Newspaper reports add credibility to one’s business (courtesy of Matt Callow)
With so much information easily available at the click of a mouse (or the tap of an iPhone), consumers are becoming more enlightened than ever before. As Mulder and Fox would have told you, “the truth is out there”, and it is now showing at an Internet-enabled screen near you. With so many websites, forums and blogs established to conduct independent consumer and product reviews, people will no longer take your word for it.
What can companies and businesses do to ride this trend? Is it enough to claim that you are able to make them taller, smarter, cleaner or more relaxed than the competition? No, it isn’t.
To succeed in an increasingly sophisticated consumer society, one needs to not only provide a Unique Selling Proposition (or USP) but to back it up with the facts. Don’t embellish the truth merely to win over the hearts of your customers and end up breaking them later. In business, you cannot afford to have “loved and lost, than not to have loved at all”!
How does one authenticate one’s claims?
1) Collect testimonials and feedback from one’s customers. Make it a habit to seek inputs from your customers and get them to either write it down on a form, email it to you, shoot a short Youtube video, or tell you verbally so that you can scribble it down.
2) Look for authoritative and credible sources of information about your company’s products and services. The media is an excellent resource if they have ever conducted reviews of your brand, and make use of newspaper clippings or news broadcast footages in your marketing kit.
3) Participate wherever possible in the various product awards and certification schemes available. In certain businesses like F&B, it is almost mandatory to get yourself “accredited” by an “official” food guide or certification scheme.
4) Ask an expert for his or her opinion and use it. If you are a supplier of toothpaste, get a dentist’s endorsement – both Oral B and Johnson and Johnson have used this strategy to much success.
5) Tap on the collective wisdom of the prosumer, especially those who are actively blogging, facebooking or twittering. If possible, invite them to sample your products and services and use their independent reviews to your advantage.
6) Statistics can be your best friend. Make use of the latest figures and numbers available from credible studies and independent research to back up your value propositions.
7) Be sincere, transparent, and willing to admit your weaknesses if they are important to your customers. Nobody can be all things to all men and still remain cheap and affordable. To be believable and trustworthy, be open about what your product or service can do, and what it cannot do, before your competition does so.
In the age of consumer enlightenment, it is no longer enough just to blow your trumpet as loud as you can. You need to provide evidence and proof that you are overdelivering on your promise, and the best sources of information are no longer your own. By tapping on the credibility of others in your communities and networks, you are able to stand out from the plethora of competitors who are shouting themselves hoarse but attracting nobody.