How to Build Credibility with Your Sales Copy

image of woman swearing on stack of bibles

When visitors are making a decision about whether or not to buy, their “shields are up.”

They’re watching carefully for any sign you might be a jerk, a crook, or just not able to deliver on your promises.

They need you to soothe their unspoken anxieties and objections.

This doesn’t have to be a daunting task. In fact, a powerful way to make this happen is something you’re probably already doing on your blog.

The key is to show your prospect the person (or people) standing behind the offer. Put a human face and some credibility-based context on that sales message.

Readers want to know who they’re dealing with — and why they should trust that person. It’s up to you to communicate it in an effective and engaging way.

Let’s talk about three strategies for building sales-driving credibility into your copy.

1. The “about me” approach

This is probably the most recognizable credibility-building tool, because you see it everywhere.

Blogs have an “About” page, and many sales pages have some variation of the Who Am I And Why Should You Listen To Me? theme.

But you can also use a little more subtlety when introducing yourself to your buyers.

Using a “Why I created this product” approach, you can weave your own story into your sales material, by combining details about your experience and credentials with benefit-driven copy that reduces your readers’ resistance to buying.

Explain what you’re doing for clients, how your approach addresses the results you deliver to those clients, and then segue into your sales message.

For example, a copywriting course sales page could build credibility like this:

After spending a decade building a reputation for writing high-conversion copy for clients like (name) and (name), I decided to start teaching my evergreen copywriting strategies to others so they could grow their own businesses …

You’d then lead into a brief story about how you have effectively served your copywriting customers.

You can see how the credibility factors (10 years of experience, name dropping of high-profile clients) merge with the desired outcomes (evergreen strategies, high conversion), and let you build trust without feeling like a hype machine.

By involving the reader in a bit of history (or even what’s happening with present customers), you can satisfy the “about me” section by wrapping it in details that are really about them and the outcome they’re looking for.

It seems like they’re getting a story about you. But what they’re really getting is confirmation that you can meet their needs.

2. The “reluctant hero” approach

Another strategy is the story of the “unintentional product.” This works by setting up a backstory where the product producer starts gaining a reputation for creating results … and then other people begin clamoring to know how to make it happen for themselves.

The reluctant hero is a storytelling archetype, and you may think that makes this approach formulaic or contrived. But assuming your story is both compelling and true (yes, it needs to be both), the reluctant hero story is an extremely effective credibility generator.

Here’s an example from my own past:

I started out as a personal development coach who began learning how to create and launch my own information products, Third-Tribe style before there was a name for that way of doing things.

After a while, my blogging friends began asking me how I was making such strong sales with my products. As I showed them, they started telling people about it. Word got around, and I started getting more calls and emails about launching products than I did about personal development. I decided to create a training manual on how to write and sell ebooks … and the rest is history.

The “reluctant hero” approach lets you humanize your accomplishments, weave a story that creates a connection with your audience, and gets readers to see you as a natural fit for what they need.

3. The customer-as-proof approach

A third (and highly effective) strategy is to make successful customers the focus of your credibility-building story.

After all, why talk about yourself when you can talk about the stunning results your customers have created … and generate credibility by association?

You see this all the time when people say things like “using this system, my client generated $5 million in sales in a down economy.” By pointing to the successful results other people have experienced, the product (as well as the creator) gains instant credibility without having to overtly claim “I’m qualified.” When example is stacked upon example, the sense of credibility is continually heightened.

Every time you receive a results-based testimonial, consider weaving it into your sales message as more than just a yellow box with a picture in it. Make it part of the story around what your product can truly do.

The more examples you have for your reader to see your product’s results, the less “selling” you’ll have to do, because each story reinforces your credibility. And you take advantage of another copywriting cornerstone — making it easy for your prospect to visualize herself as a customer.

What’s your favorite credibility builder?

These aren’t the only ways to establish credibility in a sales page, but for the aspiring copywriter, they’re a great start. If you’ve got another strategy that’s a personal favorite, please share it in the comments below and let us get to know a little more about you and your story. :)

About the Author: Dave Navarro is a product launch manager who can’t wait for you to join the 7,000+ people using his free workbooks in the Launch Coach Library (a crowd favorite in the Third Tribe forums).

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Comments

  1. Dave,

    Excellent point, you success as a launch guy goes to shows this works. People who are in same position as us, like bloggers who want to sell and create products are less likely to buy stuff though. But when you love someone’s ethics and authority, people will buy stuff just to be nice, and that is priceless!

    • Mike –

      Trust is the ultimate conversion factor. Build that up front, and the “selling” is easy, because people want to buy from you.

    • Trust is one of the hardest things to build, but people are looking for hope right now. And that can come in the form of someone who seems trustworthy for anything that they feel might help them or their family.

