As a small business, one of the biggest challenges to growing your brand is competing with larger, established companies that have been trusted within the local community for years. In order for your small business to stand a chance against these larger brands, that have stood the test of time, it is essential that you utilize a few key methods to earn the awareness and trust of potential customers and establish your brand as an authority in your field.

In this post, we will detail some of these non-traditional methods, and explain how they can help your business generate more traffic and beat your competitors. In the end, most of these approaches boil down to one word: TRUST.

Getting your small business found

Trust is a key component when small, or new, businesses start competing with larger businesses. But before you are able to instill this trust in your potential customers, they need to know you exist.

Unless someone is directly seeking out your company, how will they find you?

Most small businesses turn to traditional methods of radio ads, mail flyers, and street signs in order to raise awareness of their brand. All of these are appropriate methods of building awareness, but the ROI—and—outreach of these approaches are typically low compared to the growth goals of most companies we work with.

Remember, if you’re a new business with a time-tested competitor nearby, you can’t rely on word-of-mouth to carry your business.

Take a step back and ask yourself, how would you find your solution?

The last time you needed to purchase a new product or service, how did you go about finding it?

If you are like the majority of Americans, you probably turned to a search engine to help you find what you were looking for. Why? Because that’s just how the buying process works these days. Everyone has the internet, filled with information, right at their fingertips. Buyers do their own research before deciding to buy. It’s not like in times past where a company had to have long sales pitches just to explain what their product was, why it was needed, and why they should buy.

“Buyers decide what they need to buy, on their own time, at their convenience.”

In fact, a study by Forrester found that 93% of all online experiences start with the use of a search engine. This is why it is so important that your website is optimized for the best search engine results.

If you are trying to attract local customers to your business, you need to take it a step further and focus on local SEO. The internet is, after all, one of the main ways that consumers discover businesses in their area. Want to learn more about things you can do to increase your rankings in local search engines? Check out our previous post on the topic, here. You can even implement some of the SEO best-practices yourself!

Building trust

Once a buyer does find you, chances are that if you’ve done your keyword research properly, they can be categorized into one of three stages:

  1. Awareness Stage
  2. Consideration Stage
  3. Decision Stage

Each stage dictates the information they’re seeking and what the next stage is. In this post, we’re focusing on the Awareness Stage, which is when a potential buyer has a problem and comes across your website.

Chances are your competition is ranking higher than you are; especially if you’re a new business. That means the potential buyer has probably already seen the competition before even getting to you. This is where your content comes into play.

Ask for reviews!

A great way to build trust is to establish a process for gathering real customer reviews on reputable websites like Yelp, Google Local, Facebook, Angie’s List, YP,
and many others.

This is a little more difficult than it sounds because most people don’t tend to leave reviews on their won. Once you have your company set up on these sites, you will need to ask for reviews. Having a process in place for this is essential.

Just be sure to read and understand the terms of different review websites. Yelp, for example, does not allow business owners to request reviews! Be careful!

Search Engine Land recently found that 88% of potential customers trust online reviews just as much as a personal recommendation from a friend or family member. So what are you waiting for?

Utilizing a professional, modern website design

With consumers relying on the internet more than ever in their purchasing decisions, it is critical that your website has a professional and modern design that will legitimize your brand and build trust for your business in the eyes of your potential customers.

There are some dreadful looking websites out there. Seriously, bad. If you were seeking a new dentist, and you came across a website that looked like it was designed in the 1980’s, how would YOU perceive that business? Just like with professional people, a professional company’s image is everything.

Take “Gates and Fences” for example. I’ve included a small thumbnail of the page, but you have to click the link to get the full effect. But wait, before you click it, make a mental note to remember what your first impression felt like.

I’m not picking on this company for any reason, just the design. It’s bad. There are a number of trust-affecting problems on this website. The design is obviously one of them.

Want to know the quality of a restaurant? Look at its public bathrooms. Want to know the quality of a small business? Look at its online presence (which goes well beyond just the website’s design).

If you are unsure if your current website is meeting the mark, check out our previous post on the topic, and make sure your website is not falling into any of these common errors.

“An appropriate, professional website design is just as important as the products you sell.”

Use images of your employees, office, and work on your website

Again, it all boils down to trust. Do you trust a local business when you arrive at their web page to find generic stock photos instead of images of their products, team members or workspace? Probably not! People know fake. Stock photography of people acting as your company employees is about as fake as it gets. It’s just images of zombies, posing as people, performing some related (or often unrelated) task. And you’re telling your customers that THIS IS YOUR COMPANY. Do yourself a big favor and get rid of them, pronto!

Stock photo example

Since many customers are relying on your website alone to decide if it is the right choice for them, it is important that you show them that you are a legitimate and trustworthy brand in the community. Incorporating pictures of your staff, office, products or past projects are all excellent ways to stand out and show that you are a trusted, local business. No need to overload it, however. Use discretion. People just want realism.

Provide your prospective customers with useful content

Last, but not least, it is important to provide educational content on your website. By including useful content like blog posts on your industry, free infographics about your services or e-books with educational content about your field, you are establishing your brand as an authority in your field.

“Content is king.” If you’ve not heard that saying before now, then you’re welcome. It’s a very true statement that has been around for the better part of 20 years. Originally coined by none other than billionaire Bill Gates.

Getting in front of your audience, building that trust, and establishing your company as a competitive choice is all based on your content. Content is indeed king, but it must be done right.

> Learn more about why creating educational content is an important component of earning the trust of your audience.

You may be the “new kid on the block” but that doesn’t mean you cannot compete with established businesses within your community! By turning to non-traditional methods to earn the trust of prospective customers and some killer SEO, you can make your small business stand out while expanding your brand.