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5 Tips for building trust & credibility as a small business owner

You pour your heart and soul into your business, but can others tell you’re the real deal? In a highly competitive market where customers are spoilt for choice, having a great product or service often isn’t enough to stand out – and it’s normal for customers to question whether a business is legitimate or not. Prospective customers need to be convinced that you’re serious about what you do to take a chance on what you’re offering.

Here are 5 things you can do to look credible and gain customers’ trust.

  1. Create a professional and cohesive look.
  2. Make your website functional and informative.
  3. Show your personality.
  4. Provide an enviable customer experience.
  5. Harness the power of customer reviews.

1. Create a professional and cohesive look.

The visual identity of your business is like the clothes you wear – it shows whether you’re casual or formal, old-school or modern. But ultimately, it shows you care. You wouldn’t greet anyone important looking scruffy and unkempt, would you? The same goes for your business.

Looking professional and presentable doesn’t mean you have to be formal or serious. You can (and should!) be exactly who you are. The unique character of your business will depend on what you sell, who your customers are and what you value. If that means you’re innovative and playful, go for it! Just be consistent with your image anywhere you go.

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According to Forbes, consistent brand presentation increases revenue by 23%, while colour improves brand recognition by 80%. So once you land on a logo, a few brand colours and one or two fonts, use them consistently across all your materials – from business cards and website pages to stickers and signage.

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Although it’s tempting, try to avoid using many different font styles together. One of the easiest ways to look slick is to stick to two fonts at most – a simple, classic one to do the heavy lifting (think website text or brochure paragraphs) and an accent font with more character to add interest here and there. Less is definitely more when it comes to typography.

2. Make your website functional and informative.

A website is your virtual shopfront. We’ve found that a third of small business shoppers discover businesses through online research…and what they find will determine how you’re perceived.

First impressions matter a lot, so you want your website to look enticing (remember the tip about visual consistency). But the information you include and how you structure it is just as important – if not more.

Here’s what to include on your website to make it functional and professional:

  • An “about us” section explaining who you are and why you do what you do. Reading a real person’s story is instantly relatable.
  • Clearly displayed contact information – make it easy for your customers to get in touch. You get extra credibility points if you also add office hours during which your customers can expect to get a reply.
  • Pricing information. There’s nothing more annoying than having to send an email only to ask about prices (few customers will bother). It may also look suspicious or scammy, so show your website visitors you’ve got nothing to hide.
  • Customer testimonials or logos of businesses you’ve worked with. A little word-of-mouth goes a long way towards building your image as a reputable business.
  • A favicon – the little icon that shows in a browser tab when you open a web page. It’s such a simple way to instantly look more professional.

Once you have a website you’re proud of, add the URL to all your printed materials so that new customers can easily find you and get to know you.

3. Show your personality.

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As a small business owner, your humanness is one of your selling points. Small business shoppers respect and have interest in the person behind the brand…so don’t be afraid to show them who you are.

Find your unique tone of voice and speak to your customers in a way that is real and approachable. From order confirmations to personalised thank you notes, use every interaction to establish a connection and show your personality.

A powerful way to connect with your audience on an emotional level is to share your brand story. Tell them how and why you started your business and what your purpose is. Customers who share the same values will be instantly drawn to your brand and are likely to become your devoted ambassadors. Tell your story on your website, social media and even printed materials such as flyers or postcards.

Another great way to show authenticity is to share glimpses of your life as a business owner – typically on social media. Behind-the-scenes videos are a great example that people love. Don’t be afraid to show some vulnerability and share challenges you’ve faced as a business owner. People trust other people (and businesses) that are open, honest and real.

4. Provide an enviable customer experience.

There’s no better way to show you’re serious about what you do than to deeply care about your customers and always have their back. According to American Express’s Customer Service Barometer, millennials are willing to spend as much as 21% more for an excellent customer experience.

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Here’s how to let your customers know they’re your top priority:

  • Commit to answering customer enquiries within 24-48 hours – or whatever time frame works for you. Show them they can count on you by making a realistic promise and keeping it.
  • Solve problems quickly and in a way that doesn’t require much effort for the customer.
  • Have a clear satisfaction guarantee and be transparent about your return policy. If you do accept returns, make the process easy and straightforward.
  • Try to reply to customer reviews, both good and bad. Remember not to take negative reviews personally and avoid sounding defensive. Dealing with detractors elegantly is a major sign of a serious business.
  • Add a personal touch to build a connection and show them you care. Use the customer’s name when you address them, add a thank you note to their order, or send a follow-up email after they shop.
  • Offer a little extra with their purchase, like a few fun stickers, a practical branded tote or a postcard with an inspiring quote your customer can share with a friend. Make the gift exciting and relevant.
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People who shop from small businesses often do so with intention. They take joy and pride in supporting a small business owner, so they value receiving a heartfelt thank you note in return. If your business has outgrown the stage where you had the time to personally sign each note, print a postcard with a thoughtful message and your signature in a handwritten font instead.

5. Harness the power of customer reviews.

People trust other people’s opinions and experiences. Word of mouth continues to be one of the most effective ways to find new customers. But did you know that 84% of people trust online reviews just as much as a personal recommendation? Reviews clearly pay off.

Asking customers for reviews can feel awkward, we give you that. But it’s mostly about finding the right time and making it sound like a natural continuation of a conversation or transaction. It can be as simple as adding “Let us know if you love it” on a personalised thank you note with each purchase.

Social media channels are a great place to direct your reviews because people already spontaneously use them to share their experiences. Asking to be tagged on Instagram can feel a lot more conversational than requesting a formal Google review.

But don’t limit your positive reviews to the digital space alone. Print them out and use them to draw the eye and offer reassurance. Trying to attract customers into your space? Consider featuring reviews on signage like banners or A-frames. Want to spotlight a fan-favourite product? Use a sticker to put your customer’s words directly onto the packaging.

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For more than 20 years, Vista has been a partner to small businesses all over the world, helping them design, market and build their brands. Get 15% off at vistaprint.com.au. Use code BIZWEEK at their checkout before August 31. Conditions apply.

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