  2. Couldn’t agree more with the “customers as proof” approach. This social-proof method is so powerful because it shows that people that others care about/are buying whatever you are trying to “sell” (whether that is a physical product, or just trying to “sell them” into becoming a regular reader of your blog).

    People are often encouraged by what others are doing, and being able to show actual testimonials and results goes a long way.

  3. Hey Dave,

    When I come across a product and they use the 3rd approach it makes the buying process so much easier. Thanks for sharing your knowledge on this area.

    Chat with you later…
    Josh

  4. Hey Dave..

    My favorite is the Customer-as-Proof approach. I like letting results do the talking for me..

    plus, I think it makes selling much easier

    thanks for the great post
    Hector

  5. Thanks for the great article. I have been thinking a lot lately about my own branding to make myself stand out from other consultants. I think these tips will really help toward that end too. It also motivates me to want to gather testimonials for customers as proof, I think that one is a great idea!

    • Kristy,

      Totally agree, testiomonials really go a long way to shaping a customer’s perception of you.

      If they can relate to what is mentioned in the testiomonial, it can help to build deeper trust.

    • I received some advice once on how to get testimonials: ask the customer! We’ve all had the experience when someone says something nice about us, the work, product, whatever. ask the customer if you can share that with others. write it down right then.

      I say “may I used your kind words on my website?”
      works pretty well

  6. I like sharing a few mis-steps I’ve made — either out-and-out mistakes or just everyday blunders (parking ticket, forgetting to bring the snacks to the soccer game, whatever) just to make it clear that I am a normal person who makes normal mistakes!

  7. One simple thing I like to do is to put my actual face on the sales copy. While I make most of my sales who know me reasonably well, there’s a significant minority who are new to what I’ve got to offer. I’ve had good results putting my photo on my sales pages — as you say, we’re reminding people “this is a human being making this offer.” And we’re hard-wired to respond to faces.

    That’s also why I think it’s nearly always the right thing to do to have your face in your social media profile. Much easier for potential customers to get to know, like and trust a face than it is a logo.

  8. “Weave your own Story” I love it, we connect through story. It’s why we go the movies, why we tweet and facebook about our day. It is such a powerful tool to build the know, like and trust factor. At the end of the day, we want to do business with people we like. Naturally interweaving our own story into why we do what we do, or sell what we sell, is not only engaging but also a highly effective an organic sales tool.

    Great post!

  9. Thanks for re-emphasizing this! I’ve found that many small business clients are reluctant to create a “truthful” About Us page because they want to hide the fact that they are a small business. I plan to share this article often.

  10. Just in the nick of time! I’m ready to move my old-fashioned website over to WordPress (because it’s just so nifty). And while I’m at it, I’ll also be overhauling my copy.

    Your tip about planting testimonials in the copy is just what I needed. It’s an aha moment: instead of a list of testimonials (like I have now), I’ll seed them into the copy–a much better approach, I think. Thanks!

  11. Another great post on an important topic. I agree with Sonia’s comment about putting a human face to the words.
    When I originally launched little grey bird I was so in love with the logo that I put it everywhere and there were no photos of me. I’m now learning that people really like to see who’s hiding beind the logo and I’m slowly adding little bits about myself and my own story. That should help with credibility :-)

  12. Rosanna Tarsiero :

    The “about me” approach is the one I prefer by far. To me, the “customer as a proof” isn’t a proof…. I mean, what such an approach proves is that the seller was able to deliver the desired outcome for THAT customer. It doesn’t tell me whether s/he is able to deliver MY desired outcome to ME. So I skip testimonials and case studies in one jump :)
    The “reluctant hero” works with me only at times. It doesn’t work most of the times because it gives me the impression that the seller kind of stumbled into a solution, so it puts some concerns in my mind on whether s/he understood the process and is able to replicate it in my case or not.
    The “about me” is the winner with me, by far, because it gives me an idea of who the seller is, what s/he does, how s/he does it and why.

    • Just remember that you might skip the case studies and testimonials, but your customers probably don’t. :)

    • Exactly – it’s hard to remember that “you aren’t your customer,” but it’s something you always have to be aware of.

    • Then, you can do a mix of the three styles in the sales copy to target different types of customers.

      Start off with a an accidental hero tone, transition to about me and then round off with customer-as- proof- just one example of how the copy should flow.

      Of course, depending on your story you can structure it any way you want

    • Also, as customers we’re interested in how others have experienced the seller.

      When we buy paint, or a new laptop, or whatever, we listen as much to anecdotal evidence as we do to the marketing and technical aspects. We all listen to what our friends and neighbours say about stuff they’ve bought.

