As a small business owner, you recognize the importance of making people aware of your organization's credibility. For nearly 100 years the Better Business Bureau (BBB) helped you work towards that goal by rating reputable small businesses. However, a recent controversy related to the BBB's current rating system exposed the need for improved trust-building mechanisms.
While the BBB will remain an important player in this landscape, small business owners should take the time to build credibility for their companies independently of other parties. With emerging new media technologies and online tools, building reputation as a small business and communicating with customers has never been easier. Lets look at a few ways small business owners can build their credibility on their own.
6 Steps to Building Small Business Credibility
1. Start a Blog - Starting a blog for your small business is a way to not only improve credibility for your business, but to also bolster your search engine optimization and social media marketing. Having a blog can build credibility quickly by posting regular updates for your customers and prospects and giving them the opportunity to leave comments on your articles. This demonstrates that you are transparent about your business and expertise.
2. Encourage Customer Reviews - You likely have access to one or many online sites focused on providing reviews and insights to businesses in your industry. If you are a restaurant, for example, you can accumulate reviews about your business on sites like Yelp and Urban Spoon . Take an hour or two and research the most important review sites to your customers and then encourage your customers to post reviews about their experience with your business. This can be done by adding links to these sites on your website and putting up signage in your business. Not all of the reviews will be 5 stars but that is ok - this trust-building process will take time to yield the results you want to see.
3. Post Testimonials and Endorsements - Just as you should encourage customers to write reviews for other sites, you should also capture positive customer experiences and put them on your own site. For example, if you are a general contractor and just finished a kitchen remodel, use a flip cam or some other type of camcorder and record a quick video with the homeowner about how much they like their new kitchen. This video could then be posted on your website or blog for potential customers to watch.
4. Demonstrate Subject Matter Expertise - To be credible, it is critical that you demonstrate expertise for your craft. This type of expertise could be writing a blog article about an important industry issue or winning industry awards for the quality of your work. Ask some of your past customers why they hired you and use their reasons as subjects of content or awards to bolster the profile and credibility of your business
5. Be Easy to Reach - Nothing causes a potential customer to be wary of a business more than not being able to quickly and easily get in touch with someone from the organization. As a business owner, you should offer several communication channels on EVERY page of your website. This is more than just a 1-800 number. Make sure to have phone, email, address and social media profiles also present on your pages. Twitter and Facebook can be important tools for setting customers expectations.
6. Reward Referrals - Small business owners have long leveraged referrals and word-of-mouth marketing - it is now time to leverage these avenues online. Today a referral can mean many things - it could be a person they know that is in need of your product or services, but it could also be as simple as a customer sharing their positive experience with you business on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You should encourage this either verbally or with a follow-up email after their work is completed, asking them to share their experience with their online networks.
Building credibility for your small business is about taking the time to do some of the little things correctly and leveraging existing supports of your business.
What are other ways you have built credibility for your business?
Photo Credit: vagawi
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