How to create the perception of credibility even if you are a small fish
Every company has begun its life as a small start-up. Perhaps with a single founder or a few employees multi-tasking from customer service to product development. Being small has it’s benefits. Your ability to make decisions and get things done is much faster – there is no bureaucracy. You are able to adapt to consumer needs with more flexibility.
BUT being a large organisation has one clear advantage. CREDIBILITY. Through the eyes of consumers, suppliers and the public the perception of being ‘trust-worthy, reliable and consistent’ is greater.
How can you create the perception that your start-up is bigger than it is? Here are our five top tips to get you looking professional and convincing.
Strong brand identity
Successful businesses will always have one thing in common: they harness the potential of a strong brand.
Your brand goes beyond simply a logo, eye-catching colours or a tagline. It is your identity. How your audience engages with you at every possible consumer experience point. From your offering, to how you engage in service recovery even simple elements such as themanner in which the phones are answered.
Are you memorable? Are you different? Is it personal?
Your business might be small but your brand identity can certainly be innovative and unique. It can help you leave a lasting impression far beyond any advertising campaign.
At SHK, we’ve created quirky business cards and collateral with important catchphrases and brand tips as a great conversation starter. Not only do people ask us more about who we are and what we do, but they tend to remember us instantly.
Get a website
It is estimated that more than 50% of small businesses still do not have a website. Needless to say that this is a lost opportunity, you are going unnoticed by potential clients.
In our current tech environment, creating a website could not be easier. If you have a limited budget, look at cost-effective solutions. Source a ready-made template that allows you the flexibility to customize look and feel. We recommend WordPress templates for their user-friendly and robust features. Their SEO plug-in is search-engine optimized and most templates are already designed responsive: ie automatically adjust to suit any platform, laptop, tablet or mobile. More than 75% of mobile phone users access the internet through them, and the number will rise to nearly 86 %by 2018. Google now favours sites which work well on mobile in its search results: You definitely want to be one of the top results.
Most requests for information to SHK Consulting will either come from word-of-mouth or through the website – a simple search. From our site potentially clients instantly get a clear understanding just what we do and who we have done it for without any delay. It also helps us filter our potential clients that may be a mismatch.
Yes, you’re on social media, but are you using it wisely?
Which platform is most relevant for you? Not all social media sites are created equal. For example, if you are a professional services business you will most likely want to connect with other professionals through LinkedIn. Or engage conversation through Twitter. If however, you run a café you will want to showcase your menu and space through beautiful photography on Instagram. You may also want to engage on Facebook to run special offers and events.
A good place to start is to gauge which sites the big brands in your industry are most active on and use that as a guideline. Once you’ve picked your platforms, it is imperative to identify the type and frequency of your content.
Ensure that you are consistent, engaging and are sharing content that it is relevant to your target audience. You must connect your brand to their ideals and lifestyles.
Beyond simply creating content on Facebook or Twitter, it’s vital to track your conversations and activity: what are people saying about you, what analytics can you obtain about the success rate of your posts? We are fans of HOOTSUITE. The social media management tool that allows you to manage and analyze marketing campaigns over several platforms.
Set a Marketing Budget
We all know that as a small business your funds are limited and every shilling must drive value. The reality is that any small business that hopes to grow must budget some amount of spend to get is products, services, and names in front of consumers. If you plan ahead and identify how much you are willing to put behind your marketing budget you can then go about allocating it efficiently and strategically.
‘Free’ ways to get your name out there
The more you and your brand become front-of-mind, the more benefit you will derive. Consumers will start to say “they are everywhere. I see that brand all the time. I must find out more”.
Think outside the box and find innovative and free ways to get your name out.
Does your business have a unique story or proposition? Can you drive any PR value from it? If you can’t afford a PR agency, put together a press kit from resources online and start engaging with media personalities on twitter to share your company’s proposition. They may be interested in doing a feature on you.
If you are in the services industry why not give your time to strategic partnerships? Pro-bono work for visible projects or campaigns that fit your target audience can open you up to networking and new possibilities. It will also help you showcase your skills.
At SHK, we frequently will go the extra mile to provide complimentary PR or experiential services to projects where we know we can leverage on gaining exposure and picking up new clients from. For example our association with Forbes Africa and its iconic Forbes Person of the Year Africa awards. For us we would prefer to give our expertise rather than spend money on advertising, we have found this a better medium for us. However, be warned – you must be selective as to what you put your name to.
Remember association = perception = credibility (or lack of).
If you are a product can you champion a social cause that can go viral? Or are you able to donate some of your products in kind? Always look at how you can maximize the right opportunity with the resources you have. You will be surprised at how much you can accomplish.
And ofcourse don’t forget the most important thing, first impressions count. Be professional, know your industry inside out and always be well prepared.