One of the greatest challenges for startups is building credibility quickly.
I’ve fallen victim in the past to “slow startup syndrome” – not because my idea didn’t have potential but due to a lack of buy-in from a core customer base.
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The reality is that more often than not, if your customers don’t know you, they’ll need convincing before they’re comfortable giving you their business. If your startup has little to no clout, chances are you’ll achieve really slow uptake.
The irony of all this is that starting a business in today’s digital world has never before been more accessible. We’re now living in an era where we see more and more startups on a daily basis, from all over the world, being started by practically anyone and everyone.
It’s no longer a requirement that people who work on a startup need to be industry experts or need to launch their startup after decades of industry experience.
So what’s a startup to do when it comes to building quick and genuine credibility, for a business that has little to no real history, from an entrepreneur who doesn’t even come from that industry?
Here are a few tips from my personal lessons, experiences and insights.
1. Make sure you’re easy to find online
Don’t hide behind your startup – when people stumble across your startup, they want to know who’s behind it.
For many years I struggled with this concept due to the fact that I saw my startup as an extension of me. If my startup fails, I fail, and quite naturally we don’t have a tendency to publicise our failures openly to the world.
But over time my perspective on this changed. Failures are part and parcel of startups and businesses so it’s completely natural and even humbling to flaunt your failures. Put yourself out there alongside your startup. Your friends, family, connections, customers and followers will be 100% with you on your journey, in whichever direction that goes.
2. Sell yourself as well
Your startup may not have any history or credibility from day one but you certainly do. Flaunt your background, experience, history and qualifications.
Although it may no longer be a requirement, there’s always a possibility that the inspiration for your idea has come from your background, previous experiences or area of speciality. People want to know about you as the founder of your startup just as much as they want to know about your actual startup. A good starting place is your LinkedIn profile, Angel.co profile and your personal profile on your startup website or personal brand website.
3. Collaborate with credible partners
For every startup out there, I can guarantee there’ll be collaborative opportunities, and these are key.
It doesn’t matter how niche your idea is, how innovative or how disruptive, you will have key industry players who are already in the market that either complement your product or service, enhance it, or make it more reliable.
Remember your industry players have already worked hard at building credibility. The fact that you’re affiliated, associated, connected or collaborating with them, in one way or another adds quick, surefire credibility for your startup pretty much overnight.
4. Get the word out there
This stuff can sometimes be challenging to achieve but it’s actually pretty simple and tactical to execute.
Grab some beta testers or early adopter customers and ask them for real and genuine reviews or testimonials. Start contacting bloggers, startup websites and local press and spread the word about your startup. Get featured in as many places as possible.
If you’ve got the expertise, create a press kit and upload it onto your website, then send out the link to as many relevant PR outlets as you can find. Add an “as seen on” mentions tag somewhere on your webpage or landing page.
Not only is this a great startup growth hack, but it also builds solid credibility fast.
5. Build relationships through social media
Social media is actually not critical to building startup credibility, but it effectively shows your presence and activeness in the market.
Your target audience will find you on social media and probably follow you either before or just after they transact with you.
My 12-year-old nephew wrote off a startup the other day simply because their most recent Instagram post was three months ago. The fact that you’re engaging with your fanbase regularly means they can rely on you being present, available and active.
6. Make sure your product is secure
This one can be basic or it can be overly complex – being secure really depends on what area your startup is playing in.
If you’re a digital startup then be sure to invest in technology that is safeguarded from malware attacks and hackers so you can allow your customers to feel safe and secure to transact straight away from their first visit.
Set up a page called “Trust and Safety” and add valuable content that explains why and how your digital product is safe for them to use. Similarly, if you’re transacting online through your platform, as a mere minimum, invest in an SSL certificate.
7. Get support from your local community
If I learn about a startup that’s being launched by a friend of a friend, I’ll automatically have an extra layer of trust in that startup than if I learnt about it in a completely random way. The people who know you are going to be your biggest form of support and credibility.
Create a meet-up, invite all your contacts along, share the story of your startup and ask everyone to participate in the on-sharing process.