Prospects are more likely going to turn into customers when they feel that they will be buying from a company that is credible. The more credible you are — the more trust and authority that prospects ascribe to you — the more likely you are going to win their hard-earned dollars when they are ready to buy.
So how do you build credibility for your business? Some entrepreneurs are fooled into believing that any marketing builds credibility but this isn’t the case. Many businesses market but only a few build credibility.
Here are 11 ways you can build credibility for your business. Mix and match them to build your own unique credibility (even if your competition is already doing some of these).
#1. CRITIQUE OR EVALUATE SOME ASPECT OF THE INDUSTRY
Every industry has its popular aspects and its shadowy underbelly. Your competition is trying to shine the light on the best parts but you can build credibility by being honest and up-front and showing quantitative comparisons or frank critique about the industry.
One example is a grocery store near my house: They usually have a couple of shopping carts by the front door, loaded with products, showing how much you’d pay at their store compared to a couple of the other major chains. It’s an effective way to position themselves as the low cost option.
#2. SHATTER MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS
Consumers are outsiders. They only encounter your industry and your business when they need your product or service. Therefore, they develop myths and misconceptions. You can build credibility by educating them about these myths and misconceptions.
A good example here, in my opinion, is Chris Brogan. Brogan does a great job of shattering the misconceptions of social media by coming back to the ideas of listening, building trust, and connecting to your network rather than focusing on the number of followers or how to explicitly sell on social media.
#3. REVEAL SECRETS OF THE INDUSTRY AND YOUR BUSINESS
This is similar to the above idea, I guess, but it’s different enough that I wanted to include it separately. Every business and industry has secrets. They aren’t always bad, they just haven’t been explained to customers. Pricing is one secret. Ingredients is another common secret. And while you may want to keep some parts of your business a secret for competitive reasons, you might gain credibility with your prospects by revealing some secrets.
One example is from McDonalds. In this video posted on Mcdonald’s Canada’s YouTube site, the McDonald’s Executive Chef explains how to make a Big Mac, and he reveals the ingredients that go into the “secret” sauce (which, he points out, isn’t really a secret at all).
#4. CREATE INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS
Many industries suffer from “same-as” syndrome, where all the competitors offer exactly the same product or service as every other competitor. I have been very critical of the real estate industry for this very reason but I could list a number of industries that suffer from this problem: Financial advisors, dentists, chiropractors, optometrists, locksmiths, roofers, mechanics, and I could go on and on. You’ll build credibility if you break out of the mold and offer something different. It doesn’t have to be massively different — even just slightly different is good. (The Business Model Canvas and Blue Ocean Strategy are both good ways to innovate your business model). And click here to read my best advice on innovation.
I’m going to piss some people off by mentioning this example: Property Guys is providing a very innovative solution in the real estate industry. (Note to my real estate friends and clients: Don’t let their growing success annoy you. Rather, let it spur you on to further differentiation in your business).
#5. SHARE CANDIDLY
Many businesses maintain a barrier between themselves and their customers. I think there are a number of reasons that this happens (depending on the business, I’d guess that profitability, receivable-collection, competitiveness, privacy, and safety are all potential reasons). But customers want to connect with the businesses they buy from, and they are more likely going to buy from people they know, like, and trust. And when things go wrong, customers feel like they can reach out to a person instead of a faceless corporation. You can build credibility by being yourself. Or, if you have a large company, you can build credibility by having a representative be the face of your company. But as you’ll see in a moment, it doesn’t have to a specific person. The point is to share.
One example of a business that shared candidly and built credibility with their sharing is Domino’s Pizza. They have had an amazing transformation since their pizza turnaround commercial. That’s just an example of how one company used sharing in a one-off way. I think Twitter and Facebook give businesses the opportunity the share on an ongoing basis.
#6. SURPRISE WITH MORE INSIGHT THAN YOUR COMPETITION
Businesses put a barrier around what they know. There is a very distinct scope of information in a business’ marketing and a very distinct scope of information in their deliverable. The internet has really challenged many businesses to rethink how much they share before they deliver their deliverable. Some businesses share, for free, as much as 90% of the value they provide customers for free, leaving the 10% as their monetized value. This is smart but it’s not widespread, which means that many businesses can build credibility by educating their market and providing further insight.
