As posted in the Gaston Gazette
It’s no secret that trust in institutions is down. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, there was a decline in trust for all four of the following institutions — business, media, government and non-governmental organizations — in 2017, for the very first time. Even more stressful for business owners: only 52 percent of people said they trusted business to do what’s right. Certainly, lack of trust can be a huge barrier to success for small businesses. Here are a few ideas for how you can tackle this challenge.
- Offer products or services that are reliable. It’s great when you’ve got a wonderful product or service that is also catchy or trendy. But your focus should be providing offerings that you believe in, that improve and enhance the lives of your customers. Don’t be willing to just sell anything. If you’re selective in what you offer to your customers and you double check that it aligns with your mission and goals, you’ll feel more confident that you’re honoring your principles. And if your product or service has been vetted properly, is reliable and you love it, then you’ve got a great chance of showing your customers just how credible you are.
- Be honest. Telling the truth and running your business with transparency isn’t just the ethical thing to do – it’s also a great way to ensure that your business maintains its credibility with your customer base. Being honest is about being open about both strengths and weaknesses. Part of that honesty revolves around being truthful about what it is you offer and what you do; accurately representing the features and benefits of your products and services is essential to securing customer loyalty. That openness can also engender a lot of admiration in your customer base.
- Keep an eye on your brand. It’s very easy for a brand and its reputation to suffer if neglected, and that neglect can translate into a loss of credibility and, ultimately, a loss of customers and sales if you aren’t careful. There are a few factors to consider when you’re trying to bolster your brand’s credibility, such as visual and verbal efforts like your advertising, non-verbal efforts such as your logo and the efficacy of your internal operations. In addition, cultivating a robust digital and social media presence that is both dynamic and responsive to customer feedback and concerns is another way to help ensure your brand’s credibility. Finally, don’t forget the importance of cultivating strong advertising and editorial relationships with newspapers and other media to educate and promote your business and keep your brand in front of people’s eyes.
- Get endorsements. One of the best ways of building business credibility in general is to secure the support of the folks who love your products and services and are willing to say so. If you have some long-time customers who are willing to share their views in an advertisement, on social media or even word-of-mouth, ask them for their help. Most loyal customers are always willing to help out when they believe in a business, and it gives you the advantage of having people willing to speak out about you and what you do who aren’t directly affiliated.
- Learn to be objective. Learning to look at your business with objectivity and balance is another challenge, but fostering an accurate understanding of who you are and what you’re doing is incredibly important to maintaining credibility. Consider asking employees to engage in regular reflection as part of their annual evaluation process and to offer feedback on the business at large. Consider forming a small external focus group periodically to give you insight into the things that you feel you might otherwise miss or overlook.
We certainly live in a world where trust and credibility are at a low, but that doesn’t mean your business has to suffer because of it. There are still plenty of ways in which to keep this current cultural trend from dragging your business profile and reputation down and have you rise above the rest.