Your customers don’t buy from your business, they buy from someone they know and trust: you. As repeat customers come to know you more, their resistance falls and price sensitivity ceases to be an issue. How do you get from first contact to trusted confidant status with new customers, though? Here are our seven steps to credibility for you to follow:
Know your core values
Before you can even think about building credibility, you need to know what your core values are. Not just your business values, but your personal ones. Ensure your business is aligned with your personal values, otherwise you will never be authentic in your dealings, and any chance of credibility goes out the window.
Once you know what you’re about, train everyone who represents your business, including family and friends, to adhere to those values.
Focus on what’s important
Now you know your values, weed out any business activity that doesn’t support them, and replace it with things that do. If you’re all about social responsibility, look into recycling schemes, support a local cause, or offer some kind of scholarship. That doesn’t mean ignore the bottom line, just find ways to give back.
Even if it’s all about profit, evaluate your business systems and processes to make sure you’re not cutting corners. If you want to be credible, you have to put your customer first, and that means prioritising quality and service over profit.
Communicate your ideals
You’ve done the hard work on you and your business, so now’s the time to shout about it. Make sure your existing customers know the changes you’ve made, and share your experiences with suppliers, clients and prospects alike.
Engaging in conversation about best practices in your industry shows you’re serious about being at the front of the field, even if you’re not there yet.
Measure your progress
Determine your key performance indicators, track and share your progress towards them. Talk about the times when it doesn’t go according to plan, and how you intend to put mistakes right, or prevent the same thing happening again. Transparency and honesty about your faults can build just as much credibility as good customer service.
Engage in dialogue
Don’t be a broadcast marketer. Instead, use social media and interactive channels to engage your customers and potential customers in dialogue. You’ll learn more by listening than shouting, and you’ll also find people are more responsive to you when you do talk if you’ve taken the time to find out what they want to hear first.
Become an expert
If you’ve done everything up to this point, you should be answering questions about your business and industry on a regular basis. All you have to do now is collect those questions and answers and use the information to provide valuable free content to users. Whether you’re a regular visitor to forums, a blogger, a Tweeter or a Facebook icon, sharing your knowledge freely will gain you credibility.
Take this a step further and write a book. You’ve already got the knowledge, all you need to do is put it into a logical format. You can give the book away or sell it through sites like Amazon, and you have author status. You could give talks to local groups, offer to give an opinion on the local radio, or spearhead a campaign, all of which raise your profile.
Live up to your own expectations
You’ve come full circle at this point. Now you’ve built your credibility, it’s time to check in with yourself. Do those values still make sense? Are you living your life in accordance with them?
Because if not, if there’s still a dichotomy between your espoused values and your behaviour, as you build credibility and create a profile, any chinks in your armour will be exposed. And nothing will destroy your reputation and undo all your hard work quicker than a thoughtless comment or quip. Just ask Gerald Ratner.