For small business owners, one of the biggest challenges is getting other people and groups – including customers, investors, vendors, and lenders – to take their companies seriously. But with the correct approach, even the smallest businesses can establish credibility and make big things happen.
4 Ways to Build More Credibility
The internet has flattened the barriers to entry in most industries. Whereas an entrepreneur once needed a proprietary idea, lots of funding, and a deep network with all the right connections to start a business, it’s now possible to start a business in a matter of hours with nothing more than a laptop and an internet connection.
While most would agree that lower barriers to entry are a good thing, it does create some challenges. Most notably, it’s created increased competition. Thousands of new businesses are launched on a monthly basis, which makes the act of starting a business less impressive. In other words, people don’t take small businesses seriously until they prove themselves.
This cynicism and lack of respect makes it tough for businesses that are legitimate and worthy of being taken seriously. However, you’ll have to fight to be respected. Here are some ways you can establish credibility and make a name for your business:
1. Leverage Your Networks
The best way to create some instant credibility is to leverage your own personal and professional networks. This is known as the Halo Effect.
The Halo Effect term was first coined in a 1920 research paper where a team of behavioral scientists initiated a study in which commanding officers in the military were asked to evaluate various qualities of subordinate soldiers.
“They found that high ratings of a particular quality consistently correlated with high ratings of other characteristics, and negative ratings of a specific quality also led to lower ratings of other characteristics,” marketer Alex Birkett writes. “The research goes on and on, in all sorts of different areas and industries, but it all spells out a simple truth: we don’t evaluate things as they objectively are, but through lenses that we may not even be aware of.”
This means you can bolster the credibility of your small business simply by gaining endorsements and/or establishing relationships with other people and brands that already have clout in the marketplace.
2. Use a GPO
When your business is small, you don’t get the same perks as larger organizations. This is especially true when it comes to purchasing supplies and services from vendors. But there is one alternative: Group Purchasing Organizations, or GPOs.
GPOs are essentially small business networks in which multiple companies come together to pool their purchasing power to receive discounts on products and services that they frequently purchase. Not only does membership save your business money, but it also amplifies credibility.
3. Cut Through the Crap
Many business owners are tempted to make loud claims about the value they offer. However, noise doesn’t foster success – results do. The bolder your claims, the more opportunities there are for customers to walk away disappointed.
“Instead of making overly broad or bold claims, focus on what you truly believe to be the best qualities of your company,” entrepreneur Martin Jones writes. “Verify the accuracy of these claims and then use these as the heart of your marketing efforts. This doesn’t mean you need to make tepid or overly cautious product claims, it just means you should be wary of the always tempting, but often risky, bold claim.”
4. Put Your Business Out There
Entrepreneurs often fall for the misnomer that if they build it, people will come. Unfortunately, this rarely ends up being true. Not only do you have to build a business, but you also have to put yourself out there in order to generate customers and drive sales.
Put your business out there in as many ways as possible. This may include a combination of social media, podcasts, trade shows, media appearances, and community events. It can take months – even years – but the results will follow.
Putting it All Together
In the business world, credibility is currency. As you seek to establish more credibility, remember to stay true to your core identity. The quickest way to lose respect is to compromise on your core values. The marketplace still rewards integrity and your business will benefit from sticking with your plan.