by Art Piccio . February 17th, 2016
Whether you freelance, are part of the startup crowd, or are starting a new venture following a traditional business model, earning credibility is one of the most important struggles you will even have to go through.
It’s not enough to be great at what you do either. How your clients and customers feel about you can largely be dependent on their gut feel. Facts and logic often come into play only in support of ideas that were arrived at emotionally.
Here are a few areas startup founders and freelancers do that ruin their credibility.
Mangled syntax and misspelled words shouldn’t affect the way we trust someone, but it does. Aside from the risk of miscommunication, consistent misspellings and logical disconnects in your copy make you appear less trustworthy and less capable.
And it’s not just for copy that appears on your promotional materials and website either. A badly-worded email can for instance, make it seem that you lack attention to detail — which might be fair enough with respect to that email but not necessarily with your work. In any case you shouldn’t be taking a chance with such a simple, straightforward fix.
Your customers love what you can give them, right? If this is the case, it pays off if other potential customers are able to find at least some evidence of this. This also helps you retain existing customers, as it helps assuage fears they made some mistake by going choosing you.
It’s important that these testimonials come from parties with no vested interest in your enterprise. We’re far less likely to listen to what people have to say about themselves compared to what others have to say about them. It works almost exactly the same way with brands. It’s why brands try to make up flattering reviews on Yelp and Amazon under sock puppet accounts.
If you really think about it, social proof (which most of us agree is good) isn’t really that more reliable than mob justice (which most of us agree is bad). But we’re not shaping our brands according to the dictates of logic, we need to shape them according to human behavior.
There are exceptions to this. A lot of brands rely on a mystique that can’t be readily explained. In fact, it is arguable that it is desirable for a brand to earn this undefinable quality.
However, the line between the good kind of “undefinable” and “annoyingly vague” is paper thin. Not being specific about what you can deliver makes it seem like you don’t know what you are talking about or have something to hide — and rightly so.
For instance, which phrase sounds better?:
A.) “We’re committed to excellence.”
B.) “Our quality testers run manual checks at each step of the process.”
How about these?:
A.) “My graphic design work was featured in internationally syndicated publications.”
B.) “My graphic design work was featured in internationally syndicated publications including Fake Magazine, Fresh Example, Non-existent Rag, and others.”
Whatever you have to say about how bad the overall quality of education is these days and how Mike Judge’s Idiocracy is becoming real — but consumers today are far more sophisticated, and far less likely to take things at face value than they have been at any point in history.
Whatever the reason for that, it often helps to dial back your claims a bit, and go for a softer sell than you would expect from a more traditional sales approach. This holds true even if you are specific and honest about your claims. If there are any extraordinary claims, it shouldn’t come from you, but rather from your fans (see #3).
Disagree? Comment below!
Arthur Piccio manages YouTheEntrepreneur and has managed content for major players in the online printing industry. He was previously BizSugar's contributor of the week. His work has appeared multiple times on The New York Times' You're the Boss Small Business Blog. He enjoys guitar maintenance and reading up on history and psychology in his spare time.