One example was given by Perry Marshall a couple of years ago. (I’d link to it directly but I can’t find it). Perry described a local home repair company that produced a book — a beautifully bound, full-color book with pictures and how-to instructions. Perry rightly suggested that any home maintenance/renovation company could produce a similar book for their type of work — a plumber could produce a book about basic household plumbing; an electrician could produce a book about basic household electricity; and so on. They wouldn’t even have to give away the “secret sauce” of their business but rather just establish credibility by showing people how to care for that part of their home. You may be able to do the same thing in your business.
#7. DEMONSTRATE YOUR SOLUTION
I have a secret fascination with product demonstrators. They’re like carnies. They entice people to their booths and show them how sharp their knives are or how absorbent their shammy is. They need to do this because these products sell well when they are demonstrated. We have gotten away from demonstrations in our infoproduct world but products are still being demonstrated. Can you demonstrate some aspect of your product? You’ll build more credibility if you do.
I recently heard a consultant who demonstrated his methodology on a recorded call with a client. He got their permission first (of course), and then performed his consulting process on them while recording the call. Then he used the call to help sell the consulting service he was selling. This is a brilliant way for a service-based business to demonstrate a solution to build credibility.
#8. CREATE BEST PRACTICES
As industries grow, old businesses exit and new businesses enter. The growth is organic and messy. Years later, industries become complicated and fuzzy and even sometimes difficult to understand. You can build credibility by creating industry best practices. Even if other businesses don’t follow them, you’ll still position yourself as a pioneer. Your best practices don’t have to be all-encompassing or industry-wide. You just need to pick one thing and establish best practices. Codify them and establish yourself as an industry leader.
Many of today’s “gurus” in the world of B2B services have done just that. Seth Godin created what is ultimately a set of best practices around permission marketing. Dan Kennedy created what is ultimately a set of best practices around direct mail. Chris Brogan created what is ultimately a set of best practices around social media. I just wrote a report for a client who is building a certification process in an industry that has none.
(Note: It’s easy to overlap this idea with the “create an innovative solution” idea, above. But in this example, you’re not actually doing something new, necessarily; you’re just codifying it for others).
#9. PROVIDE DEEP ANALYSIS OF YOUR PROSPECT’S SITUATION
Successful sales people understand their prospect’s problems and use that knowledge to sell more effectively. The more you know about your prospect, the better. But often, that knowledge of the prospect’s situation is gained and then used to sell. But you can build credibility by gaining that knowledge and then feeding it back to your prospect. You’re not telling them that they feel a certain way. Rather, you’re telling them why they feel a certain way, and you’re listing and quantifying the many, many, many factors that contribute to their problem.
One example of a company that does this well is SAP. They’re a huge software company and they write a lot of whitepapers and reports. Those reports focus on the problem their customers have; not just the problem but the deeper, underlying reasons for that problem, along with the “cost” of the problem. They gain credibility by exploring the problem in-depth and, of course, positioning their software solutions as the answer to their customers’ problems.
#10. EMPATHIZE WITH YOUR PROSPECTS
Your target market doesn’t want to buy from you. And, in fact, they don’t even care about what you’re selling. They’re thinking of themselves and their problems or needs and how those problems can be solved or those needs fulfilled… not only that, they’re focused on themselves and they have much bigger lives than the problem that your product solves. They’re also thinking about how they’ll pay for their kid’s braces and they’re trying to remember to pick up milk on the way home from work. They don’t want to buy from you. They want to solve a problem with the help of someone who understands. You can build credibility by understanding — activity listening and seeking to see through their eyes.
I hate to say this but I’m having trouble thinking of an example here. I see it happening a bit… but not nearly to the degree that it could happen.
#11. BORROW YOUR CREDIBILITY FROM OTHERS
All of the examples I’ve given so far are credibility-builders that come from you. But your credibility doesn’t have to come from you. There are many ways that you can build credibility by “borrowing” it from others. For example, you should collect testimonials, write case studies, take before and after pictures, encourage customers to provide reviews and to tweet about you and provide a backlink to you on their site. If you’re an author, get a foreword written by someone famous. If you own a restaurant, get a food critic to visit. If you have awards, credentials, and degrees, these can all help with your credibility.
We see this in the film industry all the time: When a movie is about to be released, the trailer is full of accolades by critiques and film festivals, and it will list actors and actresses who have won (or even been nominated) or major awards.
Customers buy from businesses that are credible. Mix and match from these credibility-builders to help you establish authority and trust with your target market!