Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Sharon Vinderine

GET UPDATES FROM Sharon Vinderine
 

How to Build Brand Loyalty

Posted: 03/ 2/2012 2:43 pm

Credibility could be the difference between Black and Red.

As most start ups can tell you, introducing a new business to the market place requires factoring in many components. The most vital of which is credibility. A new business needs to figure out how to convince its target audience that they are a worthy supplier. The dilemma is that it's hard to prove how great you are when you haven't gotten the chance to do so. Regardless of your business model and your target audience, trust is something that needs to be garnered in order to gain customers and brand loyalty.

Business owners learn quickly that credibility can be quickly generated by word of mouth. With the onslaught of social media, it has never been easier, or faster to spread the word about a good service.

But at the same time, it has never been easier or quicker to permanently tarnish a reputation.

There are several strategies, regardless of your industry, that you can be put into practice with the goal of gaining brand building momentum and credibility.

1) Are you an expert at something? If so, tell the media. Reach out to the key media influencers in your sector, and introduce yourself and your expertise. Make yourself accessible to them so that they know that they have a reliable resource available to them on an as-needed basis. A simple mention in a byline or television appearance is the first great step in building trust with your audience.

2) Do you have a few happy customers? Let the world know about them! Incorporate written and video testimonials from these clients wherever possible. Include these in all proposals and e-marketing materials. Every positive reinforcement helps turn a potential client into a paying client.

3) Does your industry have a certification or awards program? Nothing sounds better than hearing about an "award winning" product or service. Endorsements from credible third party organizations go a long way in establishing trust.

4) Build a network of "Brand Ambassadors." This is a very natural way to help build brand credibility. Offer users an incentive to start talking about you, through sampling programs, freebies, great promotions etc. These are great first steps towards building some credibility. What the "Brand Ambassadors" are saying about you will have more value than what you have to say about your yourself.

5) Excel at customer service. As a business owner you've heard this many a time, but these are truly words to live by. Nothing will impress a potential client more than impeccable and immediate customer service. Wow them right from the outset so that they don't even need to consider getting another quote from a competitor.

6) Implement a social media strategy. If you are of the opinion that social media is a passing craze then perhaps you need to ask Twitter's 225 million plus users and Facebook's 750 million plus users what they think of that. Social media has made it incredibly easy to build a following and offer free promotional opportunities. If this is not your strength, outsource it to someone who knows what they are doing. The last thing you want is to have a conversation about your company happening on Twitter, and not be a part of it.

7) Align yourself with strategic partners. Perhaps there is someone in your industry that offers complimentary services to your own. Try to leverage these in order to make your company more of a full service organization. The more services you can offer the client, the less chance they will go elsewhere. A one stop shop is your ideal goal.

8) Exceed your clients' expectations, even if it means making a little less money at first. Customers will appreciate the extra effort, and will most likely be happy to recommend you to colleagues and continue doing business with you.

9) Focus on your core competencies. Don't try to be everything to everyone. Establish your niche and own it by being better than everyone else.

10) Ensure that you are constantly talking to your customers, and getting their feedback on their experience with you. As a result, you will be ensuring that you are meeting their needs, but at the same time, you will be getting free market research on just how well you are doing as a business.

Implement these strategies no matter where you are in the lifecycle of your business, and you will quickly see your credibility and brand awareness dramatically increase. Ignore these, and be faced with the reality that your credibility might grow at too slow a pace to keep up with your competitors.