In today’s marketplace, the Web is where customers are won and businesses grow.

It starts with a great website – one that has successfully confronted and conquered the challenges of providing a beautiful interface, engaging content and utility beyond your primary offering. However, even the best site is only the first step; it’s the foundation upon which you can start to develop a community around your brand.

Once you’ve launched your site, you’ve effectively set up shop and opened the doors. That’s when the real work begins.

To get and keep customers, you must master the Web marketing universe beyond your own site. You must actively seek out those whose needs, desires and interests align with the products or services you offer, draw them in and engage them in conversation.

This is where trustcasting, the ongoing process of building and maintaining trust between a business and its customers, comes into play.

As you venture out into the Web marketing universe, you’ll find a myriad of different channels for reaching and interacting with potential customers – from Facebook and Twitter to blogging, videocasting and more. While it may initially feel like daunting and unfamiliar territory, the key to navigating this new landscape successfully is to ensure that all of your efforts are driven by the motivation of establishing and keeping trust.

As long as you always follow the principles of trustcasting, you will inevitably turn contacts into customers, customers into fans and fans into evangelists, all while cultivating a vibrant virtual community.

Following are some smart trustcasting strategies that you can use to gain trust and grow your business in the Web marketing universe.

1. Give a little, gain a lot.

The first step in gaining the trust of a potential customer who may not yet be familiar with or invested in your brand is to offer them something of value in order to establish that you are interested in forming a relationship that is mutually beneficial, rather than simply self-serving.

An easy way to open the lines of communication is to reward the act of becoming your friend, fan or follower on a social networking site with a special discount or promotion. Amelie’s…A French Bakery in Charlotte, N.C., recently rewarded their Facebook fans with a free favorite treat, driving their number of fans from 2,500 to over 3,000 in just over two weeks’ time.

2. Once you’ve captured their attention, don’t betray their trust.

Just because someone has added you as their friend or fan on Facebook or chosen to follow you on Twitter doesn’t give you free reign to bombard them with self-promotional messages and sales pitches.

In order to keep their trust and earn their loyalty, you must continue to engage them with offers and information they can’t get elsewhere. Develop a reputation in the Web marketing universe for consistently delivering quality content that is helpful to your customers or advice that makes their lives easier or better, even if in a small way.

For example, a specialty foods shop could maintain a blog featuring useful tips for entertaining. From easy recipes to food and wine pairings to simple centerpieces to fun themes, this information would resonate with the type of person who would be inclined to frequent such a shop. By providing fresh content on a regular basis (promoted through Facebook and Twitter), the shop owner keeps the reader engaged, building trust with every post and reaping the benefits when it’s time for their next dinner party.

Granted, this requires an ongoing commitment of time and energy, but the reward is turning a friend into a customer into an evangelist for your brand.

3. Throw away your “i” key.

Okay – maybe not literally. But do use it sparingly.

According to a study of 60,000 tweeters by viral marketing scientist Dan Zarrella, those who use social language (“we,” “you’) or language that describes relationships and communication are more successful in attracting followers than those who tend to talk more about themselves (“I”).

Why, you ask? Then ask yourself this, what if you found yourself in face-to-face conversation with someone who talked exclusively about themselves? Would you want to continue interacting with that person? Would you have any reason to believe that person had any concern for you, your desires, your needs or your priorities? Certainly not.

Even if the culture of the Web marketing universe is unfamiliar to you, the rules of engagement are no different. Don’t lose sight of the fact that, at the end of the day, you are one real person relating to another real person. Behave online as you would standing in a room with your followers.

Invest in the lives of your customers, show genuine concern for the things that matter to them, demonstrate willingness to help in ways that do not immediately benefit you, and you will make great strides in building trust.

4. Power to the people.

Nothing you could ever say about your own company will hold the same level of credibility as the word-of-mouth reviews of your customers.

The good news about this is that in the era of social media, it has become second nature for people to post online about almost everything they experience in real life. Use this tendency to your advantage by giving your customers a soap box to tell others about you and build trust on your behalf. For example, creating a Facebook group provides a centralized place where customers can post reviews and comments.

Taking this idea one step further, find those who already have a loyal following, and empower them to evangelize for your brand. In 2009, True Value launched a three-month “DIY Blog Squad” promotion. They identified five highly popular home improvement blogs and challenged the bloggers to take on a project using materials from their stores. Although the bloggers were compensated by True Value for these materials and their time to write about their experiences, they were free to share their own opinions and were not paid to publish positive comments.

Through this promotion, True Value reached legions of loyal readers and eager DIY-ers across the country, taking advantage of the trust in the credibility of the bloggers’ reviews to earn trust for their brand by extension.

By yanam49

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