People love to see evidence that something or someone is what they claim to be. It’s all very well having a web site that points out you are the most brilliant expert in your field, but without any evidence your web site visitors will not believe you.
One way, of course, is the use of testimonials. But these are having decreased value online because it is clearly so easy to make them up. You can add testimonials to your web site and pretend they are from someone else. Indeed only yesterday I was sent a “testimonial” which purported to come from Barack Obama; it didn’t. Even using pictures and video testimonials has reduced value compared with a year or two ago, because even these are easy to fake. I can get all my friends to say I’m fantastic and that I’m a really great bloke – but would you believe them?
That’s the problem these days – the old kinds of evidence that you knew your stuff or that you were good at what you did, simply don’t wash any more. They are too easy to fake and therefore have reduced value. In the past you simply couldn’t produce a testimonial on a company’s letterhead unless you walked into their office and stole their paper. Now you can fake a company letterhead by downloading their logo from their web site. True it’s still stealing and it’s certainly deception, but it’s so much easier now than ever before. The fact that some people do make up testimonials is devaluing them for the rest of us.
So what can you do about this problem? Your customers and potential customers are still going to want evidence of whether or not you are up to the job. One possible way of doing this is to give them a “taster” or a “sample” of your work. And that means you need “products”. Even if you are a consultant who’s main job is listening to a client and discussing solutions with them, you need a product to show them what you can do.
For many people a product might be a book, or a CD or other audio product like an MP3. It might even be a DVD of them “in action”. A consultant, for instance, could film a typical consultancy session. But whatever you do, you need products. These are tangible items that show a potential customer what you can do. But they also have an overall image message they provide to your web site visitors; they show them you are a “real business”. Real businesses have products – they sell things. If you don’t sell things, people don’t perceive you as being in business. So you need products to establish the fact that you are indeed a real business.
This is a question that come up in my latest teleseminar on product development; people wanted to know why they needed products in the first place. Often businesses think of their service first, but actually you need to think products first – service second. That way, your online credibility rises.