When we started up, there was little reason for any prospective client to trust us. Why would they, we had no history of success.
We relied on our backgrounds within an industry we knew, and our network of contacts, to help us meet warm leads within our target market. We converted enough of these into paying customers, which in turn helped provide a solid case history for future prospects.
We started writing content (like this) and posting our takes on social media. We created a visually consistent aesthetic across our channels. We housed ourselves in a fancy office building, which acted to endorse our business by association.
We did what we could to shortcut validation.
Start-ups will always have to solve this problem, gaining relevancy and trust in a marketplace full of more experienced, better-resourced opponents. Ultimately, customers are investing in a degree of certainty, based on how much they trust the supplier to complete a project to the standard they desire.
Fortunately, every business is looking for a different combination of corroborating evidence. Here’s what you can do to increase your chances of being the right fit:
Maintain a clear proposition
Keep it simple. This isn’t about what you say in an elevator, this is about how you present your business across myriad channels, and how quickly someone can get it. If you can say it in 4 words, don’t use 10. If you can say it in 3, don’t use 4.
Match your company’s values to a cause
‘Standing out’ can be difficult, especially from a distance. Chances are that you do something similar to your immediate competition, in a similar way, and target similar prospects.
Matching up with a charity or organisation helps to reinforce your proposition, align you with a mature business, with an existing audience, and give people another reason to favour you over a competitor.
Give them the why
What made you start? Why do you get up every morning? How does it make you feel? If you can lend humanity to your business, you’re far more likely to encourage people to interact with you.
Select a single, definable market
This need not be forever but should be standard operating procedure for any new business. Yes, plenty of different enterprises could benefit from using your product or service, however, a select few will be more likely to sign up. They needn’t be defined by industry, or location, or demographic, but there will be a notable element that remains true of this group.
Define, then refine the market
Where possible, irrespective of how you define your audience, try to focus on those at a similar stage in their development. Your last case study will be far more powerful in converting your next prospect if it closely matches their business needs & goals.
Pronounce the value of your shared experiences
This may come in the form of accreditations or years’ service or projects worked on. All the obvious stuff. Once you’ve locked down the target market there may be a few more, based on what matters to them, such as what languages you speak, what you do outside of work, or where you’re located.
Promote direct contact
This is your key call to action, to make contact. Make it straightforward, don’t hide behind a generic email address or a switchboard.
You’re aiming to increase the level of trust that your prospect has in you and your business. Every customer-facing facet plays a role, including but not limited to:
– Your office
– Your website
– Your presentation/pitch documents
– Your social channels
– Your email signature
– Your business cards
They make a difference, are worth the investment and in the case of anything digital, will be working on your behalf 24/7.
Steer clear of any veil of secrecy and highlight how you will solve your market’s problem, in detail. Where, when, how long. You can include sample content, if that helps.
Most process documents are long and intricate. It’s no good being transparent if nobody reads the thing. So, wherever you can, convert words into pictures.
Anyone. Seriously. At least when you start. If that person is taking an interest in you, that’s a great start. You can be more judicious with your time, over time.
Don’t be shy. There’s a boatload of stats that will reinforce why you need to get their first, remain persistent and continue to follow up until you get a firm no. Even then, no can mean ‘not now.’
We’d argue that it helps you clarify your stance on complex subjects, which is no bad thing in the sales process. More than that, it will prove that you know what you’re talking about and keep you top-of-mind.
Distribute that content
Pareto’s principle in full effect: Content is only valuable when it is read, so spend time making sure that happens. Share it on social, send it directly to people, post it on public platforms. And if you spent 80% of your time doing this, over 20% writing or capturing the thing in the first place, you’d make most marketers pretty happy.
Interact with your community
Create, distribute, interact. Say it with me. Create, distribute, interact.
Now that you’ve successfully engaged some folks – which is the hard bit – now go ahead and chat with them. You’d be crazy not to. You might recommend further content or even other suppliers. Remember, the goal is to gain trust.
Testimonials & case studies
Wherever possible, convert your successes into tangible proof. A case study is better than a testimonial; a testimonial is better than a logo. The greater the level of specificity, the more value the recommendation will have.
We didn’t do our due diligence when we first started. We should have, both to protect our business and to prove that we were serious about creating a long-term partnership with our clients. Invest in proper paperwork and take the time to experience your prospect’s service or product before agreeing to onboard them.
Every business wants to find more or higher value clients. To do so, they continue to find ways to increase trust among their audience.