      For the same reasons, employers want evidence of success in previous roles and references to check.Customer testimonials are great if you’ve got ‘em, as are stories of success. I’d definitely put them in if you have them.

      This is why blogs are so powerful. I trust them, and believe what the blogger and readers say over other informaiton. Same with your customer success.

      Good luck

  13. Perfect timing for this post Dave. I was writing a sales page for my ebook on Time Management for Bloggers with short attention spans and I was using the very first thing you mentioned. I think the other thing that really has been instrumental in me making any purchases is customers who have succeeded. I’ve been doing a few free consulting sessions lately, but I’ve been asking each person to keep track of their results with my advice so that I can do a case study on them. I’ve noticed you’ve done that on The Launch coach when people use your stuff. The thing I love about that is that it benefits the customer by profiling them on a high traffic site, and you benefit from it by having tangible evidence of the fact that everything you are talking about actually works.

  14. Those are terrific ideas. I’ve used all of them with great success. I also try to be up front and acknowledge the readers skepticism… I’ll ask them to take the “real life test” and explain exactly why what I’m recommending works.
    “If you put my recommendation into play in a real life situation,” I ask, “would it work? If so, then there is a high percentage chance that what I am recommending would work for you as well.”

    This gets them to actually “buy” and use the product in their head. If my recommendation really does work… this method gives me a high closing percentage.

  15. Thanks for the specific examples. I’ll be sure to keep them as a reference.

  16. Yep, I do the same thing Lain does – I tell them about mistakes I’ve made, money I’ve wasted and dumb things I’ve done.

    Most of the products and services I create are to help others avoid those same mistakes, wasted money and dumb things. :D

    Dave – you, my man, are playing a much bigger game. I love it.

    Heather

  17. that’s very useful , will certainly help me make more sales

  18. I really like Sonia’s idea about using your photo on the sales page. It makes a much stronger connection when writing in an active voice, and especially when telling a story about yourself. I’ve seen that done with testimonials too.

    If you can slip in a video or two along the way, and be yourself while doing it, you let people in to your world a lot more. They see you, hear you, experience your emotions and all of those little nuances that are lost in other medium.

    Great job, Dave!

    • On the matter of video it should be professionally shot else the whole thing could be counterproductive. That means great sound, tight editing and no shaky camera movements.

  19. Love how you broke these down into very actionable steps. I’ll be using your article with my clients as I help them set up their social media. These are great tips, and make the writing so much easier. Thanks for sharing.

    Darlene

  20. Great post. Great comments. How about combining the approaches?

    CHEMISTRY: This is where the “Reluctant Hero” story can play out. Visitors now get a sense of whether they like you.

    CREDENTIALS: You put a brief summary in “About Me” and link to your personal website for more details. Testimonials could be on LinkedIn.

    The “Customer As Proof” can be sprinkled throughout.

    EXAMPLE: We’re surrounded by risk — precisely what an actuary measures and manages. When I was designing accountable life insurance products, the A-list advisors [my customers] kept asking for my help with their most important clients. Me? How scary. I could use my deep insider knowledge to create ideal strategies but what did I know about selling? Even so, I agreed to become the advisors’ advisor. I soon discovered that 79.99% of clients want tailored solutions — not a salesperson with 101 closing techniques. So now I help the public directly.

  21. Hi Dave

    A cool post and one of those at-the-right-moment events too. as I’m just revamping my copy.

    I love the idea of the “Why I created this product” approach as story-telling is such a powerful, if not the most powerful way of engaging people. It’s how we learned as children, it’s how much of history is passed along and all religions use it in their teachings.

    Thanks

    Andrew

  22. The reluctant hero story is my actual story. Thanks for this tip. I’ll structure my pitches this way

  23. My Favourite credibility builder is the The “reluctant hero” approach, however I may use the The customer-as-proof approach. I’m still experimenting.

  24. I also found that populating the site with as many “Good Housekeeping seals of approval” icons also works, e.g. Winner of xyz, Member Better business bureau.

  25. Great examples.

    Cheers

  26. This is such a great post and a lot to learn from. One of those posts i love to print and keep for further revisions.

    I hope to see a follow up on this articles. Great Work!

  27. Great article Dave (like everything you write here).

    Wouldn’t the third point be a violation of the new FTC rules if used without average data though?

  28. Hello Dave,

    Thank you. This is what I need as am thinking of expressing myself without sounding like “selling”. I thought that the typical style of some motivational speakers to show-off and make claims about themselves – the best motivational speaker in the Philippines, for example – is not something that I will proud writing.

    Thank you and I hope more people will get the opportunity to read your article.

  29. Great post, Dave! Thanks!

    Another credibility builder that works in affluent markets is brash experience. Not tucked away in the about me section, but straight up. Though it’s a bit of a balancing act, you can frame yourself as the authority given your natural and sustained strength in the market place.

