On the Web, credibility is especially important because many people still find that purchasing online requires a leap of faith. The quality of your products and services doesn't matter if prospective customers don't have confidence in your business.

Fortunately, establishing credibility doesn't have to be expensive and is well within the reach of small businesses. The following three elements of credibility require careful planning and attention to detail -- not a million-dollar budget.

Find Your Focus

Develop a position statement for your business. This should be a succinct document describing your business plan, your target market, and the niche you seek to fill.

An effective positioning statement connects your business with your target market, shows why your business is unique, communicates the personal values that guide your business, and promises tangible results and value.

Repeat Yourself

Marketers estimate that prospective customers must see your ad 27 times before it is effective.

You increase the impact of your marketing campaign by making sure everything used to represent your company communicates the same message. Seek to maintain a consistent theme in press releases.

Use the same logo, colors, and font to represent your company. Even these details can have a significant impact.

Regardless of whether you seek to convince candy makers that yours is the best peppermint in the world or stamp collectors that you have the best selection, consistency in marketing tells your audience that you are reliable.

Maintain Professionalism

Any hint of amateurism indicates to your audience that other aspects of your business might also be unprofessional.If you want to be taken seriously and inspire confidence in your business, examine its image from the customer's point of view.

Examine your Web site. Is your site design easily understandable? Do you provide the information necessary for the customer to buy? Have you answered the question,"What's in it for the customer?"

Clearly stating your company mission, explaining your services, and providing contact information goes a long way towards creating a professional image. Posting customer testimonials can help.

When it comes to credibility, the devil is in the details. But taken together, effective positioning, consistency, and professionalism create an image of competence and value to potential customers. When it comes to marketing, it's not merely what you say, it's how you say it.

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Published on: Dec 22, 2000