Slaying the credibility trolls

Sonia over at Copyblogger has a great piece on “The #1 Conversion Killer in Your Copy (And How to Beat It).”

What makes people almost buy? What makes them get most of the way there, then drop out of your shopping cart at the last second? What makes them stare at your landing page, wanting what you have to offer, and yet, ultimately, close the page and move on to something else?

It turns out there’s a hideous troll hiding under the bridge. Every time you get close to making a sale, the troll springs out and scares your prospect away. Get rid of the troll and your copy will start converting better than it ever has before.

The ugly, smelly, dirty, bad-mannered troll is prospect fear. And it’s sitting there right now, stinking up your landing page and scaring good customers away.

She does a great job of explaining where the “conversion troll” comes from, and she’s 100% correct. If you’ve grown up in this society, you have probably have a degree of well-justified trepidation about trusting the claims of those trying to sell you something.

I’d go her one better, though, because I feel like the principles she’s articulating when she says that “[t]rustworthiness, transparency, credible authority, lots of high-value content, and just plain old decency are your best weapons” apply to a lot more than the point of sale. I’ve had the argument over and over again, in the context of PR and a variety of marketing communications discussions, about how important it is to build credibility through acknowledging the reader’s reality.

Old school PR pretty much never admitted that anything bad had happened. The whole world can see that the corporate headquarters is being strafed by dragons and the official comment would be something along the lines of “we’re aware of certain operational challenges and expect to have them all sorted out shortly.” That’s if there were any official comment. I used to deal with a large corporate group whose PR motto could have been “no comment.” I couldn’t get them to talk about even the least controversial subjects for an employee newsletter. I joked that you could have replaced the whole PR group with an answering machine. “Hi, you’ve reached the ABC Corporation Public Relations Office. No comment. Thanks for calling.”

The problem with this approach is that you can only communicate if you have credibility, and you have no credibility if you refuse to acknowledge what the audience knows and believes. If they think your service is shoddy and you lead with “we’re committed to outstanding customer service,” you’re either going to get dismissed out of hand or yelled at, and neither is conducive to a strong customer relationship.

So yeah – credibility (which stems from frankness), trustworthiness, transparency and a content base that reflects your belief in an honest conversation, these things are the key to killing off the conversion troll as well as his relatives, many of which lurk around other parts of your business.

Food for thought…

Thanks to Jim Burnett for passing this story along.

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