    These folks don’t want something we stumbled upon, or accidentally discovered, they want to know that over the long-haul our track record is strong.

    This is definitely not for the average info-product, but works well for consulting.

  30. Well, nice inputs.

    Thanks a lot.

  31. Dave I am a l9itttle lost in this. If you were to say this point (3. customer-as-proof) in a sentence, what would you say.

  32. Fantastic post Dave! I think it’s important to ensure that when giving this proof that it is in fact a true and genuine story. Even if you dont have the most fantastical million dollar numbers to boast, truthful and honest facts go a long way in creating this type of believable copy. You rock Navarro – as always!

  33. I guess screen captures and screen shots are pretty convincing. However, I don’t necessarily know if they’ve been cooked up through design…

  34. It’s interesting to see conflicting views on testimonials — an example of why we should be using multiple approaches to building trust. What works for one potential client may not for another. I believe that social proof carries a lot of weight, and am collecting customer stories as I get my new website off the ground. I find that sharing my own experience from working in the corporate environment has helped my credibility with the people in those positions that I am now trying to help!

  35. Dave, this post is a keeper. Even though it will be months before I can think of selling anything from my new blog, I can start weaving your suggestions into my posts. Then, when I have gained enough readers to sell to (hopefully), they’ll be primed to accept my offer. Thanks, friend.

  36. Building credibility has always been a daunting problem especially for startup companies, I especially think that a carefully planned “credibility strategy”, using some of the tactics you describe in your post but not just, is a very good starting point.
    Particularly, I think the “customer as a proof” approach through the building of a carefully crafted portfolio and case history is very valid approach to attract big brands, working as a consulting agency.
    Important names will require the comfort of knowing other important names already put trust in you (and breaking that circle requires a lot of hard work).

  37. I like the idea of customer as proof approach, but have no online customers. I wonder if I can use testimonials from off line clients for an on line business!

  38. Dave, I found this post to be most helpful. As I am a small business owner and just started blogging to promote my site this will be very useful to me. I think a lot of the comments also have helped in how I actually want to progress my blog. Thank you and I look forward to reading more of what you have to say.

  39. Great article, with valuable reminders regarding how to earn the trust of our readers. As I read the post, I noticed an undercurrent of my favorite credibility-building approach: empathy. Empathy is the glue that builds trust. Trust helps start a relationship, and it helps cement a relationship. By weaving empathy into your copy…through examples of how you’ve helped others with your product or service by understanding, really understanding, their needs, is very powerful. Illustrating “hey, I understand what you’re going through. I’ve been there myself. Here’s how I can use my experience to help you meet your needs…” is one of the most effective strategies I’ve used over the years.

    Thank you for some great insights!

    Emily Foshee

  40. Wow, this is exactly what I needed. I am an expert in my area and am at the beginning of creating products. My first free eBook launches in a couple of weeks. These recommendations are spont on. Thank you!

  41. Customer-as-proof is our favorite approach! Thanks for the summary.

  42. I like your example of the reluctant hero as a storytelling archetype for an About web page. It doesn’t come off as formulaic or contrived. There is a reason why formulas exist. They work. Storytelling archetypes work in fiction and they work in they work in business writing.

  43. Weaving your own story is effective. I developed a music teaching aid that I started to market. I wrote not just about how great it is, but why I developed the teaching aid in the first place. I went on to say that I was in need of something that didn’t exist so I developed it just for myself, then realized that other could benefit from it too.

  44. Thanks for the great article.This is what I need as am thinking of expressing myself without sounding like “selling”.

  45. This is great insight into how great copy can really be a great story. i.e. What you’re describing is actually more than a creative way to weave in a testimonial. It’s about shepherding your reader through an irresistible story that’s relevant to HIM/HER.

    And sharing something of value long before you ask for a click, both within (or AS) the “sales” copy and in your other “marketing.”

  46. (LOL. I said “great” 3 times in the first sentence.)

  47. Really enjoyable read and I like the idea of ‘customers as proof’ as by integrating success stories and how the product can work for them, they are more likely to be able to picture themselves investing in it. In addition background information on the company is also going to back up and assure the potential customer before they commit to making the purchase.

  48. Wow, this post is terrific! I’m in the process of building a sales page for my first eBook launch. I made sure to write down notes; the information provided in this post has been a huge help for me.

    I’m probably going to go with the “About me” approach, since it fits more with the eBook I’m promoting. Thanks again for the awesome guide!

    Christina

  49. It’s important for a smaller niche business to come across as personal rather than pretend to be some large impersonal corporation. I noticed most people use “we” in their pitch, but why not “I”. I makes it sound like there is only one person running the business and what’s wrong with that.
    Simon