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Heather Seitz: How to Build Credibility and Trust with Your Subscriber List

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One of the reasons an email marketing campaign can perform badly is a lack of trust and credibility with your subscribers.

It’s no secret that skepticism is the default position of many people towards marketers and media in general these days.  It doesn’t help that legitimate email marketers send their messages to the same inbox as scammers and spammers.

It’s a truism in marketing that people buy from those they know, like and trust. The challenge is that there are many ways you can unwittingly damage your credibility with your subscribers.

But the good news is there are at least 7 ways to intentionally build trust with your list, starting from the moment a new subscriber opts in.

Here are 7 ways to build credibility and trust with your subscriber list:

1) Deliver on your opt in offer: It’s amazing how many email marketers drop the ball right at the beginning of their relationship with new subscribers.  It goes without saying that if your opt in process is broken in any way, that doesn’t get you started on the right foot.  Make sure your links work and that every promise made on your opt in offer are delivered to the best of your ability.  If you want to assure that you’ve done your best, over-deliver in some way.

It’s worth assuming that your opt in offer is the one and only thing that your new subscriber will bother to look at. With that in mind, you may want to read the following trust building suggestions and incorporate at least some of them into your opt in offer.

2) Set expectations: This is related to the first point.  It’s a good idea to set expectations in your initial welcome email and opt in offer.  If you promise a daily tip newsletter, you’ll build credibility when your emails arrive every day.  It’s subtle, but meeting expectations or exceeding them builds credibility on a conscious and unconscious level.

There are many ways big and small that you can set expectations.  The more you weave in things that your subscriber can expect and then deliver on them, the more trustworthy you will become in their eyes.  You could say in one email that you are planning on doing a special Q&A webinar where you will answer questions from subscribers.  When you hold the webinar, record it and then promote the replay to the list.

Even if most of your subscribers don’t actually watch the replay, they’ll at least know you did what you said you were going to do, and that is the main purpose of this exercise in addition to the value offered on the webinar.

3) Take strong positions and stick with them:  There are many good reasons to take strong positions and stand out from your competitors.  But this goes beyond branding and positioning.  If you are in the fitness industry and have a strong opinion about the detrimental risks of long, slow cardio, then your subscribers will associate that opinion with you.  Those who agree with you will feel validated that you stand so firmly on the issue.

However, one way to trash your credibility is to mail offers to your list that promote long slow cardio, such as with an affiliate offer.   That is not to say that you can never change your position, but it does mean that you’ll want to explain any deviation from your past statements.  Too many marketers build a reputation for saying anything that will get the sale and their subscribers learn not to take their words seriously over time.

4) Stick to Deadlines:  If you’ve ever noticed that a certain furniture store near you seems to have ‘going out of business’ liquidation sales every year, then you will relate to this trap that marketers fall into.  If you tell your list that you’re having a 3 day sale on your most popular course or that a special bonus disappears at midnight, it can be a real trust breaker to blow that deadline off.

It’s not that you can’t get more sales if there is a believable reason why you extend the deadline, but far too many marketers simply leave up the web page with the special offer perpetually.  When subscribers see this, at a minimum they won’t take your deadlines seriously. At worst, they’ll stop reading your emails at all.

5) Be Careful What You Endorse: There are two basic philosophies when it comes to email marketing.  The first is very aggressive and anything goes.  If something converts, mail it to your list and pocket the profits.  Inevitably, this mercenary strategy results in promoting something that converts even though it is an inferior or disappointing product.  When this happens, subscribers burn out and unsubscribe.

Marketers who insist on pursuing this strategy are counting on new subscribers to replace those who drop off.  The second strategy is to nurture a longer term relationship with subscribers and that means being selective in what is promoted. Only the best products make the grade and that builds trust with subscribers. If you want to build trust and credibility, you’ll want to stick with the second strategy.

6) Self-Deprecate: Most people eventually realize that nothing and no one is perfect in this life.  Therefore, when marketers hype up themselves or their promotions without acknowledging any flaws, it reduces trust.  While it makes sense to maintain a position of authority with your list by demonstrating expertise, it can do wonders to admit flaws and share trials and tribulations in your emails.

An added benefit to self-deprecation if you are in a business that involves selling ‘how to’ information products is that your subscribers will feel they can succeed if they relate to you and your flaws.  If you are perfect, super human, after all, that may be the reason for your success and not your products.  Ideally, you want to be perceived as ‘just like’ your subscriber, just further down the path to success.  That way, your subscriber can believe that if you can do what you are teaching, they can too.

7) Take Something Away: This is a variation of the suggestion to set expectations, but it’s worth highlighting because it has a very specific purpose.  People want what they can’t have.  That is a truism that marketing campaigns live and die by.  This strategy involves making an offer early on in your in an autoresponder sequence so that every subscriber gets to see it.

The purpose is to make a bold and desirable offer with a very limited window of opportunity to take advantage of it.  The important part isn’t to focus on the number of sales, it is to take the offer off the table.  As mentioned before, of course you’ll want to make the deadline stick.  But that is not the point.

The goal is to announce to your list that the offer is sold out to set the tone for future offers.  By taking away the offer as promised or having it sell out quickly, your subscriber is going to perceive future offers with a higher degree of urgency.  It is important not to ‘hard sell’ this takeaway.  It’s an exclusive offer in limited quantity and the perception should be that only a lucky few will be able to purchase.  Since it doesn’t matter how many you sell, you can freely charge a premium price for this offer.

This offer should come early on in your autoresponder sequence, but probably not before the first 5 to 7 emails because your initial emails will most likely be focused on delivering content and relationship building.

If you take the time to implement one or more of these strategies, you can systematize a trust building sequence that maximizes the number of people on your list who know, like and trust you so that your promotions have the highest chance of success.  The higher conversions over time can more than pay for the extra effort to take these trust building steps.

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