Know, Like, TRUST – the key word being trust. As most start ups can tell you, introducing a new business to the marketplace requires building awareness, but more importantly, it requires building your credibility. Your target audience needs to know about your business and TRUST that you are a worthy supplier.
The dilemma for start-ups being that its hard to prove how great you are when you haven’t yet had an opportunity to prove how great you really are. Regardless of your business model and your target audience, trust is something that needs to be garnered in order to gain customers and create brand loyalty.
Start-ups soon learn that credibility can be quickly generated by word-of-mouth. One happy customer tells another who tells another and so on. With the onslaught of social media, it has never been easier or faster to spread the word about a good product or service. At the same time, it has never been easier or quicker to permanently tarnish a reputation.
How to Establish the Credibility of Your Business
There are several strategies, regardless of your industry, that you can be put into place with the goal of gaining brand building momentum and credibility.
#1: Are you an expert at something? If so, let the media know about it. Reach out to the key media influencers in your sector and introduce yourself and your expertise. Make yourself accessible to them so that they know that they have a reliable resource available to them on an as-needed basis. A simple mention in a byline or a television appearance is the first great step in building trust with your target audience.
#2: Do you have a few happy customers? Let the world know about them! Incorporate written testimonials and video testimonials from these clients wherever possible. Include the testimonials in all proposals and e-marketing materials. Every positive reinforcement helps turns a potential client in to a paying client.
#3: Does your industry have a certification or awards program? Nothing sounds better than hearing about an “award winning” product or service. Endorsements from credible third-party organizations go a long way in establishing trust.
#4: Build a network of “Brand Ambassadors”. This is a very natural way to help build brand credibility. Offer users an incentive to start talking about you. Sampling programs, and freebies to the right individuals go a long way towards building your credibility. What the “Brand Ambassadors” are saying about you will have more value than what you have to say about your company.
#5: Excel at customer service. As a business owner, you’ve heard this many a time, but these are truly words to live by. Nothing will impress a potential client more than impeccable and immediate customer service. Wow them from the outset so that they don’t even need to consider getting another quote from a competitor.
#6: Implement a social media strategy. If you are of the opinion that social media is a passing craze then perhaps you need to ask the over 225 million twitter users and over 750 million Facebook users what they think of that (Bosmol.com, 2011). Social media has made it incredibly easy to build a following and offer free promotional opportunities. If this is not your strength, outsource it to someone who knows what they are doing. The last thing you want is to have a converation happening about your company in the twittersphere and not be a part of it.
#7: Align yourself with strategic partners. Perhaps there is someone in your industry who offers complimentary services to your own that you can leverage to make your company more of a full service organization. The more services you can offer the client, the less chance they will go elsewhere. A one-stop shop is your ideal goal.
#8: Exceed your clients expecations. Even if it means making a little less money at first. Customers will appreciate the extra effort and will most likely be happy to recommend you to colleagues and continue doing business with you.
#9: Focus on your core competencies. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Establish your niche and own it by being better than everyone else.
#10: Ensure that you are constantly talking to your customers and getting their feedback on their experience with you. As a result, you will be ensuring that you are meeting their needs, but at the same time, you will be getting free market research on just how well you are doing as a business.
Implement these strategies no matter where you are in the lifecycle of a business and you will quickly see your credibility and brand awareness grow radically. Ignore these and be faced with the reality that your credibility might grow at too slow a pace to keep up with all of your competitors.