How Can Start-Ups Build Trust? Leverage These 4 Underused Credibility Cues

 

 

You are a technology driven start-up, hoping to do business with total unknowns – over your own website, on an e-commerce platform, through smartphone apps – every way except face-to-face. Your business has no track record to lean on and no customer testimonials to flaunt. And, you are unlikely to get any customers until you first convince them to trust you.

Sure, you have clearly spelled-out privacy and shipping and refunds policies and you hope that tells folks, “Hey, I am honest.” But, people don’t simply want to take your word for it. They want to make up their own minds. So, how do you help them decide?

Borrow credibility. Create trust by leveraging your personal brand, and using your networks strategically.

1. Make Associations Work for You

An Assyrian proverb states, “Tell me your friends, and I will tell you who you are.” Psychologists call it honor by association.

As a start-up or new business, you may not have customers who would vouch for you, but you might well have vendors. Ask them for testimonials. And display these prominently on your site. The point is, your supplier relations are likely to mirror your customer interactions. If you pay on schedule, you probably deliver on time too. If you are pleasant and accommodating with vendors, you are definitely a joy for your customers. When your suppliers vouch for you, your customers are likely to trust you too.

Here are some other ways to build your credibility through associations:

  • Tie up with the most reputed merchant account service.
  • Feature articles or reports by known experts on your site.
  • Get yourself / your business mentioned in an article that features the leaders and trusted names in your industry.
  • Get reciprocal links from other reputed non-competitive businesses operating in your segment.
  • Offer to interview industry leaders for your site or newsletter.

 

Bottom line – Be seen in the right company. When trusted names in your industry and ecosystem are willing to be associated with you, your customers are likely to trust you.

 

2. Bring Your Whole Self into Play

People don’t buy from businesses. People buy from people. Connect with your visitors on a personal level.

Here is the bare minimum information you need to share:

  • Name, contact information, credentials (aka short resume)
  • Achievements and successes from your past roles and career
  • Glimpses of your personality and life experiences
  • The story of why you choose to do what you do.
  • Photographs of you and your team, so people can put a face to your business

Consider all of the above as your credibility baseline. Then, to really earn trust, build on that foundation:

  • Wear your values / convictions on your site
  • Care about a cause? Feature it on your site.
  • Give credit where it is due. Acknowledge your intellectual / emotional / inspirational debts.

 

Bottom line – You are much more than just an entrepreneur or business founder. Help people to see you as a person, as someone they would like to connect with. Use your personal brand to lend credibility to your new business.

3. Build Social Proof

People google. It’s just as inevitable as death and taxes. Make it easy for potential customers and partners to find the best of you. Create focused content that showcases your expertise and positions you as a trusted adviser in your domain.

Here’s how you build social proof:

  • Write articles / case studies / trends pieces for high-traffic and high-engagement sites like entrepreneur.com, inc.com, businessinsider.com.
  • Offer to write a guest blog for reputed blogs/sites that your target audience trusts.
  • Post on chat groups, and discussion boards
  • Write your own blog. Read this article for tips on how to write a blog that engages your audience AND promotes your business.

Bottom line – The more targeted content you create, and publish on high-traction sites, the more you are viewed as an expert advisor, and less as a salesperson. Keep your name constantly on respected sites and see your credibility soar.

4. Utilize E-commerce Platforms Strategically

Make sure you use only reputed and trusted e-commerce platforms to sell your products and services. Find a way to become a part of their most elite branding platforms. E.g. if you sell on amazon, then ensure that your products are listed in the Amazon Prime and Fulfilled by Amazon platforms. Similarly, flipkart has the Flipkart Assured category. These platforms / categories are Amazon’s / flipkart’s way of ensuring quality. When you are seen on these platforms, the credibility begins to extend to your brands as well.

 

Bottom line – Be very careful when while choosing an ecommerce platform. Research and ask around for other people’s opinions. Choose platforms that are perceived to be exclusive (with stringent eligibility rules), effective and credible. A free membership scores over a paid one because consumers tend to perceive paid memberships as non-neutral and therefore non-reliable.

First published on yourstory.com

Title image courtesy: Pablo

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