After 4 years, I finally redesigned my blog.
And I spent more than $25,000 doing it.
Here’s why I did it (and of course what you can learn from my experience).
They Thought I Was A Con Artist…
Someone I know, a friend of my friend, asked my friend “Is what Derek does legit?”
Let’s forget about the fact that I knew this person for years… When they asked, they were genuinely curious. Is Social Triggers and “Derek Halpern” a scam?
I know. Ridiculous. I could have taken it as an insult, but I didn’t.
Just a few months prior, I was being considered for an article in a major mainstream publication. An editor nixed the idea, warning the writer to be careful citing Derek (ME) as an expert.
And a few months before that, one of my employees was talking to a friend about Social Triggers. The friend had the same reaction. “Is this a scam?”
What’s going on here?
I mean, you’ve been a reader here for quite some time. You know what they’re saying is not true. That’s why you’re subscribed after all – even if you saw the old site.
So just what is going on?
And more important: why do people judge what you do with such skepticism? And how can you prevent the same thing from happening to you?
I Looked Like A Scam
I’ve got 200,000+ subscribers who believe in what I do, and they know that I’m here to help, and that I’m “legit.”
They’ve joined me for live events, saw my helpful YouTube videos (which have reached millions around the world), and had a beer with me at one of my meet-ups.
They know that I give away 99% of my content, and when I do sell something, it’s something I truly believe in.
But the people who were outside of my community – in some cases, people who knew me personally but didn’t know Social Triggers – thought I was a scam.
BECAUSE LOOK AT THIS HOME PAGE.
It says NOTHING.
You see some random guy promising you something you want on the internet…
…and that looks like a scam.
It gets worse, too.
Last month I was having lunch in West Palm Beach. I met a struggling dog trainer who said they weren’t able to find enough clients. She then mentioned a website where she could post her services, but her husband interjected: “Yea, and that’s how they get you! They let you post your services after you buy $25.00 in credits. I know how they make money. Those websites are such scams!”
I’m unfamiliar with the site, and whether or not the site could actually help people. But I also know the husband was just as unfamiliar with it. The only thing he knew about it was that it charged money to get listed – AND THAT’S WHY IT’S A SCAM!
I tried reasoning with him.
But it didn’t matter.
His mind was made up.
And when someone makes their mind up, it’s almost impossible to change it.
That was happening on my site. People would stumble on it, think it was a scam, and bam. I’m done. And they’ll never trust me again.
But all hope is not lost…
There’s something I call credibility triggers. They are little things that make people think, “Yep, this is the real deal!”
And if I had them on my site, I could combat that gut-level defensive reaction.
But I didn’t have them. I mean, I had them, I Just didn’t have them on my site. And that’s the main reason why people were so skeptical.
So, I needed a new web design and to use these credibility triggers on my site.
You should too.
The best part?
You don’t need a large audience. Or a lot of revenue. Or a New York Times best-selling book. You just need to add these credibility triggers – and you’re set.
The Tug-Of-War Between Trust And Skepticism
You must put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Especially if you’re selling products and services online like I do.
Over at the New Yorker, James Surowiecki wrote “con artists are greedy hucksters who sell us dreams that never come true.”
And he’s right.
Con artists sell dreams. And they milk people for everything they’ve got. They lead with something we want – like money, love, health, power, or success – and offer to sell it to us for a price.
And that’s how scams work. Here’s what you want. Pay me and I’ll help you get it.
But is pushing someone to realize their dreams, and offering to show them how to do it for a price, a big con?
Yes, it’s a dream, but is it always a scam?
If you want to speak in front of large audiences, a coach can help you with that. How will that coach get your attention? He’ll make a promise and offer to show you how for a price.
Your kid is bad at math, a tutor can help with that. How will that tutor get your attention? Don’t fail math! Hire me!
That’s how you get attention and persuade people to buy.
And that’s the problem.
I was in an industry that looked like a scam because the same tactics the scammers use to get attention are the same tactics successful businesses MUST use to get the same attention.
So, even if you’re the bright spot in a murky industry, you must be aware that your industry colors you the color that your prospects see…
…and luckily credibility triggers help you stand out in the right way.
How Credibility Triggers Help You Build Trust Online
Have you ever had someone judge the work you did in a negative way? And later felt, “Well, that was completely unjustified. They don’t even know me!”
