As a small company just starting out you don’t have any brand equity yet. Nobody knows about you. How do you become credible? It’s very hard to build a name when you’re brand new. You don’t have the size of a big company. You don’t have a large amount of customers. You don’t have a reputation. You don’t have people who are famous or have big resumes. You do have one thing, however. You have your first customer, or maybe even a few of them. 5, 10, or 20. These are the people or companies who have chosen your company’s solution or service because they really liked it or because they trusted you enough despite your lack of operational history and established name. For some reason they chose you over your competitors. That's great. In fact, this your most precious resource to help grow a reputation.
Steps to becoming credible
- Your first customers are your foundation.
The very first people who have paid for your product are an amazing starting point to scale your credibility. Every single one of them is a candidate for one very simple thing. Collect every customer success story. If some of them are not happy, make them happy. Do everything you can. Alter your product or service to please them. Wow them with your service. Help them, support them. If you do this, they will naturally become your reference customers. They will talk about you in a positive way. They will allow you to do great video testimonials. They will allow you to use the things they said in your marketing materials. You don’t need to do multipage case studies, no. One quote is a good start. A quick casual video of the customer talking about you is great too. Anything you can gather is a building stone for your credibility.
- Ask for both positive and negative feedback.
Don’t be tempted to shy away from criticism. If your customers are upset, it’s a good thing. It’s an opportunity for you to kill two birds with one stone: fix something that’s broken and turn disgruntled customers into happy ones. Ask them to talk about all of their experiences. What did they think was incredible about your product or service? What was not so great? What did they expect to happen? Did you help them or hinder them in any way? What did they like? What did they not like? What could you do better? Early in the lifecycle of your startup don’t go out of your way creating a value proposition based on academic assumptions or facts you’re trying to prove. Instead, talk to your customers, make them as happy as you can, and then ask them to be a reference for you. Typically what will happen is this. They'll say positive things about you. Record them and use them as credible evidence for testimonials.
- Customer feedback is your best content.
Your customer stories are the best marketing material you can have. Why? Here is why. When prospects visit your website, they are looking for credibility. They want to see who are the other people who have chosen you. They want to be assured you’re your previous customers were content with their choice, that they got what they wanted, that they were helped and supported and appreciated. You have to give your prospects this information. Design your website in such a way that your customer testimonials, stories and quotes jump of the homepage. Remember, this is the most important piece of content you can create when you're just starting out. Pictures, videos, case studies, testimonials, quotes. You don’t need hundreds of these, 5 to 10 is plenty. You can fit only so much on your homepage anyway. A few of these will make your company look much bigger than it is.
Your to-do list:
- Ask your customers for permission to use their stories on your website and in your marketing materials.
- Record every customer success story – be it video, audio, text, or images. Any format will do.
- Thank your customers for their stories. If they gave you critical feedback, tell them about your plans on making improvements and regularly update them on your progress.
- Select the best stories and display them on your home page.
- Refresh the stories as you continue to grow.