Running a small business means you are up against bigger companies with seriously fat budgets and established reputations. Building the trust of prospective customers can be a bit of a task, but once the quality and legitimacy of your company is established, customers will be much more likely to abandon the patronage to the big guys. There is no better marketing than a positive comment by a past client. Who wouldn’t trust the word of a friend over an email blast or postcard in the mail?
There are five key ways to help establish your business as an ethical one that customers will want to use time and again. There is a relatively simple way to build business while achieving repeat business. Developing ethical work habits is always in the best interest of the customer. If a customer knows they can trust you and your business, you’ll have a loyal customer for life.
1. Say what you do and do what you say
The customer-to-business relationship only works if the customer understands what they are paying for and if promises are delivered. Unfortunately, some small businesses, struggling for business against bigger companies, will make the fatal mistake of over-promising and under-delivering.
Building customer confidence can only be done if you are clear about what you have to offer and actually meet or exceed expectations. For example, if you own a tax accounting company, and you promise to have a client’s tax return ready by a certain date but finish the return two days earlier than promised, you will have a happy customer. On the other hand, if you promise a date you know is unrealistic in order to win business over the competition and miss that deadline, you have probably lost the customer.
2. Be transparent
Unfortunately we live in a world full of scammers and unscrupulous businesses, looking to take advantage of trusting customers. Those bad seeds have poisoned the pool of all of our clients, causing customers to be skeptical and cynical about working with a new business. The only way to overcome the hurdle of skepticism is to demonstrate complete transparency in your business dealings up front.
The best way to go about this is to be clear about what the business is and who you are as a company. Do not be afraid to post a picture of employees on your website and offer a short bio. Do give a brief history of the genesis of your company and describe your company’s motto or mission. For businesses run entirely online, be very clear about where you are located and how you can be contacted via telephone.
3. Stay consistent
It is important to remain consistent in the pricing of your goods and services. Offering specials or reduced rates on occasion is one matter, but lack of clarity about your pricing will create skepticism in your customers. If at all possible, post your prices or fees as plainly as possible.
4. Focus on the positive
More often than not, when politicians resort to political mudslinging and badmouthing their opponents, it sheds a more negative light on the attacker than on the one being attacked. In the same way, it is generally a bad practice to badmouth the competition. Posting negative comments or feedback about another company, whether fictitious or not, is never a good idea. Don’t practice shady business.
5. Do the most good
Consider sponsoring a kid’s baseball team, or donate your time or products for special events in your community, which could benefit from your help. Not only will you likely be on the receiving end of positive press and marketing for your business, you will also build an extra edge of confidence in your company. People are much more likely to trust a new business if they see you are not just in it for the profits. Positive associations, such as your company logo on the back of a 9-year old child’s baseball uniform, will build immediate trust in your business. The old adage of giving to receive is a great way to build your business.
Running your business in an ethical approach will never steer you wrong. There are people out there looking to take advantage of lenient return policies or friendly staff willing to accommodate much more than a typical company. However, the vast majority will appreciate the strong ethics of your business.
Adam Toren is an Award Winning Author, Serial Entrepreneur and Investor. He Co-Founded YoungEntrepreneur.com along with his brother Matthew. Adam is co-author of the newly released book: Small Business, Big Vision: “Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right” and also co-author of Kidpreneurs.