Well, you didn’t give those people a REASON to believe you.
Below are things you can start doing to build the trust.
And then I’ll show you how I implemented each of them on my new website that cost $25,000+.
Credibility Trigger #1: Show Off Your Personality
If you watch my YouTube videos, you’ll know that I don’t take things TOO seriously.
Heck, if you ever saw my initial Social Triggers trailer, you’ll see that I led with a bunch of funny bloopers.
The problem was, you didn’t see any of that on my site.
You occasionally saw me post a funny picture of myself, but that’s it.
And that’s a mistake.
Personality persuades. Especially NOW. Every big box store feels like cookie cutter copies of one another. Maybe they have different products, and maybe they have different look and feels, but it’s all the same. It’s BORING.
And people don’t remember boring.
I always say that “What stands out gets remembered. What blends in gets forgotten. Go do something different.” It’s what’s best for you – and your business.
And my old website had NONE of that.
It was just a plain white design with a stock photography image of a brain. Sure, the content was memorable. But when new people came to my site and made a snap judgment about whether or not to trust me, they never even gave the content a chance. They saw the design and slammed the back button.
However, in my new design, I knew I wanted to show off my personality. I wanted people to know, “Wait a second. This guy is weird. But he’s human. And he’s saying some smart things. I should keep reading…”
Quick Tip For You:
Don’t overdo it. I’m a New Yorker, and I’m actually louder, and curse a whole lot more in person. But you’ll never see me curse on my site. Why? No one wakes up and says, “I only buy from people who curse,” but there are plenty of people who say, “I’ll never buy from someone who curses.”
The goal here is this: When you show off your personality, show off things about your life that you believe your customer will identify with – or aspire to. If you’re a business consultant, don’t talk about how unorganized you are all the time. It detracts from your credibility. Yes, you want to be transparent, but don’t be painfully transparent.
Credibility Trigger #2: Your Clothing Matters
For a while I did the whole casual thing on Social Triggers. It was working fine, and all. But one day I got the bright idea to start “split testing” what I wore to speaking engagements.
I tried dressing down like I did in my videos. I tried dressing up in a full suit. I then tried some clever mix of the two. What did I find?
When I dressed down, people would look at me as some loud New Yorker punk. I mean, look at him. He’s younger than me, and he’s wearing a t-shirt.
The truth was, I WAS a loud New Yorker, but I had something to say. And it was important.
And then, when I dressed up, people stopped acting like that. I was no longer “digging myself out of the punk kid stereotype,” and instead, I started at the top.
Plus, who doesn’t want to look the most interesting man in the universe?
Now I’m not saying clothes did everything. It’s also possible that the clothing made me act differently (maybe more confident?), and that’s okay too. The end result was still positive.
So I knew that I wanted to show off the NEW clothes. But there was also a strategic reason why I did this…
I talk a lot about building an online business. How do other people present themselves in this space?
Long story short: they show off how little they work, and how they wear t-shirts everyday.
And yes, some of our customers want this. But clothing can also be a differentiation mechanism.
Remember, people view this industry as a scam, and it’s not always a scam. There are legitimate people who do great work. And I knew if I wanted to differentiate myself from other people, I didn’t want to look like they looked.
Quick Tip For You:
It’s not about dressing up, or dressing down. Or wearing expensive clothes or cheap clothes. It’s about putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. What do they think about you? How do they group you in with your competition? You could say, “I don’t care what other people think about my clothes,” but if you’re in business, you should care. Especially if you care about your results.
Credibility Trigger #3: Show Off Endorsements
When you have credible endorsements, it helps build trust in the eyes of your prospects and web visitors.
And my last site had NO endorsements.
I mean, I guess I had one. I had a quote from Chris Brogan.
Here’s what’s funny though…
People would ask me, “I love how you feature that quote from Chris Brogan on your homepage. That really must increase conversions!”
And the truth was, it probably didn’t.
A lot of people who visited had no idea who Chris Brogan was.
Why have the quote?
Well, when I first got started, one of my first ever conversion videos was with Chris Brogan, and I knew he was going to send a bunch of people my way. Hence, I wanted a quote on my site from Chris.
And then I just never changed it.
Here’s the lesson:
When you’re adding credibility triggers – like endorsements – to your site, you need to ensure those endorsements MEAN something to your prospects.
