Build A B2B MVP That Inspires Trust

Q: I am preparing to launch a website for my minimum viable product (MVP). It’s a few pages and has has some forms and a file upload capability. Potential customers will be able to explain a particular type of problem that they have and then upload some relevant files for review. I will review their situation and send them a link for payment if I can fix the problem. My concern is that if I don’t have pages for “Contact Us”, “Services”, and “About Us then a potential customer may not trust the website to actually start a purchase. Is it waste to add these pages? Would I be smarter to launch a very simple site with a form and file upload.

If the information you are requesting is not particularly proprietary and you are only looking to charge $10 or $20 dollars then the “put up a landing page and see who clicks” model may tell you enough. This is essentially an impulse purchase.

But when you write  “I will review their situation and send them a link for payment if I can fix the problem,” I am assuming that you are selling to business and that your target price point is more than $100.  This moves beyond the impulse purchase or simple consumer buying models for a $4 E-book or a $19/month service; if you plan to charge more than $300 then you are pretty clearly into a “considered purchase” and need to provide a richer context for the decision than a simple landing page. Also because you are asking for data that they may consider private or proprietary this makes it more of a considered purchase.

Stanford Credibility Guidelines

The Stanford credibility project has come up with some good guidelines that I always point entrepreneurs to if they want to sell to businesses. Here are the first five:

  1. Make it easy to verify the accuracy of the information on your site. You can build web site credibility by providing third-party support (citations, references, source material) for information you present, especially if you link to this evidence. Even if people don’t follow these links, you’ve shown confidence in your material.
  2. Show that there’s a real organization behind your site. Showing that your web site is for a legitimate organization will boost the site’s credibility. The easiest way to do this is by listing a physical address. Other features can also help, such as posting a photo of your offices or listing a membership with the chamber of commerce.
  3. Highlight the expertise in your organization and in the content and services you provide.  Do you have experts on your team?  Are your contributors or service providers authorities? Be sure to give their credentials. Are you affiliated with a respected organization?
  4. Show that honest and trustworthy people stand behind your site. Links to bios and third party on-line content (e.g. LinkedIn profile, twitter, other forums or sites you regularly contribute to).
  5. Make it easy to contact you. A simple way to boost your site’s credibility is by making your contact information clear: phone number, physical address, and email address.

How To Establish Trust

For a prospect to trust you, they must believe your commitments and be able to predict your actions. You build trust over time by making commitments and keeping them, by demonstrating care and respect for others, and by placing their needs at least equal to your own. You can jumpstart this process with case studies and testimonials.

Case studies document results that your team has achieved. They can also detail your process and certifications but what makes them compelling to prospects is the value you have delivered. In particular, the value that you have delivered in situations that are similar to the one that they believe they are facing and to firms that are similar to theirs.

Testimonials provide specific and sourced endorsements for the claims in your case studies. Here again, prospects will find them more compelling when the person offering it is in a role similar to theirs.

If from your first conversation onward, you make clear commitments and meet them, and you offer relevant case studies and testimonials, then you will immediately start to build trust.

Your second challenge is to demonstrate expertise.

An expert can diagnose a situation or problem quickly and accurately based on direct observation and questioning. An expert can then recommend an effective course of action based on this diagnosis that addresses likely contingencies and prevents or minimizes the risk of failure or setback. As their plan is put into practice, they can maintain both a grasp of the overall project or system and crucial details that indicate emerging problems or additional opportunities.

If you demonstrate that you are trustworthy and have specific and relevant expertise, then even a prospect with a serious situation and a strong need for confidentiality will be more willing to disclose the information you need to help diagnose and solve their problems.

Minimum Viable Product vs. Product Description or Message

One “message” (I don’t call it an MVP because you are not asking to get paid) that you could test would be a self-service checklist that would allow them to solve simpler problems that may mimic the more difficult problems you ask to get paid to solve, or a checklist that allows them to better diagnose their situation to understand alternatives (where you service may be one to consider). If people are willing to download a checklist (or don’t bounce off the page and actually read it) this is an indication that they believe that the may have the problem you are trying to help them with. It doesn’t mean that they will pay you to solve the problem but you are at least a step closer to that conversation.

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