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How To Make Your Website as Trustworthy As Tom Hanks

You have to admit, there’s something about Tom Hanks that makes you think, “Geez, what a great guy.”

Chances are you’ve never met Mr. Hanks, and yet there’s a goodness you immediately connect with through his film roles and the warm, neighbourly way he speaks to Hollywood interviewers:

Through him flows a sense of kindness, truth and relatability. You don’t know him, but you feel you do.

My personal Tom Hanks daydream includes a instant friendship solidified by a bonding experience on a fishing boat, perhaps at a small lake outside Kelowna, where I happen to run into him one dewy, sun-kissed morning as he is taking the trash out from his modest, rented cabin to a bear-proof garbage can.

But enough about me. Reader’s Digest has proof: in a Trust Poll conducted in partnership with The Wagner Group, over 1000 Americans were surveyed to determine which individuals have earned the nation’s confidence. Tom Hanks hit the top spot as the most trustworthy. So go ahead, revel in your Tom Hanks friendship fantasy.

Hanks’ films have earned over eight billion dollars; this does not surprise me. Trust sells. We believe in Tom Hanks, and the line up at the box office for Castaway, Saving Private Ryan and Toy Story 3 is proof.

Trust is crucial to earning customers

Trust in an individual or organization makes it easy for us to decide what to do next. We’re already sold on what we habitually trust, like Coca-Cola and Kleenex. And Tom Hanks.

If your website was easy to trust, it’d be easier for prospects to convert to leads. It’d be easier to sell products online. It’d be easier to gain a following.

“84% of consumers say companies have to prove they are trustworthy,” says Michele McGovern at Customer Experience Insight, citing a recent survey called The Trust Factor.

“Trust is a crucial tool that consumers use to sort and prioritize the information they find online,” she adds. You cannot deny the power of trust.

The silly thing is, there are so many ‘little’ design and content adjustments you can make to improve the trustworthiness of your website. Your website can do better. Why wouldn’t you take action to increase your prospects’ confidence in working with you?

Four ‘little’ website changes for huge boost in trust

Here are four things you can do (without breaking the bank) to vastly increase the trustworthiness of your website.

1. Add client logos

We know testimonials and case studies are smart additions to a website because they scream, “Scroll down here and read about all these happy people we’ve served!” but what’s stopping your prospect from wondering whether those people are real or not?

Solve the suspicion dilemma by incorporating client logos into the mix. Either as a tiny thumbnail beside the testimonial, or as part of a big, proud “Companies We’ve Served” display on the homepage, logo inclusion makes an impact.

social proof example by unbounce

Highly familiar logos should take precedent on the page so prospects have an immediate connection to the material.

Make like Tom Hanks, who often takes on characters with qualities we can recognize in other people from our own normal lives (levelheaded Jim from Apollo 13, sweet yet forlorn Sam from Sleepless in Seattle). Give your prospects something they can perceive as legitimate.

2. Revise your About Us page

“Like it or not, customers have higher expectations of businesses they deal with these days,” says Socialmouths contributor Jen Havice. She cites an Edelman Trust Barometer study wherein 90% of the 11,000 people polled across 8 countries claimed they wanted companies to be as transparent as possible. How much are you ready to reveal?

Start with the About Us page, where you can share information about your company history and staff. Some graphic proof of your mortal existence wouldn’t hurt – how about a group shot of your team, or individual profiles detailing their roles at your company?

Be honest and forthcoming (like Forrest Gump) to earn your customer’s trust.

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 11.18.05 AM
Awesome About page example at

3. Provide security icons

When you think about it, paying for things over the Internet is a bit nuts. Putting your personal and financial information out there makes you vulnerable to hackers, that is, unless the company you are transacting to has its act together with secure payment processes.

If you have an online payment gateway, secure processing should be part of the service you provide. It’s up to you to make it perfectly clear that your customer’s information is safe. An easy way to communicate this is with security icons.

Security icons are visual representations of the safeguarding software you are using to provide secure payments on your website. They range from reputation certificates (ex: Better Business Bureau, PayPal) to SSL certificate badges.

OK, once in a while Tom Hanks signs on to a big fat flop (did anyone see The Money Pit?), but most of the time a marquee blaring TOM HANKS across the top is a trusty sign of a wonderful film.


An example of a Verified by Visa security icon on the Royal Tyrrel Museum store check-out.
An example of a Verified by Visa security icon that builds trust.

4. Tone down the wild promises

Lavish guarantees of dazzling success and happiness only tempt prospects so far as to turn around and go elsewhere. Garish, hyperbolic claims are not en vogue these days; it’s more about being real to get your point across.

Scrutinize your website copy to determine if there are any adjustments you could make to tone down any unrealistic claims. You know what I’m talking about:

“Incredibly powerful systems!”

“Astounding results that last forever!”

“All of your wildest dreams will come true!”

“The only ‘blank’ you will ever neeeeeeed!”

There is just no substance in these messages. You are going to turn people away with your empty-calorie bites. You are going make people suspicious.

As you par down your bleary headlines, don’t stress about coming across as less-than-magical. Use your tagline and headline copy space to express what you offer your customer. Appeal to their wants and needs. Acknowledge their critical minds by presenting concise, interesting calls to action. It’s not about being self-deprecating; its about being aware of what your customer truly desires, without the fluff. There’s enough fluff out there to stuff a giant, useless toy elephant.

Take it from Tom Hanks:

“If there are nine guys auditioning and they’re all gorgeous, I have an advantage, because gorgeous guys are a dime a dozen. But if they need someone else – like a goofy guy with bad hair who is just okay – then that’s me. And finally, the other 2 percent who audition are geniuses that I could never touch.”

Outlandish offers are also a dime a dozen. Show your prospect what really sets you apart from the competition.

See Also:

Plain Language, Please! Here’s Why To Avoid Marketese Online

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