Schmarketing: Trust Signals

What are Trust Signals?

Trust Signals are the comforting whispers in the marketplace that say, “You can believe in us.” They are the reassuring nods from fellow consumers, the friendly pats on the back from industry authorities, and the transparent displays of integrity that make you feel safe to invest your time, money, and emotions. In a world where skepticism is a natural defense, trust signals are the genuine gestures that turn wary browsers into loyal customers.

Synonyms: Credibility Indicators, Assurance Marks, Confidence Builders, Influencer Marketing, Social Proofs

Antonyms: Red Flags, Doubt Signals, Skepticism Indicators, Mistrust Cues, Uncertainty Markers


Helpful Analogy

Think of trust signals like the neighborhood watch signs you see in suburban areas. These signs signal to both residents and visitors that the community is vigilant, safe, and looking out for one another. Just as a neighborhood watch sign reassures residents that their safety is a priority and deters potential wrongdoers, trust signals on a website or product page reassure potential customers that the business is credible, secure, and reliable. They communicate that the brand is trustworthy, encouraging customers to feel comfortable engaging with and purchasing from the business.


The Unjargoned Truth on Trust Signals

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

Stephen R. Covey

Picture this: You’re at a family reunion, and Uncle Jerry, infamous for his dubious tales and less-than-stellar life choices, is recounting his latest get-rich-quick scheme. Your eyes glaze over as he describes his foolproof plan to breed miniature llamas in his suburban backyard. Just as you’re about to make a polite exit, Aunt Susan walks in. Aunt Susan, with her impeccable sense of judgment and her job at a well-known financial firm, shares a new investment tip. Suddenly, everyone is all ears. You lean in, because if Aunt Susan says it’s good, you trust it’s golden.

This little scene is a microcosm of the magical world of trust signals in marketing. 

Just like Aunt Susan, trust signals in marketing are those little whispers of assurance that tell your audience, “Hey, you can believe in this.” Without them, you’re just another Uncle Jerry peddling llama dreams.

So, what are trust signals, and why should you, as a marketer, care about them? Think of trust signals as the unsung heroes of your marketing efforts. They’re the testimonials, the certifications, the user reviews, and the professional endorsements that give your brand that extra sprinkle of credibility. Trust signals transform your marketing from “Oh, another ad” to “Wait, this might actually be worth my time.”

Imagine you’re shopping online for a new pair of running shoes. You stumble upon two websites: one looks like it was designed by a teenager in the late ’90s, and the other is sleek, modern, and boasts a plethora of glowing reviews from real athletes. 

Which one are you more likely to trust? 

Unless you’re feeling particularly nostalgic for Geocities, you’re going with the latter. That’s the power of trust signals at work.

Now, let’s pivot to why this is crucial for your audience—the real, breathing humans behind those clicks and conversions. In today’s digital landscape, consumers are bombarded with choices. They’ve become skeptical, discerning, and, frankly, a bit jaded. Your job is to cut through that skepticism with a well-placed trust signal, a beacon of reliability in a sea of uncertainty.

Here’s where the magic happens: Trust signals make people feel safe. They reassure them that they’re not making a colossal mistake by clicking that “Buy Now” button. And when people feel safe, they’re more likely to engage with your brand, make a purchase, and even come back for more. It’s like inviting them to sit by the fire in Aunt Susan’s living room, where the stories are true, the advice is sound, and the llamas are happily grazing in a well-thought-out business plan.

But don’t just slap a “Trust Us!” sticker on your homepage and call it a day. Trust signals need to be authentic and strategically placed. Think about it: A customer review that reads, “Great product!” isn’t nearly as effective as one that details how your product solved a specific problem. Detailed, genuine reviews build trust. Certifications from reputable organizations build trust. And, showing that real people have had real, positive experiences with your brand? You guessed it—builds trust.

Incorporating trust signals into your marketing strategy is like laying down a red carpet for your audience. It says, “Come on in, we’ve got nothing to hide.” It’s a handshake, a warm smile, a nod of assurance that they’re making the right choice. And who wouldn’t want to make their customers feel like that?

So, the next time you’re crafting a campaign, launching a new product, or simply updating your website, think about Aunt Susan. Think about how trust signals can turn hesitant browsers into confident buyers. Remember, in the grand theater of marketing, trust signals are the supporting actors that make your leading role shine even brighter.

And if all else fails, just remember: No one wants to buy a miniature llama from Uncle Jerry.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand & Community at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.