But how do small- to medium-sized businesses gain sufficient levels of trust to allow them to grow their customer base? Other than relying on word-of-mouth referrals and testimonials, it’s difficult for primarily local businesses to get their unique qualities across, especially with so many apparently similar companies pitching for the same work. Many rely on a simple company website – or cramped lineage and display ads in local newspapers – to show prospective customers what they have to offer.
How can they stand out and be counted as trusted providers?
Someone who knows all about trust and the impact that reputation has on the fate of trades and services businesses is Laorence Nohra, who is chief executive of Sydney-based Tradebusters. Her online “concierge” business connects tradespeople with prospective customers, but only after the tradies on her books are assessed for quality and reputation. Customers who use Tradebusters Connect, for instance, are offered a choice of up to three trusted specialists in their local area.
In a recent “Be a Better Business” webinar presented by GeoOp, Nohra spoke of the value of trust in creating a successful operation. She said that 84 per cent of Australian consumers reported that “trusted recommendations” are the most influential source of information about a business.
“As humans, we all have an emotional need to deal with people we can trust and feel safe with,” Nohra said. “That’s why consumers will always generally prefer a recommended business. It’s trust and reputation that sell … it’s not your services, it’s not your flashy website, it’s not even how long you’ve been in business.
“If you can establish yourself as a trusted business choice, that’s going to be your secret weapon to cut through all of the competition and online noise.”
“1 billion business names were typed into Google every day and more than seven in 10 customers rely on online search engines for company information.”
Nohra said 1 billion business names were typed into Google every day and more than seven in 10 customers rely on online search engines for company information. “In my mind, the whole challenge of winning business online is only a conversation about how good a job you’re doing at setting yourself apart from others as a trusted business choice,” she said.
Three things small businesses must do to gain more trust from customers
Nohra suggests three things that trades and services businesses can do straight away to boost their reputation and win more business. The first is to make their websites more personal so customers get to know the faces behind the products or services. The second is to build credibility through social media, posting content they have created as well as sharing others’ content regularly and in an authentic way.
Build credibility through social media, posting content they have created as well as sharing others’ content regularly and in an authentic way.
“You don’t need to be on all [social media platforms] – just pick one or two that are relevant for your business and do them well,” she says. “I think for tradies, Facebook is a great way to build your credibility.”
The third way is to get others talking about their business. “The power [of this] is getting third-party mentions on other websites.” She suggests businesses could employ a public relations company to create a buzz about their company, link up with other local businesses or industry groups and join exclusive online networks that promote only reputable operators.
Nohra says trades and services companies need to build a strong reputation and become the trusted local “go-to” business. “That’s incredible brand value that you can’t buy,” she said. “It’s going to attract quality customers and referral partners.
“Based on a lot of the research that’s out there, in the next few years we’ll see the biggest online marketing spend by small businesses on online reputation-building. The goal is to start now and get ahead of your opposition.”