If they don’t mean something, you might as well not have them.
“But Derek, what if I was never featured in a magazine and I don’t have a quote from someone who means something?”
Quick Tip For You:
Get a testimonial from someone who you think is very similar to your ideal audience, and feature that. Use the Perfect Testimonial framework I set forth right here.
And then what will happen is this:
You’ll connect with people, not on a “authority logo,” or “authority quote,” level, but instead, you’ll connect with people in a much more powerful way: I help people just like you.
But I know you’re still wondering, “Why did this cost $25,000?”
I remember telling someone about how I spent $310 on a haircut, and their first reaction was to think, “Your hair doesn’t look that good!”
And I’m sure people are going to say that about this design too.
That’s the whole tug-of-war between scams/motivation/money.
But here’s the deal:
I’ve hired a handful of people to redesign Social Triggers in the past…
…and none of them delivered something I was in love with. So I quietly put their design in a folder, never to be seen again.
You get what you pay for.
But this time I actively recruited top designers. I went to websites that featured work from designers that won awards. And I picked out people who had a great eye for design…
I then interviewed each of them. I described my project, listened to what they had to say, and then I patiently awaited their proposals.
I didn’t go to any of these designers with a budget in mind. I went in with the hope of finding the right person for the job after I had so many failed attempts in the past.
(That’s a waste of money. And a waste of time).
That’s when I realized this was going to be much more expensive than I had previously anticipated.
It wasn’t going to cost $2,000, or $3,000, or $10,000. To get everything I wanted it was going to cost $20,000+.
Heck, one proposal came back and they quoted more than $100,000 – and I thought: “HA! RIDICULOUS!”
Funny how that works, right?
And thus, here’s my new design.
I ended up working with a guy named Brian Hoff and a photographer named Eric Michael Pearson (he’s the same guy who does all the ST videos).
They did a fantastic job.
Feel free to explore the site. If you find anything wrong with it let me know.
Don’t Panic: If You’re Unhappy With Your Web Design, It’s Okay… Seriously
Even though the web design I had made people think I was a scam today, that doesn’t mean it was a mistake.
When I first got started, this home page made sense. I was looking to find my first few thousand loyal fans…
…and if my design turned people off, I told myself, “Well, I don’t need those people.”
Plus, it converted real well.
Why would such a spammy looking site convert real well?
It’s all about how people found me in the first place.
At the time, I was getting featured on blogs all over the internet, and those blogs had readers, readers who were comfortable reading advice from random bloggers – and I was just another random blogger.
These people were accustomed to signing up for things with their email address, so nothing about what I was doing was weird. Or scammy.
Conversion Tip: This is why I hate when people ask me “What’s a good conversion rate?” The source of traffic matters more than the color of your buttons.
But I wanted to keep growing.
And I noticed something strange when I began experimenting with new traffic sources – things like mainstream media, landing book deals, speaking at dental conferences. I felt like I was digging myself out of a hole from the outset. Everyone thought what I did was scammy. And the design was the reason why.
It was no surprise. I wrote the article about why design was king a few years ago and it appears it’s still true today.
But I still denied it.
“I don’t need a web design,” I said. “This works great!”
So I ignored it.
I know many of you may just be getting started with your business, and you may be thinking, “Well, it sounds like I need a new web design!”
Not so fast.
The other day I saw someone confess that they were thinking about spending their only $4,000 they had on a web design. And they were wondering if it was a good idea.
People then argued about the cost of web design.
“THAT’S TOO EXPENSIVE.”
“THAT’S CHEAP! DO IT”
“DON’T DO IT. BUY MY THING INSTEAD.”
Many people glazed over the real problem. The problem was that this person was about to spend their last $4,000 on a website…
My scammy-looking design worked for Social Triggers for the first 4 years to the tune of millions of dollars. THEN I wanted a redesign.
And that’s good news for you.
You might look at your site right now and think it needs to be updated. You might think you need new photography. You might think you need custom graphics…
…but none of that matters in the beginning.
Get your business right first. Then go make sure you look good doing it.
In the meantime, take the overarching strategy I shared here – and the credibility triggers – and look to tweak your existing design to make small improvements as you focus on what really matters.
Business Tip: Don’t compare what you do to people who have been doing it much longer than you. You need to compare yourself to how other people start. And as you can see, we all started with bad web designs.