Forming brand relationships with prospects online is not so different from the way we form relationships in life. The fundamentals are rooted in honesty, respect, and trust.
For digital-native companies, the first shot at rooting a relationship in these values is the product site. It is the all-important first impression, tasked with shaping the way customers see you before even talking to you. It’s your shot at conveying the value of everything you’ve built, expressing how you’re different, demonstrating empathy, and, perhaps most important, proving you can be trusted to solve their problem. The best product sites check these boxes, and ultimately convert anonymous visitors into personal conversations and customers.
Forming brand relationships with prospects online is not so different from the way we form relationships in life.
Sounds like a lot. And it is. But it’s doable if you focus on the fundamentals. In this guide, I’ll share my learnings to get you headed in the right direction for creating trust on your product site.
Step 1 - Say less, say it well
Let’s say you’re at a cocktail party amongst friends. Someone you’ve been interested in is across the room. You make eye contact, they smile, you make the long walk over to talk. What’s a good next step to elicit trust?
- A.) Say everything that’s on your mind
- B.) Immediately ask them to hold hands
- C.) Ask questions, talk some, listen more
Ding ding ding. If you answered C, you are correct! The norms of relationship-building are obvious in real-world contexts, but we sometimes lose track of them when there’s a screen in between, mediating the conversation. Here’s how you can translate real-world principles to your product site:
Don’t say everything on your mind. Especially during the first conversation. I get it, you’re excited to share all the technical details and benefits on your product site. You should be! There will be a time to share all that goodness during future touches. For product sites, embrace brevity. Trim, trim, and then trim a little more. Understand that your visitors are busy, distracted, and read less today than ever before. Saying less and saying it well demonstrates you respect their time, and proves you have a strong grasp on the value you deliver. Few things are more impressive than being able to simplify a complex message into a snackable, on-brand one-liner. If you’re able to do it like Slack, Hubspot, Olio, and PriceIntelligently then you’ll be well on your way.
For product sites, embrace brevity.
Don’t immediately ask them to hold hands. The product site equivalent of this is over-using disruptive call-to-actions and pop-ups. Your prospects are smart. They know how to navigate a website. They also know what information they need from you before feeling like they’re ready to take the relationship to the next level… and a disruptive call-to-action isn’t it. I’m not suggesting CTAs are a bad thing. The key is allowing users to take action on their own terms, not telling them when they’re ready. This is how you begin to strike a balance between branding and demand generation on your product site.
Allow users to take action on their own terms
Step 2- Tell ‘em what your friends say
When forming a relationship, it’s nice to have someone’s good character validated by others. It’s also nice to know the company they keep and what those people say about them. Try this: Listen in next time you see two people meet for the first time. Establishing common relationships is a go-to tactic for establishing trust.
This offline principle perfectly applies to your product site. Here are a few of the best ways I’ve seen it executed:
If you’re manning the ship for a B2B product where the time to value is longer and the entry price is higher, proving credibility is crucial. Prospects need to know someone else has come before them, made the investment, and seen results. And they need to see it early in their brand relationship with your business. Sound like you? Take easy steps like embedding customer or partner logos near conversion points.
Prospects need to know someone else has come before them, made the investment, and seen results.
Go a little further by dedicating prominent homepage real estate to customer quotes like Canvas, investing in video customer testimonials like Gong, and creating a dedicated customer page like InsightSquared. For bonus points, embed reviews from third-party sites like G2 Crowd and even point them there to learn more like Greenlight Guru. Just make sure your page looks legit and you actually want prospects reading the reviews.
Many of the same principles apply to B2C or B2U products where time to value is fast and cost of entry is negligible, the tactics are just sliced a little differently. You’ll still want to show customer logos and quotes, but the depth of reviews won’t be so heavy-handed. Instead, inspire prospects with quick examples of how other brands use your product like Airtable does, surface app-store ratings like Loom, and display the number of downloads or geographic reach like Thumbtack.
Step 3- Respect the role of design
Alright last relationship analogy, I promise. There are universally accepted ways to present yourself to smooth your path to relationship building. Now, I understand this is contextual, but stick with me. Most would agree you shouldn’t wear overalls to a business casual happy hour, swim trunks to a board meeting, or rock a mullet to an interview. You should also shower, brush your teeth, and maintain overall reasonable personal hygiene. Our culture has adopted these unspoken “rules” for presenting oneself within a business context. Adhering to them shows others you get it, you’ve been around the block, you’re not a maverick, and you can be trusted… at least initially.
In a similar way, universal design standards exist for how businesses present themselves. They are established by leading global brands who use design to shape the way consumers see them. And in doing so, consumers are conditioned to know what a trustworthy brand looks like.
Leading global brands use design to shape the way consumers see them.
Sound fluffy? Some of the most valuable technology brands in the world don’t seem to think so. Companies like Airbnb, Dropbox, Uber, and others spin up dedicated teams to maintain innovative cultures and project innovative and trustworthy images. You can project this image on your product site by considering the following tips:
Detailed spacing: Align elements and give each plenty of room to live. This means your pages are going to get longer. No sweat, we’re all used to scrolling now. The iPhone X product page exemplifies detailed spacing and is super long, too.
Clear information hierarchy: Think about your product site one vertical scroll section at a time. Each section should have a clear purpose and an obvious hierarchy. Try breaking each into three pieces: headline, supporting copy, and relevant imagery.
Sprinkle in some delighters: Subtle, smart animations that add value to the experience show your attention to detail and project sophistication. But don’t go too far and hijack the experience. Stripe nicely strikes this balance.
Love it or hate it, your product site is your first impression in a brand relationship with a prospect. If you nail it you’ll earn their trust and have the opportunity to take the relationship to the next level. But if you miss the mark you’ll never get a chance to show how great of a partner you can be.