I know you want to make profits. I also know that you want lots of it. I have come to tell you that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, except for one minor often neglected fact, which is, “what is the origin of profits?”
In my little experience in the world of business, going to 5 years now, I have discovered one truth and have often made it the guiding principle behind most of my business actions and decisions.
That truth is this; “building credibility comes before profitability”. In the lay man terms, here’s what I mean; “seeing is believing”.
I cannot stress this fact enough, because it is at the core of everything we do as entrepreneurs. People don’t pay for or buy words, or promises, or mind blowing ads, they pay for and buy results. There’s no way you are going to get money from people, until they can see, feel and know that you can deliver on your words, promises and mind blowing ads.
It is not easy to part with money, because it is not easy to make it in the first place. This is why as entrepreneurs and business owners, our first task is to instill that sense of competence, credibility, capability or trust in the mind of our target market or prospects long before we ever ask for a sale. Listen, “seeing is believing”, take it or leave it.
People need proves that they are not throwing their hard earned money away as a result of doing business with you. They want you to show them why it is you and no other person or business that should deserve their hard earned currency. This is the test of every business; the fight for the customer or prospects’ money.
This article has been unusually written to help you win that fight, not luckily, but strategically. How? Because as always, I’m going to unusually break down this principle to its most simplified form such that the knowledge and insight therein will be naturally clear to you and practical enough to put to use immediately. And to top it up, at the end I will be sharing two practical case studies to help you see this principle at work.
Now, let us begin!
What is credibility?
Credibility is that perceived sense or feeling of trust or belief that people have towards you as a result of relating with you. Credibility is the ability to inspire or earn the trust, belief or confidence of others towards you based on a combination of certain factors or qualities they have seen at play in your life. Credibility is the direct result of exhibiting certain qualities consistently.
Credibility is earned, meaning it doesn’t come freely; it is a direct outcome of a conscious effort. Credibility is not a thing you can give; it is a thing you get. It is not up to you to say [you can’t give it], it is up to others to say [you receive it]. Credibility is not in your hands; credibility is in the hands of others. It is the impression others have about you and all that you do or represent.
It is your perceived sense of value or worth in the eyes of others when it comes to certain issues regarding life or business. Credibility is all about managing others perception of you. Credibility is the feedback you get from others as a result of who you are, what you do and what you represent. It is the highest form of compliment you could ever ask for in life or in business.
In the world of marketing, the whole concept of a brand is wrapped around credibility. A brand is a marketer’s definition of the credibility or trust customers have towards a particular business, company or organization and the products or services they offer. It is the summation of feelings or overall perception a customer has towards a particular business, company or organization and the products or services they offer.
A brand is that level of credibility, trust, confidence or belief others have come to place or associate with a particular business, company or organization and all that it represents. A brand is only a brand so long as other people still has a certain level of trust, belief, confidence or credibility towards it. Once that sense, feeling or perception of trust, belief, confidence or credibility diminishes, a brand ceases to exist.
At its very core, a brand exists in other people’s mind and not in yours. In your eyes a brand could still exist, but in the eyes of others, it is already dead. The bitter truth is, it is what others generally say about you and what your business represents that gets taken as credibility or not. Your credibility lies in the hands of others. You are as credible as others say you are or aren’t.
Meaning, your business, product or service is only as good as others say it is. In business as well as in life, your overall value is collectively estimated by other’s perception of you and all that you represent. Your credibility in life or in business lies outside of yourself. And this is why profitability only happens after credibility has been established.
Why does credibility matter?
At the core of everything we do in life and in business is the desire to influence. We are all in the game of influence. We all want to dictate the response of others in our favour. Children cry when they are hungry because they want to influence their parent’s attention at that particular time. Ladies look seductive in order to influence the attention of men. Men spend in order to influence the perception of women. Marketers advertise in order to influence the purchasing decision of buyers. Politicians campaign in order to influence the voter’s decision in their favour.
In a rather subtle way, we all want to have a certain level of control over the behaviour or reaction of others in response to what we do, say or think. In the end, nothing is wrong with wanting to influence others, so long as it is not coerced [forced]. That is, nothing is wrong with playing the influence game once it is done legitimately and ethically. As a matter of fact, people do always want to be influenced, but not compelled. They want to own the final decision or choice to act.
However, they need certain level of information from the environment on which to draw a clue or base their final decision or choice. This is where the issue of credibility comes into play. Credibility is the only legitimate, moral and ethical form of influence permissible by law and nature. Credibility is influence earned. Credibility is the permission or privilege given by others to you to be influenced by you. Why?
