Credibility is one of the most important "intangibles" a business has. Traditionally, business owners built credibility over time through repeated positive interactions with their customers or clients-usually through face-to-face meetings or telephone conversations. But in today's world, where business is often conducted virtually and trust levels are low across the board, credibility is often difficult to establish.
Many online business owners, particularly those in the information-marketing world, establish credibility by using testimonials from their clients. It's an extremely effective technique because study after study shows that people most trust "someone like me." In other words, a recommendation from a friend, family member or colleague is worth a lot more than a claim made by a company in marketing materials or during a sales pitch.
But testimonials are only one way of establishing credibility; they shouldn't be the only method that you rely on. So here are 9 other techniques that can help boost your credibility and, in return, drive more sales.
1.) Before & After Photos. As we all know, a picture is worth a thousand words. Image consultants, organizational experts, general contractors and personal trainers use this technique all the time. But if you are a coach or consultant, think about what you do that can be shown visually. For example, has your client's website or brand been completely transformed, illustrating the business makeover you helped orchestrate? Or maybe you've helped a speaker go from presenting to a room of 25 people to 2,500. Wouldn't a photo contrasting the before and after be powerful?
Hint: The key here is to think and plan ahead. When you bring on a new client, look for anything visual that you can capture to illustrate where they are now versus where they will be AFTER having worked with you.
2.) Video. With today's handheld flip cameras and YouTube, anyone can create and post a video in minutes at virtually no cost. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million! Just look at the video posted above. This is from Blendtec's brilliant "Will it blend?" campaign. How better to show the durability of a blender than tossing in things that should NEVER be blended - like an iPhone! (And hey, aren't there times we'd all like to blend our darn cell phones to bits?!) But you don't have to have a product to make use of video. In fact, video is one of the best ways to make an intangible service offering, such as your consulting or coaching process, more understandable.
3.) Accreditation, Certification or Degree. It's one thing to call yourself an expert. It's another thing entirely to PROVE that you're an expert by completing an accreditation, certification or degree program. Have you ever wondered what those letters are after my name? ABC stands for Accredited Business Communicator by the International Association of Business Communicators and APR stands for Accredited in Public Relations from the Public Relations Society of America. Both take a significant investment of experience and demonstrated knowledge in PR, marketing and communications. Having a third party acknowledge this expertise increases my credibility with clients considerably.
4.) Media Coverage. So many entrepreneurs and small business owners don't appreciate the value of media relations because it doesn't necessarily translate immediately into sales. But one thing it most certainly does boost is your credibility. When you're quoted in an article about your area of knowledge, it immediately positions you as an expert. You can also write articles and submit them to publications. Once you get coverage, be sure to make the most of it. Tweet it. Post updates to Facebook and LinkedIn and post it on your website.
5.) Third-Party Research & Statistics. Always be on the lookout for new studies and research reports related to your industry or service area as they can help prove the need for or value of what you're selling. For example, productivity consultants can leverage studies that show how much time people waste each year looking for things in their office. (By the way, according to the Wall Street Journal, it's SIX WEEKS!) Marketing consultants can show just how influential branding is in the buying decision. Coaches can demonstrate the bottom line improvement for those who work with one. And personal trainers can leverage information that shows the consequences of not exercising or eating right.
6.) Polls. Instead of using someone else's research, you can do your own. Both LinkedIn and Facebook allow you to create polls for either your followers or the general public. In addition, http://www.free-web-polls.com allows you to create up to 15 free polls for your own website, and Survey Monkey let's you ask more in-depth questions. You can then turn the results into proof points, such as why your service or product is a good investment or that 95%+ of your clients are very satisfied.
7.) Information Products. Writing white papers, special reports, e-books and toolkits helps to immediately establish you as an expert in your field. After all, if you've "written the book on it" then you MUST be an expert, right? (They're also a great passive-revenue-generating stream!)
8.) Personal Experience. Even though you may never meet many of your customers or clients face-to-face (particularly true for internet marketers), you can still establish a trusted relationship by sharing your personal story or experience. If you yourself have created a successful business, are a champion tri-athlete, have an award-winning system, etc. then you are a credible source for business coaching, personal training, and so on.
9.) Offer a Guarantee. Perhaps the best way to create credibility is to stand behind your product or service 100%. Think about the companies that do: Tylenol. Oreck. Nordstrom. When you know the company is delivering a quality product or service and believes in it so much that it's willing to give you your money back without question, you're more likely to trust them. Putting your name behind your product and backing it up with a guarantee will put potential customers' minds at ease and help erase an objections to placing that order.
by Angelique Rewers, ABC, APR
Richer. Smarter. Happier.