88 percent trust reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations, and 72 percent prefer to take action only after reading a favorable review. Nothing works quite like the word of a satisfied customer.

Pursue the review. According to Search Engine Land, 70 percent of customers say they're willing to leave a review if asked. You can attract reviews by engaging directly with customers on social media and in blogs and comment sections. As reviews come in, share them on your website and social media channels.

Don't let negative reviews scare you. If there's a problem, fix it, but if you don't allow any negativity to appear, customers might think you're hiding something. A few negative reviews can add to your credibility by demonstrating transparency and a willingness to learn.

You're inactive or spotty on social media.

This point relates to the previous one. If you go silent for a while, potential customers may conclude that you're out of business, or not well-organized enough to carry on social media activity amid your other business functions, or that you're uninterested in interacting with and learning from them.

If there's little or no discussion, potential customers may decide you're apathetic, out of touch, or suppressing unflattering truths.

A weak social media presence also deprives you of the benefits of influencer marketing, whether you have official relationships with influencers or are simply fortunate enough to have people out there praising you.

As with websites, make sure the writing isn't sloppy. Even if you're aiming for the common touch, there is nothing to be gained from errors in spelling, grammar, or usage.

You're inaccurate.

For a start, never make a false claim about what your goods or services can do for the customer. But accuracy goes far beyond insisting on honesty. It also involves keeping the commitments you make when you discuss customer service turnaround time. If you promise results in a given time-frame and then don't deliver, you can forget about being trusted.

You also should make sure all information about products, services, events, and special promotions is accurate across all channels. Every communications medium, whether it's your website or any person who speaks for your company in any capacity, should be completely in sync. That way no one is eroding trust by contradicting someone else.

You don't build relationships.

Today's connected consumer is suspicious of overt attempts to sell something. A too-obvious zeal for the sale can erode trust, and savvy marketers provide useful information on topics not directly related to the product itself. For example, a life insurance company might post blogs about health and lifestyle matters, or family dynamics. You earn trust by giving something away.

A good relationship also entails providing plenty of information about how to use the product after purchase, in addition to follow-ups from customer service personnel. Don't act like the relationship is over as soon as you make the sale. Try instead for a never-ending customer journey.

In the last analysis...

Most of this comes down to the simple act of putting yourself in the consumer's place. They know you're in business to make money, but they need to see you as someone who will help them solve a problem or meet a need. To earn and keep their trust, be clear about who you are and what you do, present your information in a user-friendly way, keep your entire team on the same page, and make yourself part of an open discussion. Not only will customers trust you, chances are they'll like you too.

Published on: Aug 9, 2018