Because over time you’ve earned that permission or privilege as a result of certain consistent actions, qualities or behaviours you’ve been exhibiting from which they have been benefiting. Because they have seen those consistent behaviours, actions and qualities and have come to value them, therefore they let down their guards and allow themselves to be influenced by you.
Credibility is a social license; once abused, it can be retrieved or revoked. The license is only valid so long as it is not wrongfully used. Meaning, you can only keep influencing the behaviour, actions or decisions of others as long as you’re consistently doing what gave you the right to earn it in the first place. Your right to influence ceases once you credibility diminishes.
Can credibility be developed?
Yes! Below I offer the basic ingredients necessary for earning the credibility required for gaining the right to influence the actions or decisions of your customers which eventually leads to profitability. Let’s now begin the process with two peculiar case studies to wrap it all up!
Who are you by the way?
[Getting the word out]
I am willing and absolutely comfortable handing out my money to someone I have heard of somewhere else before now. This is the reaction of every customer, prospect or client out there. You want to make the sale? Don’t be the first or only person that is just mentioning the name of your business, product or service, it somehow raises people’s suspicion. Here’s what comes to their mind; “If it were that good, how come I have never heard of it before?” why? Because I will not give out my money to just anybody.
It is a very logical thing to do. You cannot come to me reciting all your sales pitch and just expect me to hand you my hard earned money simply because you can speak good English or wear a nice looking suit. Absolutely not! That’s not how it works; you’ve got to build credibility first. Meaning, you’ve got to earn the right to influence me first. And the first place to start is to announce the existence of your business and its products/services long before you come into the presence of the prospect, client or customer. How do you do this?
Marketing is the core business function that deals with the entire process of finding, attracting and keeping customers or clients for life as a result of consistently creating, communicating and delivering superior value to them in form of products/services.
Marketing is what helps you identify the prospect or target customers for what you want to sell. Marketing is what reveals what they need or what their problems are, without which, you cannot create a solution or product/service that will meet their needs and solve their problems.
Marketing is what helps you to first get the news of your business’ existence to them long before you show up physically. Marketing is what bridges the gap between you and the target prospects or customers. Marketing is a tool for building credibility. You had better learn how to use it, or else don’t expect profits!
What have you done and for whom?
[Showcasing your track record]
I am willing and absolutely comfortable handing out my money to you if you can just show me what you’ve been able to accomplish in the past through this particular product or service you’re now offering me. Nobody likes to be an experiment, most especially, if they are going to be the first specimen. Prospects, clients or target markets want to know what you and your business has done that relates to what you are now offering for sale. There’s no need going out there to meet with the client or prospect if you don’t have any results to point to. The true test of competence is the quantity and quality of results presented.
No one cares how you got the deal, prospect or client; they just want to know if and how you met the needs and solved the problem. This is why it is important when staring out in business as an entrepreneur, to focus on getting as many jobs done so as to be able to build up your portfolio or track record for future references. Some people advice against doing things in business for free, I would say it depends.
If you know the person you want to do a free work for, especially those of us in the service industry, has a lot of social influence, that is, knows a lot of people who can be possible prospects, then go ahead. But be smart, that you are doing it for them free doesn’t mean you do it for free for everyone that comes from them also.
Furthermore, be careful to really assess their social influence, not everyone who is popular is important. Get that into your entrepreneurial head! You want to be sure that they don’t just know a lot of people, but that a lot of important people also know them. I mean, I do know Barrack Obama; he’s the president of the United States for crying out loud. But hey, does he know me? That’s the big question you need to always answer before deciding to do a free service for anyone.
How long have you been doing this?
[If I must be influenced, you must be experienced]
You must be really good if you’ve managed to be around for a considerable period of time. Why? Because experience is not gotten overnight; it is built over a long period of time. Besides results, experience is one other thing that counts in business. The fact that you’ve been doing a particular thing for a considerable period of time goes a long way to show that you would have developed a deeper level of knowledge and insight better than someone who is just starting out. And this can be translated into a very valuable source of credibility.
In marketing under the concept of differentiation and positioning, it is called leveraging on heritage. Heritage simply means the riches of the past or wealth of experience of the past. It is something that has been passed from years to years.
Why does the number of years in business count for credibility? Because experience can never be bought with money. It is only acquired over time. Time is the only way to measure experience. The idea is very simple; passing a road for the first time or doing a thing for the first time often looks difficult and your confidence level is usually low because of the fear of making mistakes.
