Instant Trust: Mastering the Art of Building Confidence Online

Instant_TrustInstant trust. The idea conjures up thoughts of ‘love at first sight.’ And, just like that concept, there are many people who swear instant trust is real and others who swear it doesn’t exist.

Gurus seem to be able to tap into some magical reservoir of trust and command the confidence of large numbers of people. They effortlessly persuade them to do their bidding and generate massive amounts of income. The craziest part is that customers seem happy to give the gurus their money – and lots of it, too!

So what is the truth here? Does instant trust exist? If it does, how does it work and can regular mortals like us hope to influence the process?

What is Trust?

Trust is the foundation of true persuasion. If people don’t believe what you are saying, it doesn’t matter what words you choose. Nobody will consider your offer. Some of the factors involved in being trustworthy develop over time, but many of the subtle cues we use to form our opinions about others are evaluated within seconds of our first contact.

First impressions are lasting impressions. That initial impression is a powerful factor in your ability to influence and the effect is long lasting.

The Trust Continuum

Part of what fuels the debate over instant trust is confusion over the nature of trust itself. Trust is not an all or nothing deal. Trust is a continuum. It involves a level of confidence in a person’s trustworthiness measured against the risk involved in the interaction.

That leads to another point of confusion people often have about building trust. You do not always need to establish a high level of trust to achieve your goals. The level of trust you need is proportional to the risks involved in the relationship. If you make a request of someone that involves a small amount of risk, you don’t need much trust. Make a request with a high level of risk and the trust requirement goes up.

Trust levels in a relationship also change over time. Trust is either growing or shrinking based on the positive or negative experiences that accumulate.

Instant trust tends to fall on the low end of the trust continuum. It can be generated quickly using the methods we’ll discuss in the next chapter. But, it is not strong and will require additional support if you intend to make a large request involving high risk. This is one reason why launch promotions for expensive products tend to involve many steps before they ask for the sale.

Imagine these two scenarios. In the first, you walk into a car lot and are greeted by a greasy-looking man with bad teeth, bad breath, and an ugly suit stepping out of a dingy trailer that serves as his office. Before you even say hello, he tells you that you look like the sort of person who really needs a sporty convertible and says he has just the perfect car for you. He grabs you by the arm and leads/pulls you toward the most expensive car on the lot – even if that is the opposite of what you actually want or need.

In the second scenario, you walk onto a well kept car lot with a clean and attractive showroom. The car lot sells a well established brand and this particular location has been doing business for 32 years. A salesman in a crisp blue suit approaches and introduces himself and asks you what sort of vehicle you are looking for.

Which one would you trust more?

Every time a prospect lands on your web page they are having a similar experience. Depending on the risks involved in purchasing from you, they are looking for a degree of confidence that they can trust you and the solution you are selling enough to push the order button.

The good news is that there are many ways to encourage greater trust with prospective customers.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the ways you can build a high level of trust instantly…

5 Keys to Instant Trust

So, how can we accelerate the trust development process with your website visitors? The following five factors are key to ‘trust at first sight.’ They are not the only things impacting the trust relationship, but together they will have a profound influence on whether visitors to your website will take the next step in their relationship with you – whatever that may be.

The 5 Keys to Instant Trust are:

  1. Looking The Part
  2. Getting References
  3. Exposing Yourself
  4. Getting Something Done
  5. Accepting The Risk First

Looking the Part

Appearances count online just the same as offline. If you want to be taken seriously offline, you show up ‘dressed for business.’ You need to do the same online. Your site needs to be well organized and attractive with highly relevant content.

Look at sites that have a high level of status in your market. How are they designed? What ‘trust marks’ do they display?

Model the look and feel of the best websites in your market and you will inherit a certain level of confidence-by-association. Seek out the same trust marks and certifications that they are displaying.

Beyond modeling successful sites, look at the bottom tier websites too. Make sure you are not accidentally triggering negative associations with them.

[Trust Marks] Trust marks are images or logos that marketers place on their websites to show that they have passed various security and privacy tests. They reassure customers that you run a safe and legitimate business. Other trust marks include ‘as seen on’ TV network logos and accreditation logos that imply a level of endorsement for the business.

Getting References

Who do you trust more, a stranger who says “trust me” or someone you’ve been introduced to by a trusted friend or relative?

