Trust is a value in itself. It is the axis around which relationships are built and around which they crumble. Trust is vital to every relationship and it is an important determinant of who we do business with and who does business with us.
When clients trust us to do our work, we are more daring, more creative; we provide more value and our reputation soars. Trust is a lofty idea, but also a pragmatic one. The trust we build with our clients is directly correlated to how much they will be willing to pay for our products and services. Of course it is not the only factor, but it is a crucial factor.
In this post, I explore 5 ways to build trust with clients:
Disclaimer: Some details have been changed to protect the privacy of my clients.
1. Always look out for the client’s best interest
This may not always seem like the most lucrative road. But that’s only if you’re into taking short cuts. Building a business is a long and winding road. If you’re in for the long haul, you’ll be rewarded.
I recently had a prospective client ask me how much it would cost her to write the English copy for her company website. Before I provide a price quote, I always ask for details about the project. The prospective client, let’s call her Sandra, told me she has both Hebrew-speaking clients and English-speaking ones, but that most of her clients are Hebrew speaking. I then asked Sandra why she was asking me for a price quote for a website in English. “Oh,” she said, “I’ll start with the English and then translate it to Hebrew.” I went on to explain that if her main target audience is Hebrew speakers it’s best to focus on them – that means writing the Hebrew website before her English website.
I don’t write Hebrew copy. (But here is my recommendation if that’s what you need – Mali Beker.)
No doubt that if Sandra gets around to her English website, she’ll come back to me to write the copy. But the point is, I could never be considered a professional had I suggested anything else than what was in Sandra’s best interest. And whether or not I end up doing business with Sandra in the future, there exists a basis of trust between us.
2. Keep your word
There are many things that influence the bottom line but are difficult to implement – innovation can be difficult, reducing production costs may be impossible, developing new target audiences may take a lot of time and creativity. But there’s one thing that costs no money, does not take any time to implement and will profoundly affect your bottom line. And that’s keeping your word.
I recently had an important price negotiation with a client. I knew that if I wanted to succeed I needed to understand my value. What’s the best way to understand the value we provide our clients with? It’s asking them.
When we develop the courage to pick up the phone and ask our clients what they think about our products or services, we’re surprised to find out how eager they are to tell us what they love about us. And after speaking to a few clients, we’ll discover patterns, things that keep coming up.
One of the things that kept coming up in conversations with my own clients, is that they knew they could rely on me to keep my word. When I provide a client with a date – the date I’ll deliver the work, I make sure it’s a deadline I can meet, or otherwise I’ll pull an all-nighter to make sure I meet it. But I’ll never miss a deadline.
Moreover, keeping our word, does not only evoke trust, it makes us valuable. It makes us valuable because people can rely on us. And we all want to do business with people we can rely on.
3. Show Your Expertise
This is a tip I learned from Charlie Kalech. When a prospective client picks up the phone, they may or may not know much about us. No matter what though, it’s a fantastic opportunity to build trust by showing our value whether or not they become paying clients. Providing clients with value even before they’ve paid you a dime, or a shekel, is another wonderful way to build trust, it doesn’t cost a penny, and like keeping your word, it can profoundly affect your bottom line.
I had a conversation with a prospective client who needed copy for a website. Let’s call him Don. Don is a Hebrew speaker who chose the product names for most of his products. And most were fine names. But just a couple, were completely off and actually belonged to a different industry, which would ultimately throw off English-speaking customers. In our initial conversation, though Don had not asked me my opinion about the product names, I chose, ever so gently, to explain the problem and what we could do to fix it. I had built trust with Don in that I provided free, helpful advice. That advice was also insightful and showed Don that I was a pro he wanted to work with.
You’d be surprised at how many businesses overpromise and underdeliver. And while this point is related to keeping your word, it also goes beyond it. Like not keeping your word, underdelivering undermines trust. And while overdelivering may cost more, if done right it makes our clients love us so much that they won’t want to look anywhere else.
When I deliver copy to a client, my obligation as a copywriter (unless agreed otherwise) is to provide only one alternative (which of course can later be revised). But on more than one occasion I have written up two drafts. One draft of the copy follows the strict rules dictated by the client, and another draft which is what I would have written had I not received instruction. The second draft is often more creative, exciting and fun to read and on more than one occasion, though admittedly not all, the client chose to abandon the tight-ass content they originally asked for.
Overdelivering on promises builds trust because it shows your client that you care. You care about their business, you care about their product and you care about how you make them look. Ultimately, that is what business is all about, making your client look good. And it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in.
5. Be Accountable
We’re human. We make mistakes. Even pros make mistakes. And if it happens, our obligation to ourselves, as professionals, and to our clients who trust is, is to take responsibility. Like I said earlier, our job is to make our client look good. When we err, they don’t look great. But if we take responsibility for it and apologize, our clients tend to accept it and move on, looking forward to the next project. Of course the next project is a great time to surprise the pants off of them by overdelivering.
Just yesterday, I submitted copy to a client, and there was an extra word that shouldn’t have been there – it didn’t belong in the copy and was clearly an error. And though I proofread my copy two or three times before I send it off, I missed it (probably because I wanted to revise something and abandoned it mid-thought). To make things worse, the client noticed it before I did. But I quickly apologized, fixed the error and sent it back.
Building trust with clients goes a long way. It affects how much we enjoy working with our clients, is directly related to the value we provide, as well as what our clients are willing to pay us.
How will you build trust with your client today?