Build a Better Brand
Let’s say you’ve opened a new bakery. You’ve recently finished setting up shop, and you couldn’t be happier with the fruits of all your hard work. You’ve got your name and your logo, the interior is masterfully decorated, your vendors and pricing system are set, your staff is in place, and you’ve got a line of dough recipes that is sure to win your customers over.
Speaking of customers, do they know about your new business yet? If not, how are you planning on getting the word out? Are you going to turn on the “open” sign and hope for some foot traffic, or are you going to go out there and start marketing your brand like there’s no tomorrow?
Whether you’re running a bakery or a digital business, these are the questions you should be asking yourself. Your first job is to grow leads and sales by building a credible brand. After all, not only is having a strong brand the best way to get customers, it’s also the best way to keep them.
It’s All about Credibility
Pretend you’re observing two different talk shows running in two different studios, side by side. Both are discussing the same subject, and both have guest speakers who use near-identical talking points. The difference is that in Studio A, the speaker is introduced as Joe Blogs, while in Studio B, the speaker is introduced as Doctor Joe Blogs.
Once the two speakers are done talking, who do you think audiences are more inclined to believe?
Not just anyone can run around calling themselves a doctor. It’s a licensed profession with standardized training, and most of us accept this. Therefore, when someone is introduced as a doctor, we’re more inclined to hear what that person has to say on topics related to their field.
That’s how social validation works, and that’s why most people are more comfortable choosing Doctor Joe over average Joe. All other information being equal, we look for secondary indicators to decide whether someone or something is credible. Usually we’re not aware we’re doing it, but it’s a necessary mental trick we all use in the process of forming opinions and making decisions.
Thousands and Thousands of Microjudgments
The process of social validation and credibility works the same for brands as it does for doctors. The second a prospective customer is exposed to your brand, whether they’re walking by the storefront of your bakery, checking out your business card, or clicking on your website, they’re using every available indicator to decide whether your company is worth their time.
Sure, every now and then our brains make connections that they shouldn’t, but most of the time, this process works. And it’s a good thing too, since our ability to make these microjudgments saves us hours of time each day.
As soon as we began to establish some credibility in the marketing community, our brand started gaining traction. Before, visitors would depart our website as quickly as they had arrived. But once our name began to mean something, they started inquiring into our business, presenting themselves as leads rather than bouncing away from the site.
What If No One Knows You?
Even if no one knows who you are, you still have an opportunity to build credibility. You’re still an expert on something. Maybe you have an environmentally friendly product and you’re great at explaining how it’s made. Maybe your company prioritizes work-life balance for all its employees. Maybe you offer a 100 percent return guarantee if customers aren’t happy with your product. Any one of these options is a great way to start building a community around your brand.
However you approach it, the bottom line is this: every company has a reason why it is in business. Find that reason, and use it to find your brand’s voice online.
The Numbers Game
Your website isn’t the only place where credibility is important. Credibility threads through every stage of a relationship—the initial touch points, content, nurturing, conversion, and reactivation.
Ultimately, your goal is to gain brand advocates. The more you present a unified front through every step of the customer journey, the more likely you’ll earn those advocates. Here are some credibility tips to keep in mind.
Protect Your Capital
The number one rule of investing is to protect your capital. In marketing, your brand is your capital. The more you invest in it, the better it’s protected, and the greater the payoff.
Look around, and you’ll see that the top people with the biggest brands are always reinvesting in their brand. They’re also super protective; they don’t want their brand to be associated with the wrong people, be used in the wrong way, be seen in the wrong way, or have the wrong things said about them. They’re leery of anything that might detract from their image.
What’s the Best Path to Credibility?
Businesses have investors who may have deep pockets but who also want to see a return on their investment. To please their investors, these businesses will throw all their money at ads in hopes of generating quick revenue. Their profit margins aren’t as high, since they’re spending a lot for limited results, but since it looks good on the revenue side, they keep at it.
To succeed in the long term, it’s all about good old-fashioned credibility, and the best way to get this is to boost your earned media efforts. You want people to visit your site because they want to be there. The best way to generate a higher conversion rate is to attract visitors who have already made positive subconscious judgments of you and your brand.
Rack Up Those Micro-Commitments
Every positive judgment someone makes about you is a micro-commitment to your brand. Each micro-commitment means someone has become more familiar with you, agreed with something you’ve written somewhere else, or appreciated your take on something.
The more commitments they make, the more they will want to investigate you or your brand further. By the time their investigations have led them to your website, they’ve already made several micro-commitments—all without having to make a major commitment like purchase, inquiry, or lead. Getting someone to your website involves a series of micro-commitments, or small processes.
The Halo Effect
Why does building credibility matter so much in the digital branding game? Because it contributes to what’s known as the halo effect.
In a nutshell, the halo effect is your overall impression of a person or a brand. These figurative halos color how we view a person or brand based on what we know of their positive qualities like character and integrity. The more you show off your positive qualities, the stronger your halo, and the more your influence will grow in the industry.
Credibility Starts a Movement
In The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg uses the analogy of the civil rights movement to illustrate how credibility contributes to the halo effect. As Duhigg explains, Rosa Parks’s arrest may have been the catalyst for the civil rights movement, but that movement didn’t begin in earnest until Parks’s church decided to do something about it—even though, because of their race and unfair segregation laws, they had little power. From there, the larger community got wind of the church’s actions and joined in.
It all happened by association. Many in the community didn’t know Parks personally and had little knowledge of what she had gone through, but because those closer to her were willing to stand up, tell her story, and say, “This is what we’re going to do about it,” it created a steamroll effect.
The Facebook Phenomenon
Mark Zuckerberg describes the origins of Facebook in a similar manner. If you’re like us, you came to Facebook gradually. For ages, we knew what Facebook was but weren’t interested in it enough to sign up. Eventually, though, we saw that all our friends were on Facebook, we wanted to see what they were up to, and then we followed their lead and signed up. The power of association was a huge driver for Facebook getting the sign-up numbers that it has.
It’s All about Community
Both of these examples show the power of the halo effect. Each of us gives credibility to a person or brand based on external factors and judgments. In this way, community members become ambassadors for people or brands we’re unaware of. Because of our subconscious loyalty to our community, we eventually join in too and become ambassadors ourselves. Build up enough credibility factors and the halo will show itself.
That said, it’s important to help your community along. If you’ve worked with a brand like Coca-Cola, you want people to know it. Show their logo on your site, or share a case study of your experience with them. People are more likely to visit your site because of the halo effect—because of whom you’re associated with—not because some flashy marketing tactic strong-armed them into it.