Building credibility (part 2)

Part 1 was looking at you as an individual. This one focuses on the corporation.

In the first years:

* Look after your image.

Business cards at “1000 for 20$” may be practical and cheap but they don’t speak much for you. Logo, stationary, envelopes and flyers must be well thought out. If you do not have the means of developing them with a pro, hire a college student studying in graphic design: they will help you to translate into “images” your business personality.

* Credibility by association!

Find a mentor, an adviser, a supplier, ready to support you publicly, better, to invest time and money in your small company. These associations can take several forms.

A satisfied customer will not hesitate to recommend to you. Ask for a testimonial. Get their permission to use it your advertising. Integrate them into your Web site or your newsletter. If they ask you to write it yourself (you will be surprised how often that will happen) ask them some questions:

Why you chose us ?

Are we fun and easy to deal with ?

Anything special in the way we treated you as a client ?

Anything special in the way we solved the problem ?

How do we compare with your previous supplier/solution etc. ?

* Volunteering

In certain cases, volunteering is another way of proving your worth. A friend of mine, Robert Astell, had hardly left law school when he got to plead a case in the most important courts of the country because he had offered his services to a charity organization who couldn’t afford the normal fees. This expertise enabled him to obtain good customers more quickly than he thought he would.

* With customers

Don’t bad mouth anyone. Don’t complain in front of a customer or a supplier: that gives out a very bad image and people will not want to be associated someone like you.

Your youth is like an ace at Black Jack. Learn how to gauge if it is an advantage or not.

Accepting a challenging project can force you to learn but don’t fool yourself, you won’t be able to get your credibility up if you can’t do it.

It is normal to be a little less expensive when you are the new kid on the block but don’t cut your rate. It will only attract clients that want to pay less and less. They will always be looking for the bargain not for quality work. To stay in the game, don’t charge all of your time. That way you’ll still be competitive without giving the impression you are cheap. If you play the slash the prices game, not only will you harm your credibility; you know the old saying you pay for what you get. Basically, always under promise to/and over deliver…

* On the Web

It’s not the Eldorado anymore but it still is an enormous source of opportunity. See Killer startups or Techcrunch for you to give you an idea of how it is still active. A computer and a high speed connection are enough to start. Watch for my next post on a 17 y.o. girl with no specific expertise that rakes in from 50 to thousand dollars a month, mainly on AdSense revenues!!!

On the other hand, the level of mistrust is extremely high. If you want to inspire trust, here some basic rules.

* Be transparent:

  • Make information easy to find on your site: your name, addresses, phone numbers and people to contact.
  • Your purchase policies and payments informations
  • How information given by your customers will be used (or not used).
  • Share your knowledge
  • Have your own domain name, with a secure server.

* Be constant:

  • Do not change the terms of the guarantee once it is on line.
  • Respect your delivery schedule.
  • Answer quickly any questions put on your site.

* With the investors

Obtain the support of a financial analyst With investors you better stick to the facts and really know your competition. Strike the expression “my financial forecast is very conservative ” from your vocabulary. After having read more than a thousand business plans and following up, I can say to you that, in reality, the “conservative forecast” will be the one you’ll be busting your a.. to reach!

Never forget: YOU don’t need a scandal to lose your credibility! To falsify some of the facts or to hide your true financial situation, to change your mind half-way thru a deal, to turn away on what was agreed upon, not taking your responsibilities, to make a promise and not deliver on it, are the small shortcuts that a young start-up could be inclined to take. Resist, because a bad reputation is very, very, difficult to change…