New businesses have a lot on their plate - from preparing their products or services to registering their business name and everything in between, there's a lot to keep track of. Yet, once your small business is up and running, getting customers to trust your company is another major task.
To build credibility and earn more customers, there are four tried-and-true ways to establish your business as legitimate. If you're looking for ways to improve your business perception, or are just about to embark on a new business, this list is for you.
1. Get a business phone number and email address
Whether you have a physical location for your new business or are working remotely, every credible business has a designated phone number and email address. Nothing makes a small business seem more questionable than calling a "business number" and getting someone's personal voicemail.
Sign up for a free phone number from providers like Google Voice, which can be routed to numerous phones, and ring at the same time. When business calls come through, you'll avoid answering as if it's a personal call, and give your caller a positive impression of your business.
The same goes for your email address. Even though it may seem convenient to have your personal and professional email correspondence in one place, it could seem fishy to your potential customers. Get your new business a custom email address ([email protected]) to legitimize your company and instill trust in your prospective customers.
These two minor items make an incredible difference in your brand perception, and will exponentially boost your new business's authority.
2. Have a website with current information
As shoppers are increasingly moving toward online research before making purchases, it's essential to have a small business website. Incorporating the basics - product information, hours, directions, and means of contact - communicate your legitimacy to your visitors.
Consumers visit websites looking for information, and if your website is lacking key business information - or even worse, has outdated information - they're going to go elsewhere. Just having a website isn't enough, anymore, website visitors want the most up-to-date and relevant content, so regularly updating your website is a must. It indicates that you're active online, care about your products and services, and understand how visitors are using your site to inform their purchase decisions.
Regularly check your website content to ensure your new business is making the first impression you want by incorporating these key elements.
3. Accurate Google listing and local search listings
While having a website that's kept current is great for your new business, having an accurate Google listing and local search listings are necessary for people to find your business online.
First things first, claim and verify your Google listing (your business profile that shows up in search results when people search for your business or businesses like yours).
image courtesy of Google My Business
Check that your business hours, address, phone number, website, and business description are current. If not, edit the listing to include the correct information.
But we all know that Google isn't the only search engine, nor the only way people search for new businesses online. Local search listings are your business profiles shared on various local and niche directories relevant to your industry. Having your business show up in local directories is a feather in your new business's cap, as it increases your exposure to your local audience, and shows your potential customers that you're a part of their community. This adds to your legitimacy and reinforces that your business is trustworthy. Having other directories accepting your business's profile submission is another trust indicator which shows the public that you're legitimate.
If you don't know where to start with local search listings, there are services that'll do the work for you. Simply input your business information once, and they'll submit your profile to dozens of local directories. However, just like your website, you need to monitor your listings and update them whenever a piece of business information changes (such as seasonal hours).
4. Connect with your community
Having a digital presence is incredibly important for bolstering credibility, but good old fashion face-time can do wonders to legitimize your new business, too.
Once your online presence is established (website, email address, and social media profiles), get into your local community and network. Business is all about relationships, and by forging individual relationships with local business owners, they're more likely to refer customers to you, and be open to partnerships and collaboration. For a new business, this is a major win - when longstanding businesses vouch for new businesses, it adds another level of validity to your business. Another benefit is that networking locally will help your word-of-mouth referrals, which still remain relevant in this day and age.
Yet, for many new businesses, they don't have local communities because they're in the virtual space. Well, we have good news for you - there are still ways to connect online and share your expertise and build those professional relationships that will lead to future referrals and positive word of mouth.
Comment on other business's blogs and social media profiles to show your engagement, as well as providing useful tips or feedback in those comments. Their followers and readers will begin to see your comments and value your interaction and information, and regard you and your business as trustworthy.
Another way to highlight your expertise is to contribute to HARO (help a reporter out). On this platform, journalists seek expert opinions and sources for their articles. This is where you can share your industry knowledge, and can garner a lot of exposure for your business. Being cited in a published article does wonders for brand legitimacy.
Getting your new business off on the right foot takes planning, but it's possible with these four tips in your back pocket. A healthy mix of online and offline exposure indicates that a business is legitimate and ready to do business. Start implementing these guidelines today and watch how your business blooms.