It’s hard to build a name for yourself when you’re brand new. There’s always the catch-22 of needing a foundation of customers to develop credibility, but needing credibility to attract new customers. You can have the most innovative, honest and necessary product on the market, but if no one knows about it – it’s time to get people talking.
Word of mouth has a huge impact on sales, and you’d be wise to tap into the precious resource you likely already have at your fingertips – the handful of customers who believe in your product. These are the people or organizations who have chosen your company’s solution or service because they genuinely like it, or because they trust you, despite not having an established name or proven track record yet. For some reason they chose you over your competitors, and your task is to find out those reasons, and tell the world.
Start with the people who already interact with your company. Preferably you will have some customers who already use and love your product, but if you are truly brand new you might have to get creative. Everyone is a candidate! Call your accountant, or a Project Manager you’ve worked with – anyone you’ve exchanged time and money with who can attest to your company’s integrity.
Once you’ve got your initial group, start asking for feedback. If you can get positive testimonials right off the bat, great, but your goal here isn’t just to collect terms of endearment – it’s to win hearts. Therefore, your job is not done once you’ve asked for feedback – now you have to listen.
Don’t be afraid of criticism. If some of the people you’ve worked with are on the fence, do whatever it takes to make them happy. Wow them with your service. Help them, support them, even if it means altering your product or service. If you do this, they will naturally become your spokespeople, and your reference customers. They will talk about you in a positive way. They will allow you to create great video testimonials, or use the things they say in your marketing materials. The secondary benefit of this is you will improve your product, fixing anything that’s broken or needs improvement.
Once you’ve gotten your strong base of customers who are in your corner, it’s time to let them tell the world how great you are.
Your customer stories are the best marketing material you can have. When prospects visit your website, they are looking for credibility. They want to hear from other people who have chosen you. They want to be assured your previous customers were content with their choice, that they got what they wanted, that they were helped and supported and appreciated.
Design your website in such a way that your customer testimonials, stories and quotes jump off the homepage. This is the most important piece of content you can create when you’re just starting out. Collect pictures, videos, case studies, testimonials and quotes. You don’t need hundreds of these, a handful is all it takes. You can only fit so much on your homepage anyway, and just a few of these will make your company look much bigger than it is.
Part of maintaining the image of credibility is truly being credible. It’s one thing to get a list of people to talk about you in a positive light, it’s another thing to embody those traits as part of your brand’s integrity. Protect the integrity of your brand, and don’t get caught up in false advertising or hypocritical marketing. For instance, if your company boasts eco-friendly products but you drive a gas-guzzling Hummer to work every day, people might start to question your integrity.
When it comes to maintaining integrity, honesty is the best policy. If all your dealings with people and other companies are rooted in good, old-fashioned honesty and respect, word will spread. Embellishing your company’s capabilities or intent will only backfire, so treat every deal like it’s the most important one you’ve ever made. Protecting your credibility is just as important as establishing it.
Excitement is contagious. Believe in what you do, talk about what you do. Have pride in your mission, and your confidence will speak volumes. Even though you may not have the experience or accomplishments yet, you’ve achieved more than a lot of people just by being an entrepreneur. Be proud of that, and stakeholders will take notice.
It may seem that credibility is hard to build, but the bottom line is your reputation should proceed you. Be good, do good, and the rest will follow.