New Book: Roadmap For Starting a Business

Building Customer Trust When You Have Zero Sales

8 min read

Imagine coming across a website that you haven’t visited before. You like the products they’re selling but know nothing about the brand, if the products are good quality, or what their customer service (if any) is like. 

The logical next step would be to search for customer reviews to find out if others had a satisfactory experience with the brand. If you don’t find proof that anyone has purchased from the website, you will most likely think it isn’t legit and won’t risk making a purchase. 

And that’s a major problem for any entrepreneur just starting out. It’s a classic “what came first” conundrum. You have to establish trust with potential customers to make sales, but you have to have some sort of sales history to gain customer trust. 

 

The Fix: Move Beyond Social Proof

Social proof, word-of-mouth marketing, customer reviews - those are all incredibly strong factors that establish trust among potential customers. But you can’t magically arrive at the stage where you’re racking in all of the good press without starting from ground zero.

We all know from our personal lives that trust is something that takes time to build and that it must be earned. By emulating as businesses the same qualities we would as individuals, we can present ourselves in a trustworthy light. 

 Characteristics that inspire trust:

  1. Availability. Think about people you trust. You know they will be there for you when you need them, right? In the business world, this transfers over to responsiveness and customer service. Being readily available signals commitment and seriousness, both important ingredients in building trust.
  2. Openness and Authenticity. Distrust is born when we feel like someone is hiding something or pretending to be someone they’re not. Grab any opportunity you can to engage in conversations with clients. Openly talk about and showcase all aspects of your business. When your customers feel like they know who you are, a relationship is automatically established.
  3. Dependability. Without dependability there is no trust. It means making a promise, keeping that promise, and doing so time and time again. 

All of these qualities are key components in establishing trust with customers and can all be achieved without social proof.

Case Study

Heather recently launched an online jewelry shop. She’s invested heavily in her branding, products, and web design. Although her marketing strategies are bringing people to the website, she knows the biggest hurdle she faces is inspiring customer trust as a small, unknown jewelry designer. 

Reviews are a huge signal for potential customers about the legitimacy of an online business, but without those first sales Heather must first focus on presenting her brand as trustworthy. 

  • First, she enlists family and friends to objectively review her website and determine if they would order from it not knowing it was hers. Heather works on fixing discrepancies and incorporating her reviewers’ suggestions for more clarity and transparency.
  • Instead of being just another faceless retailer, Heather decides to “humanize” her brand by making her story just as much a part of the company as her jewelry. She posts photos and videos of herself making and wearing the jewelry and tells the backstory of what inspired her to start designing in the first place.
  • Heather creates a solid return policy with free shipping and a full refund. This signals to customers that she is confident in her products, and customers will feel more confident as well knowing they can return without any financial burden.
  • She also creates a comprehensive FAQ page to answer all the questions she thinks customers might have, adding an extra layer of transparency to her website. 

Combined and executed correctly, these efforts can provide customers with enough evidence to deem you a trustworthy business. 

 

6 Strategies to Inspire Trust

These strategies embody the three main components of trust we discussed earlier. When building a reputation from scratch, aim to utilize as many of these tactics as possible. 

  1. Share the human side of your business. Tell your story, utilize photos and videos to show behind-the-scenes happenings, and showcase your industry knowledge. Your visitors will see that you aren’t some fabricated business being operated from who knows where, but a real person with dreams and passion. This will help breathe authenticity and credibility into your brand.
  2. Show commitment through your content. Would a website with two blog posts from a year ago or an Instagram profile that posts every three weeks make you think a brand is legitimate? Probably not. Providing consistent, quality, and useful content on a regular basis demonstrates you are invested in your business and committed to providing value to anyone who crosses your pages, customers or not.
  3. Make security a priority. Theft of financial information is a major concern for shoppers. Add security boosting apps and plug-ins to your website as well as multiple payment options to inspire trust from consumers considering clicking the “place order” button.
  4. Create a generous return policy. Free return-shipping within thirty days with a full money-back guarantee will ease reluctant customers into making a purchase. Like we mentioned above, it shows that you are confident in your own products and lowers the risk customers assume when purchasing from an unknown retailer. Highlight the return policy on each product page and dedicate a full and complete outline of it in your FAQs. 
  5. Be responsive to customer questions. It’s no secret that running a business is an around-the-clock job. If you receive an email from a potential client in the evening, during the weekend, or even on a holiday, do your best to respond as soon as you can with as much detail as possible. And we cannot stress enough how important good grammar and spelling is when communicating with customers! 
  6. Have a robust FAQ page. Your FAQ page says everything you would say when talking to a customer about your business. Its purpose is to inform visitors about your brand and products in greater detail, overcome any objections you can predict, and make potential customers comfortable with purchasing from you. By showing expertise and professionalism on this page, it will help alleviate any skepticism. 

 

It isn’t much of a conundrum after all. Trust must be established before sales can take place. Every new business starts with zero social proof, but by using the strategies we’ve outlined, you will be in a better position to ring in those first sales and build a shining reputation. 

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