Business leaders are in a constant fight to be recognized for their influence or authority, and in an effort to drive this perception, they are building up their ‘answers’ to big challenges, supported by limited research. While this may have worked in the past, businesses today are faced with an elevated battle. Increased skepticism in the marketplace is calling for authenticity and informed content, and now must be paired with a new level of focus – that’s believability. Believability manifests as a blend of influence, authority, credibility, reputation, and trust. For those looking to move ahead in the workplace, it’s a game changer.
This concept holds true for any organization, be it a small business or large enterprise. Leaders in business often become an extension of the brand as a whole, establishing entire belief systems and values on behalf of the organization, which directly impacts its reputation and profitability. Given the challenges that come with achieving true believability, being able to do so is the secret sauce that sets small businesses apart from large enterprises.
The implication? Small business owners need to adjust. How do you position yourself against the behemoths that often drive small businesses to the graveyard? The intimate nature of a small business provides the perfect landscape to capitalize on the benefits of believability. In this case, it can be used as a differentiator and competitive advantage.
From a macro and marketing perspective, collectively speaking our audiences have been conditioned to see things through an “Instagram” lens, over time driving both skepticism and inevitability, cynicism. Even the word “artisan” has been hijacked, Domino’s Pizza has artisan pie! Anyone with internet access has the capability of stating facts – often at random – with the hope of appearing informed or credible. But what we are learning is that facts require context, and understanding the implication of these facts in a broader context is a step that most aren’t taking the time to execute.
Trust in our opinions and commentary is something that is earned over time, making it essential for small businesses to take tangible steps in order to build this reputation and become more believable, and thus more valuable to their audience. Let’s break it down, step-by-step, identifying tangible ways for any small business to stand out amongst its mainstream competitors.
Elevate Your Learning
First and foremost, we have to elevate our learning in order to add a foundation of credibility to what it is we’re offering in conversation, publication, or otherwise. We need to understand our belief systems, and have a grasp on how they compare or differentiate from others to have a platform for ethical debate, or basic empathy in expression. As a small business owner or leader, you must ask really good questions, and teach those around you in the process of coming to a solution.
Model Authenticity Through Internal Communication and External Messaging
There is an authenticity that comes from being a small business owner and entrepreneur; a mindset that requires an understanding beyond what others can see. These individuals need to demonstrate an expertise in development and an efficacy that shows the full picture of what’s possible. It’s about the realization of the dream and working diligently for it. This type of genuine authenticity and drive is intoxicating amongst a small, close knit community or team. Instead of dictating information or policy, model passion and curiosity, inspiring your employees to be self-starters and brand ambassadors.
It’s obnoxiously easy to market any business with the technological platforms we have at our disposal in 2022, not limited to household names like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. The novice mistake most fall victim to is the directive to market your business based on an algorithm, manipulating it in some way so it can become “viral.” This – at its core – is an inauthentic way to reach your audience. Detach from the goal of acquiring follows and likes from a widespread and likely irrelevant audience and focus your energy on the people you are working to serve.
Most consumers are looking in from a cursory perspective, amidst so much noise. But building a brand library that anyone can reference is going to help drive more business than the contrived messaging that others are pushing out in their “Instagram reality.”
Maintain Direct-to-Consumer Relationships
Small business owners can differentiate themselves by talking to their “favorite” or “top” customers – building genuine connections and relationships that often result in long-term loyalty. Whether it’s sharing challenges they’ve overcome, or telling the story of the business firsthand in order to offer a true and valid understanding of how your business differs from competitors, it creates a unique level of buy-in from the customer that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. People are in the habit of subconsciously buying passion more so than a product, and any element of community-building fosters that feeling.
Most large corporations don’t even provide the opportunity for customers to get facetime with a c-suite executive. The responsibility to seek credibility and speak with authenticity exists – regardless of the size of the business. So assuming believability efforts are present, those conversations are invaluable in earning trust from your customer base. The effort is three-fold – trust in your belief system, put in the work required to speak from an informed standpoint, and be visible and present for both your employees and customers.
Consistency is key. You don’t have to have all the answers, but it’s no longer possible to just be an “idea person.” You have to become a thinker who elevates the group, team, or business as a whole. Rather than just talking about what’s possible, you need to challenge yourself and others to think philosophically and tangibly at the same time. That’s where the real value lies. Doing so as a small business owner or entrepreneur not only supports your internal culture, but ultimately boosts your bottom line. And that’s the secret sauce.
Jim Frawley is a coach, consultant, and the CEO and founder of Bellwether, an executive development firm. He specializes in helping corporations maximize their efficiency and enhance their growth.
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