Having presented to thousands of businesses and brands worldwide, I often ask audiences to raise their hands if they think their companies significantly differ from their competitors. Without fail, every hand shoots up.
We all want to feel special and believe that our business has significantly set itself apart. But if we all think we're different, it's likely none of us actually is.
Businesses, therefore, can't focus on being "different" as a competitive advantage. Customers aren't swayed by our ideas of differentiation but are swayed by their own faith in our credibility. The fact is that the companies connecting with today's buyers realize a simple truth: To gain business, they must capture customers' trust.
Credibility Creates Opportunity
When consumers trust a brand, they're more likely to become advocates. Followers see more company content and may make more purchases. Becoming the most trusted voice in our space, rather than constantly highlighting supposed differences, is what can produce the greatest results for us.
Think about the reason you've gone to a family doctor for years on end. He might have been the person your parents took you to all through your childhood, but there's a level of trust built over the course of many years that provides a patient comfort and familiarity.
Most companies don't have to play from as far behind as a familiar physician, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't prioritize building consumer trust. It takes time to build confidence within a customer base, but it can take just one setback to irrevocably damage that trust. By never taking that confidence for granted, your customers won't feel like you take them for granted. Consider using these strategies to start improving your company's credibility.
1. Be real about why your customers aren't buying.
Look at your business, and write down the top seven (or more) reasons why prospects don't buy from you. Whether it's a perceived lack of quality, service, technology, offerings, pricing flexibility, etc., write down each one from your prospects' perspective.
After listing their hypothetical concerns, review the logic behind them and ask yourself how many of these your company has truly addressed well on its website and in its sales messaging. Having done this simple activity with thousands of businesses, I can tell you how many of those issues the average business actually addresses: one out of seven. By tackling all of these perceived issues on the front end of the sales process, you'll immediately distinguish yourself from your competitors.
2. Highlight the competition.
Perform a similar review of your competitors. What do they do well, why would you hesitate to buy from them, and what aren't they telling consumers that you could?
In 2011, I published an article about the best fiberglass pool designs on the market. I didn't just list my own pools—I featured competitors with strong products in various shapes and styles. When the article went live, others in the industry didn't know what to think; some were thankful, while others wondered why they hadn't made the list.
Everyone, however, started paying attention to a previously unknown co-owner of a small company in Virginia. Presenting ourselves as thought leaders boosted consumer trust, produced unexpected amounts of brand exposure and helped us become the most trusted voice in our industry.
3. Turn struggles into strengths.
We knew the potential drawbacks to fiberglass pools, but we also believed in our product. Writing openly about the pros and cons of fiberglass pools garnered us thousands of clicks from people searching for problems with fiberglass pools.
From just that one piece, we've tracked more than $500,000 in sales—all because we embraced the elephant in the room and owned the conversation.
You don't have to be “different" to be successful. You just need to be brutally honest and give buyers the information they truly care about. Address the hard stuff to turn your perceived weaknesses into strengths, and you'll enhance trust in your brand. Once you accomplish that, increased sales may not be far behind.