Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Building Reader Trust and Relaxation

Web marketing columnist Aaron Wall wrote this:

The anonymous nature of the web acts as a tax on anyone who is an honest merchant. Sales are driven by perceived value, and many marketers spend 90%+ of their time and effort on front end marketing and optimizing their sales channels, while providing little to no substance to anyone who buys from them. By the time those customers get to people like us, they are already more distrusting, cynical, and jaded due to having been scammed - in many cases multiple times.

The serious webcomic creator is almost the opposite of this model: we put 90% of our time into creating the comic, and 10% into everything else, of which marketing is a sliver.

Fortunately, when readers achieve immersion in our comic (which is our brand), identify with characters and make their visits part of an on-going ritual in their lives, we have achieved a level of marketing sophistication that is rare for other products.

If the comic is regular, the creator doesn't behave like a moron on the house blog, and the story remains compelling, a deep bond can develop between reader and brand.

Because sales of anthologies, t-shirts and art by webcomic artists are common, our visitors are not shocked when we pitch the idea of them in a comfy new t-shirt. Whether they trust us enough to overcome their natural caution is a factor that is under your control -- if you don't squander it.

Setting aside the issues of design, which are best covered another time, the customer needs to know that they will be getting a certain amount of value for their money. Many are aware of value tricks, as described in the quote above. We've all purchased t-shirts that turned into toddler clothes after their first trip through the tumble dryer. Some of us have ordered items that never arrived, or found the quality sub-par.  In the end we are requesting a business transaction involving a charge card, and the customer needs to have faith plus 15% to be persuaded things will work out well.

These are delicate matters, and mishandling them can be a major, invisible drag on sales -- possibly the difference between a part-time and full-time income. This is why I am put off by the minority of webcartoonists who are dishonest and buffoonish: we have to carry their weight.

In my last venture, which I sold after many years, I would say the trust factor required an extra 20% on average, and I had to screen out customers out to cheat me as well.  That means for every five sales, I could have made a sixth if I didn't have to waste energy acknowledging people's suspicions and explaining how we dealt with them.

How flip are you? How conscientious are you about reader mail? Do you spend hours each day on Twitter, rambling like a grandmother after three martinis? Are you reliable?

Negative answers to these kinds of questions mean that you are eroding your trust score with people and losing sales. When you lose sales, you are drawing each comic for less and less income.