Prospects trust what their peers and/or friends say most of all. That’s why I talked about how the very best kind of endorsement is from a customer. But in the early stages of a company or product, that may be easier said than done. That’s why I wanted to talk about one more key way to build credibility for your company. And that’s by participating or starting a community of like minded individuals or organizations.
The easiest thing to do is to find a relevant community where these conversations are already taking place and then listen and participate in a helpful way. But be careful how you participate. You can’t go in and pitch a product but instead share insights you find elsewhere and help solve the problems being raised. Become a valued contributor before you even try to promote your company.
While communities tend to be online today and formed by like-minded individuals, there are many third-party organizations that do this on a much larger scale and include face-to-face events. There are many industry organizations that have a specific charter that may be important to you and your audience. Working with them to further this objective will help to build more credibility and also associate you with like minded companies that you may want to work more closely with.
In newer industries, where there is no community or third party organization, you could start one and invite other companies to join you as well. This clearly takes a lot more time and effort but it doesn’t need to be elaborate at first. There are many tools available to build a membership site quickly and easily or, even simpler, start a discussion group on LinkedIn or another platform where your audience hangs out.
Once you have found your community or started one, you need to make sure it’s not just vendors that are part of it. Invite your customers to get involved too and have them bring some other organizations with them even if they use your competitors solutions. This will make the community more viable as it won’t be seen as simply a mouthpiece for your organization.
Plus, the more people that are part of the community the better it will become as there will be more lively discussion and several contributors so you don’t need to do all the work. But to get things started, you’ll need to be prepared to feed content on a regular basis, start new discussions, and answer any and all questions as they arise.
Nothing dooms a community to failure more quickly than when it becomes stale with discussion groups that were started but nobody contributed or questions went unanswered. This is clearly not a task for someone that wants to set it up and move on. The best communities are constantly evolving and can take on a life of their own but they didn’t start that way.
Being an active part of a community is a commitment, more if you start your own, but it can clearly pay off in terms of credibility if done right. But, remember to be helpful, solve problems and not pitch your product.