By: MassLight Team
Let’s face it; we’re living in a time where small businesses and customers are more connected than ever. If close to 90% of clients seek out testimonials (in other words, online reviews) as the first step before connecting with customer service or buying an item, it’s clear that credibility is of the utmost importance for startups. This reality maps a clear agenda for small businesses:
- Foster lasting connections with clients.
- Keep a “finger on the pulse” of your business reputation
- Cultivate a brand identity that speaks for itself
Here, we outline the core priorities for businesses looking to optimize their credibility
Start With Feedback
Online reviews from patrons of your small business are a “make-or-break” factor for entrepreneurs. Most (if not all) businesses find that customer retention statistics are directly linked to online reviews. It makes a lot of sense. Over 90% of visitors (non-clients) seek out these testimonials, often through platforms like Yelp, Angie’s List, TripAdvisor, and Google. It’s hard to hear criticism, but use this feedback to anticipate pain points and accumulate a running list of potential improvements. It is crucial to “get in front” of negative or ambivalent reviews; a few are not problematic, but an emergent trend of negative reviews can damage your startup permanently. Look at it like this: these customers are giving you free input. They’re telling you exactly what you want, which is half the battle when it comes to giving it to them.
Pro Tip: It costs more to acquire a new client than retain existing ones. Veteran customers outspend new ones (cumulative brand loyalty), and they are also far more likely to deliver on successful referrals.
Connect With Clients
This is where your overall marketing efforts become invaluable; specifically, your social media presence (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) and brand blog. This is a highly effective way to connect with both existing buyers and potential ones. If your small business–your brand, essentially–is as immediately accessible to customers as their friends and family, they will trust your brand in a similar way. The logic is sound: most consumers understand that there is a risk inherent in any transaction; the variable is whether or not a business works to mitigate those risks for clients.
You might be thinking, “this level of engagement sounds difficult to reach and maintain.” It’s not! The key: conceptualize your brand as if it was an actual person. This “human touch” also opens a window for you to talk directly with customers, express creative material, and curate a culture for your small business that employees are actually excited to be a part of. Some good ideas for content include:
- Spotlights or interviews with staff members
- Founder backstory
- Values and organizational credo
- Testimonials from real clients
- Product highlights
Don’t forget to respond to users who comment on your posts. People will be less enticed to engage with your social media and/or blog if their attempts to connect are ignored. Remember: only 5% of customers are unconcerned with trusting the companies they patronize. This means the vast majority of buyers seek a sense of familiarity with businesses before committing to a purchase.
Pro Tip: Email campaigns are another viable option for getting to word out about your business.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Brand identity, core values, and business culture start with your staff. The people on your payroll should improve your small business’s pubic image and internal culture; not the other way around! This means that employees need to be treated with respect as legitimate stakeholders in your business. Furthermore, put as much effort as possible into your hiring methodology. It’s not all about skills and experience; hire team members who are motivated, principled, and easy to work with. This is especially essential if your company functions with the assistance of temporary staff, or freelancers. If a potential stakeholder doesn’t have a clear value add, really think twice about hiring them.
Follow the (Legal) Rules
This one is simple. Know the laws and regulations surrounding small businesses in your region and industry. Take it seriously; if your brand earns a reputation as dishonest or noncompliant with the law, people will start to distrust (and dislike) your small business. These considerations can include:
- Financial best practices
- Health/hygiene regulations
- Employee wages and benefits
- Sensitive data security
There is no reason to avoid or fear these rules. They are truly in place to protect you, your clients, and keep your business running smoothly (with maximum profits).
A Promise Made Should Be a Promise Kept
A startup’s guarantees can range anywhere from free returns, bonus gifts in instances where dissatisfaction is imminent, and the quality of the products/services offered.
- A women’s swimwear company promises free returns to patrons, mitigating the inconvenience of guessing one’s size and trying on swimwear at home
- A restaurant offers a free takeout entree if your meal was prepared incorrectly
- A clothing brand guarantees that their garments are made ethically, with fair wages for workers and materials sources from high-integrity manufacturers
Stick to your guarantees, even if they create periods of difficulty in your business. Don’t overdeliver–one guarantee is a great place to start. Assurances about the outcome of a transaction will take you far with clients.
Pro Tip: The inevitable follow ups regarding brand assurances need to be handled well. Invest in customer service resources and a system of best practices for transactional resolutions. Your brand’s reputation is on the line!