Many blame the pandemic for the rise in fraud: Consumer spending has risen while most businesses have had to battle labor shortages that have prevented them from meeting demand. This has created a perfect storm for inexperienced and unskilled individuals to open new businesses and scam artists.
Stories of consumers being scammed by shady companies are rampant. Some people have even made large down payments on projects only to make contractors disappear with their money. Thanks to these stories, many consumers are wary, especially of startups that don’t yet have a proven track record.
Register your business with your state.
This is not only the proper way to set up a business but also allows clients to locate their business in a state database. Creating a company with a recognizable structure, such as a Limited Liability Company (LLC), which is displayed as part of your name, can also validate your company to potential clients.
Claim your free Google business profile.
This puts you on the map, literally (hello, Google Maps). By claiming your profile, you’ll have more control over your business’s presence on Google. While you’re at it, earn Better Business Bureau accreditation and claim your business profiles on sites like Yelp, Angi, Glassdoor, and other easy-to-search review sites.
Show consistent visual branding across all channels
Use a consistent logo, color palette, and contact information on your small business website, online profiles, business cards, and other marketing channels and materials. This demonstrates an attention to detail that entrepreneurs who fly at night probably won’t have. It also gives prudent customers the opportunity to visit and inspect various sources to validate their authenticity and feel comfortable with your business.
Highlight your industry licenses, accreditations & memberships on all marketing materials.
If your field requires it, obtain a license, bond, and insurance and make sure customers know they are protected when doing business with you. If you have accreditations, certificates, or industry association memberships, display that information in your website footer and About Us page, and on your social media and business review profiles.
Offer a real way to contact your company.
Across all customer service channels—from your website and social media profiles to brochures and business cards—offer customers a consistent way to communicate with your business.
Show a physical address and an email or phone number. Providing a trusted contact shows customers that there are real people they can trust and connect with. If they are still skeptical, they can also use your address to verify your business.
Request and respond to customer feedback.
Many customers read online reviews before hiring or buying from a company. In fact, nearly half of the people who read reviews trust them as much as they value a personal recommendation from family or friends. The more reviews you have, the better.
Then, start asking customers to review your business. Simplify it by including QR codes that link to your online profiles on invoices, or use customer review software that automates the process of requesting reviews via email or SMS.
Whatever you do, please don’t use pressure tactics or encourage fake 5 star reviews. Authenticity matters, and hundreds of rave reviews can start to look fishy. In fact, research shows that customers are more likely to trust a company with an average 4.7-star rating than a perfect 5-star rating. Ask customers for honest feedback that can strengthen your business and help you improve it.
Don’t throw away a skeletal profile that you never update. A fake page makes your business appear fake or closed and could frustrate customers who want to contact you.
If a customer contacts you on social media, wait for a response. Additionally, posting interesting news and helpful how-to, thanking customers, and sharing case studies educates prospects and enable current customers to engage with you.
Respond to customers online and personally
When customers leave feedback online, take the opportunity to respond publicly. Responding to reviews reinforces your authenticity and can showcase your good customer service. In some cases, you can even acquire customers by responding well to negative reviews.
When it comes to communicating with individual customers, answer and return calls, emails, and text messages in a timely manner. Being responsive builds trust and can help generate positive reviews that reinforce your company’s good reputation.
Consider using the About Us page on your website to share some of your background, including why you started your business along with your philosophy and mission. This helps customers relate to you and can attract them to work with your company. As you grow, you may want to add an Our Team page so customers can familiarize themselves with everyone’s names and faces.
While it takes time to build credibility for any business, these steps will help you along the way. As you work to earn the trust of your first customers, you may find that they can help you build credibility over time as your customer base grows.