Professional sales people know that the best lead is one that comes from a personal introduction. That’s why they ask for referrals and introductions.

You need to pursue similar endorsements for your online business as well.

Online, you are looking for links. Facebook ‘likes’, Twitter ‘tweets’, and links from blogs generate visitors who are predisposed to trusting you because you come with an endorsement. The same is true for referrals from affiliates and joint venture partners.

Even an endorsement from someone who has a financial interest in recommending you and your product will raise the level of initial trust for the visitors they send.

Cultivate relationships with prominent people in your market and solicit their endorsements. Place prominent Twitter, Facebook, G+, and other social media interaction tools throughout your site to encourage sharing. Ask people directly to share your links – don’t assume they will think of it on their own.

Another method of displaying endorsements is the placement of testimonials directly onto a web page. Take special care to follow advertising guidelines (like those published in the United States by the Federal Trade Commission) whenever publishing endorsements that include results from using a product.

Endorsements of character, skill, and knowledge are also useful for building trust and confidence.

Exposing Yourself

No, I don’t want you to post risqué photos on your site. What I want you to do is quit hiding from people. Many people trying to do business on the Internet are also trying to hide from their customers. They use private domain registration services and give little contact information on their websites. Do you trust people who hide from you? You have to be willing to trust them before they will trust you.

Go in the opposite direction. Provide contact forms and email addresses for support. Then, go the extra mile with phone numbers (a Google Voice account is great for this) and street addresses. Use your full name and include a photo so people can see you.

The more ways you allow people to contact you, the greater their confidence that you will be there if they need you – just like the other people they trust.

Getting Something Done

People trust success. If you have accomplished something you are instantly more trustworthy than someone who hasn’t. Make sure that you communicate relevant stories about your successes. Share stories about people you have helped. Include pictures of yourself ‘in action.’ Talk about projects you have done. Let people know you are not just talking, but doing as well.

Have you ever noticed how marketing gurus like to post up pictures of themselves speaking at conferences? I’m sure they have other photos they could use. But those images create a subconscious impression of accomplishment. You see them standing on a stage in front of a room full of people and think to yourself, “Other people have paid big money and traveled long distances to hear what this person has to say. She must be good!” Show your own success.

If you can get other people to share these stories on your behalf, you can stack the benefit of an endorsement on top of an accomplishment.

Accepting the Risk First

Last, but not least, take the first step and trust your customer before asking them to trust you.

There are a few ways to do this. First, you can give access to some (or all) of your material before the prospect has to pay. You can let them see the value with their own eyes before making a purchasing decision. This is a huge perceived risk on your part. Your willingness to take the chance of them using your ideas and not paying shows you have great confidence in the value of your product which will increase their trust in you.

A second method to assume risk is to offer amazing guarantees. A 30/60/90 day guarantee with 100% satisfaction or your money back goes a long way toward building trust. Some people go one extra step and offer lifetime guarantees or double your money back guarantees. In the world of digital products the cost of such guarantees is far outweighed by the increased trust and sales.

Would you like to do something really radical? Add a testimonial from a person, who bought the product, then realized it wasn’t for them, and was impressed by the prompt and courteous refund they were given (of course, make sure they mention how awesome the product is – just not the right fit for them!) People will be impressed with how you honored your promises and the confidence you show in your own value by not being afraid to post negative information.

The Power of Video for Building Instant Trust

“58% [of people surveyed] consider companies that produce online video to be more trustworthy.”

Demonstrate the power of video to ‘know’ somebody. Animoto conducted a survey of 1104 people in December, 2013. They were examining the impact of videos on customer purchasing decisions. One interesting finding was that “58% [of people surveyed] considered companies that produce online video to be more trustworthy.” These results back up earlier studies done by Walker Sands and Invodo. The bottom line of this research is that online videos are powerfully persuasive.

Some of the reasons why video is such a powerful tool is because it allows you to…

  • Use body language
  • Deliver subtext
  • Make eye contact

The biggest mistake people make when starting out making videos is trying to ‘perform’ for the camera. Persuasive video is not about trying to become someone else, but rather showing your best and most authentic self. Everyone is multifaceted, and your objective should be to show the facets that are relevant to your audience.

