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On the Web, They Won't Believe You Until They Trust You

How much of what you read online can be trusted?

If owners of small and medium-size businesses who use the Internet to promote their companies could answer that question, their sales would be unprecedented and they could all retire early. But simply having your company’s products or services listed on a Web site isn’t enough.

Andy Martin, president of Al Dente Marketing, says potential users have to trust the source of the information they are reading.

“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 Web site or corporate blog,” he says.

What matters most, says Martin, is who talks about you and who actually listens to them. And no one will be listening if the information your company puts out isn’t solid. And that’s where the “Online Trust Ladder” comes in.

The new concept, developed by Al Dente, is a framework that sheds light on how purchase decisions are influenced in today's marketing reality. “The Online Trust Ladder is the invisible ranking that people give to what they read, and who has written it online,” says Martin, an international marketer and entrepreneur. “They develop their trust level in a staged process we call the Online Trust Ladder.”

The Orlando firm offers a range of solutions geared specifically to improve online brand perception, impact and results - moving purchasers naturally up the Online Trust Ladder. In order to tap into the OTL and have it work for your company, Martin offers tips to help medium-sized businesses.

He encourages owners to set up meetings with independent analysts who are paid to focus on your industry, so they can review your business, services or products.  He points out that owners should  learn what the analysts think is most important, and why. Conversely, the analysts should have a clear understanding of the benefits you offer.

Developing relationships with key critics or thought leaders in your industry is also important in utilizing the Online Trust Ladder because those aficionados can sing your praises online, says the company president.

“A great way to get their attention is through online press releases,” Martin says.  “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.”

Reaching out to bloggers who are considered informal experts can also work to your advantage.  Giving them the first look at a product or service might get them talking about your company, which in turn might pique the interest of potential customers.

Don’t be afraid to publish the feedback – good or bad, says Martin. He points to the Domino's Pizza user group TV ads as a way of a company's turning a negative into a positive. The take on the ad also lets customers know that the company values their opinions.

Publishing customer testimonials or product recommendations online is another way to get others to take as truth what they read about your company.

And finally, don’t forget the freebies.

“By giving something for free you are encouraging a “no pressure” opportunity for a potential new client to evaluate your business,” Martin says. “In addition, they are likely to tell their friends or colleagues about it if they like it.”

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