But over time, doing the same thing over and over again, your confidence level soars and the time it took you to complete the task the first time will considerably be reducing the more you do that particular task or thing. This is why experience counts for credibility; it reduces the number of possible mistakes and increases the speed at which the task gets completed. All of these gets converted into credibility in the eyes of the client or prospect in terms of time savings and cost savings.
What are others saying about you?
[The battle for social proof]
I am willing and comfortable to do business with you, if there are other people out there talking about you positively. The need for social proof has increasingly become very important most especially since the rise of the internet and social media where it’s now easy to check up the credibility of just about anybody or company.
What you do both as an entrepreneur and also as the ambassador of your business is no longer hidden or secret, thanks to Google. The only time a word doesn’t go out there about you or your business is if you have never used the internet or don’t have an email address. But so long as you have an email, it shows you have registered your presence on the World Wide Web and Google will most certainly find you!
Therefore, it is important to guard your business reputation and make sure you are consistent wherever and to whomever you are dealing with in business or personally. They can do a background check on your business or reputation as an entrepreneur.
So get out there, and make sure what others are saying about you connotes a positive image of your company, business or brand. If you have done wrong in the past, be sure to make up and apologize. No one is perfect, so if a client has an issue previously with you or your business, be sure to address and try to remedy the situation as fast as possible, before it becomes the next blog post of that person.
Never Go to Print as an Author Unless You’ve 1st Built an Audience
A friend of mine some years ago made up his mind to write a book. Before embarking on the process of compiling the articles he had previously written, I advised him not to publish the book yet, at the very least, not until he established some credibility.
My point was simple; why publish a book, when no one other than your family and friends knows or has heard about you? Why publish a book offering principles or ideas no one else other than you has put to use? Why publish a book when your life as the author didn’t reflect or epitomize the principles or ideas you’re writing about?
I encouraged him to test his ideas and principles by creating and running a blog or a group on Facebook where he could gradually but consistently share these ideas or principles and get feedback on their potential to change and create positive results. I asked him to point or mention examples of people who he had shared the ideas or principles he wanted to write about with and who got positive results when they applied what he recommended. Surprisingly, he couldn’t come up with concrete names or examples of those he could go to who have proofs of his ideas or principles at work and could boldly come out to testify.
In a rather funny twist of events, he went ahead and published the book without informing me while it was being published till it was out in print. And so he went out to market his book, but guess what? He met roadblocks; no one was willing to stock the books on their bookshelves. They weren’t so sure it was going to sell because they had never heard of the author up until then. Even I being his so called friend didn’t bother going through it. Why? Because he didn’t come across to me as someone who was practicing what he was preaching.
A smarter Approach …Using credibility as a LEVERAGE!
Chris Brogan and Julien Smith are the authors of “Trust Agents: Using the web to build influence, improve reputation and earn trust” a book that made the New York Times best sellers list in just about two weeks or so of its release. I strongly recommend the book for all entrepreneurs serious about building SIGNIFICANT businesses. In fact, as I write this, I am reading it for the second time this year.
How did Chris and Julien pull it off?
They were the best at using credibility as leverage for profitability. Chris had been blogging for the past 10 years before he decided to co-author the book with Julien who had also been on the web for long. They had both initially written an ebook called “Trust Economies” [click on title to download your copy] published by Changethis an online ebook publishing organization founded by Seth Godin [they are also publishing my 1st ebook too :)] to test the principles and ideas which they later expanded in the hardcover book.
They spent years building their credibility amongst their audience and when the book was eventually released Chris made an audacious statement; “Over the years, I’ve done what I can to be helpful to as many people as humanly possible, without ever asking for much in return. It’s the right way to do it. But now, I’m asking for your support.”
It was the most audacious statement and ultimate test of credibility ever, it worked and it’s still working till now. Everyone bought the book and so many people didn’t just buy one copy, they both in droves. You can read all about it here; the big push!
Credibility is a great leverage for building profitability in business if you can only learn to put it first before profitability. It can take you to places you have never anticipated and it can bring you closer to your entrepreneurial goals faster than any other business strategy.
Learn to master the four steps above and see credibility do wonders for your business.
Hint: I created this site, naijapreneur! For credibility sake! Wouldn’t you agree with me that the leverage of credibility is already at work here? If you think otherwise, be bold to share your thoughts, opinion or suggestions in the comment box below. Thanks for enduring the reading process; I know it was pretty long!