How to be likable in your videos…

  • Cultivate a warm smile
  • Use an open body posture (no slouching)
  • Be relaxed
  • Make eye contact (look into the lens)
  • Tell relevant stories
  • Concentrate on the viewer (their wants, needs, frustrations)
  • Always speak to one person because your videos will mostly be consumed by one person at a time

Strengthening the Bonds of Trust

Instant trust strategies are great, but when you want people to take large risks (like purchasing expensive products and services from you) you are going to have to strengthen those initial bonds of trust. Once that trust is re-enforced, you can make your request.

3 Pathways to Strengthening the Bonds of Trust

  1. Frequency
  2. Demonstrating Your Knowledge
  3. Telling your Stories


Regular contact creates familiarity. If the contact is generally positive, it will build a level of comfort that will make it easier to trust you. Keep in regular contact with people, through email, social media, ad retargeting, etc. And, make sure to be a consistent and positive presence in their lives.

Demonstrating Your Knowledge

Demonstrating your knowledge shows your audience that you understand them and you know your topic. It shows you are actively engaged and relevant. You don’t have to give away everything you know for free when it comes to demonstrating your knowledge, but everything you do give must be useful.

Here are a few things you can do to demonstrate your knowledge…

  • Publish White Papers/Special Reports
  • Share Statistical Data (you know your topic and audience)
  • Show new industry developments (engaged and relevant)
  • Publish Info Graphics
  • Publish Case Studies
  • Host Webinars/Hangouts
    • Builds familiarity (liking)
    • Gives results for audience (reciprocity)
    • Leverage other people’s expertise
  • Publish Videos
    • Short topics (5 minutes or less)
    • Builds familiarity
    • Allows for body language and subtext
  • Teach Courses
  • Lead Seminars
  • Blog

Telling Your Stories

Stories are magical.

The first challenge you face every time you attempt to persuade someone is getting past their critical filters – better known as the little voice in their heads saying things like, “okay, what’s the catch” or “what are they hiding?” Fail to get around the filters and they won’t even hear the rest of what you have to say. They will tune you right out because they don’t trust you.

That first challenge may be tough, but getting past the filters is only the beginning. Once you succeed in getting past the critical filters, you still have to figure out a way to influence and persuade.

Stories work like persuasion magic. Their magical power comes from their unique ability to bypass the critical filters of a listener and tap into their emotions – and emotions are the key trigger to influence.

The first thing that happens when a person hears a story is that they drop their defenses. Stories are perceived as entertainment, so they don’t feel like persuasion. People tend to relax a bit and listen. If the story is well told, they get swept up in it and go along for the ride.

Next, listeners align themselves with at least one of the characters in the story. Most people choose the main character or ‘hero’ to align with. The hero’s thoughts, actions, and words become (at least briefly) their own and they consider them in a way that would not happen during a reason-based argument.

Finally, people experience the emotions of the hero as she struggles and then triumphs against the odds and becomes the person they dream of being and attains a goal they also aspire too.

From beginning to end, people engage with a story and experience an emotional journey. When the story ends, they are primed with the dominant emotion of the story.

Another powerful aspect of stories is that people like to share them. Heartwarming stories, humorous stories, and educational content are the most likely to be passed along.

It should be pretty obvious, at this point, that stories have a tremendous amount of power for influencing people. But not all stories are created equal. As a business person you need to tell stories that get result. It is not enough just to be entertaining.

There are six core stories that you need to tell in your business. Each one tells prospective customers something important about you that builds trust in you and your ability to help them.

The 6 Core stories you should tell…

  1. Origin Story
  2. Why I am Here Right Now
  3. My Personal Vision
  4. My Special Skills
  5. Stories of My Values-in-Action
  6. I Know What You are Thinking (I get You/I’m Like You)

The first 4 stories should be fairly evergreen in nature, so once you craft them you should be able to publish them and move on. Stories 5 and 6 are constantly evolving as your business grows. You will add new stories that demonstrate your values in action as they happen, and telling stories that demonstrate your understanding of your audience will change as you get to know them better. As your business grows, you will focus more on a specific group of customers you like to work with and understand well. Translate that knowledge into more specific stories that will attract and build trust with other similar people.


Now that you understand the nature of instant trust, how to quickly establish trust, and how to nurture and deepen trust, it is time to get busy crafting marketing campaigns that leverage this information. If you have any thoughts or questions on building trust, leave a comment below.

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