must work to identify the credibility criteria and ensure that these
are incorporated into messaging directed to press, analysts,
influencers, and customers. The criteria for success are illustrated by The Credibility Pyramid. (I have had several conversations about his concept recently so revising an older post.)
Each level of the pyramid is a factor in the perception of credibility and potentially a point of competitive differentiation. Each of these criteria for success is used by editors and analysts, influencers and customers (consciously or not) to determine the validity of a company and its products. Word-of-mouth credibility often starts here. If the foundational perception is continually validated through each level of the pyramid, word-of-mouth credibility soon follows. This model encourages a closer look inward to identify the areas where the company needs to reinforce its standing and authority.
This does not mean manufacturing “spin” but employing a business strategy that enables the company to “be” credible, not “do” credible. This process becomes the starting point for market acceptance and ultimately generates the kind of awareness that influences market perception and acceptance.
When an influencer, analyst, media representative, or venture capital firm is auditing a company, these two core areas (management team and a great product) are the first things they will review, and it is important to have these pieces in place and to have messaging that accurately describes this important information. Oftentimes a company in the early stages of its lifecycle will not place enough importance on these foundational points of credibility. For example, the product may be amazing, but the company executives may not have taken the time to identify the deeper market opportunities or to offer information that expresses the clear benefits and return on investment customers will experience. They may not have clearly articulated the market need; even if the market need may be obvious to the founders, it may not be to the investors, the press, or the influencers you want to attract.
Next on the pyramid is identifying key customers and high-profile partners who can attest to the strengths of the company and its products. These are two crucial criteria for gaining credibility within the press and analyst communities and customers for that matter. If customers like IBM or Coke are saying yes to your product in the corporate world, or well-known influencers like celebrities or industry experts are saying yes in the consumer world, then new customers will say yes and say yes much faster.
Sometimes you might be in a position to pursue or choose the “right” customer, let me give you an example of what that means. I was working with two clients that offered complex technology solutions. We were charged with generating press articles for them to increase the credibility factor and attract customers. One company had done very well with sales and garnered a decent volume of customers. The other had one customer. Now, who do you think got the most press coverage? You would think it would be the one that had a volume of customers, right? It would make sense that more people were buying from that company, so it would seem to be more successful and thus have more credibility. In fact, the client with one customer received the most press articles. That was because that company had a board of directors that had industry luminaries on it, it brought in a CEO who was well known in the industry, and its one customer was one of the top 10 brand names in the world. Having this well-known customer added tremendous credibility. “If that brand-name company will buy it then it must be good” is the thinking in the market.
The top of the pyramid —the unique market trends—is a little harder to control, so it is almost more important to manage. Doing homework and identifying the trends that are unique to the sector, is an important tactic for credibility PR. A focal point is identifying what competitors are doing, not from a feature/benefit standpoint but from a perception analysis. For example how are they positioning themselves through their press releases and publicity programs? How is the editorial community covering these companies, are they buying the spin or not? (See post “Market Research – Moving Beyond the Calculator --and a case for Credibility Branding” for additional details) From this market intelligence identifying how to position the company within this landscape is an easier more comprehensive exercise.
Credibility Pyramid tool to identify the holes in your company’s credibility criteria. Leverage these points of credibility wherever possible to capture the imagination of new customers, impress the influencers, and overcome the objections of the skeptics. By using this model and establishing more credibility for your company and products, you will see a marked change in the speed of sales. You will have the tools at hand to allow your sales team to convert sales faster –credibility (AKA trust established through influencer endorsements) is often the factor that closes the sale.
This is part of the Crediblity Branding model, you can learn more about influencing the influencers with a new CD (FREE) that you can access at: www.brandperceptionaudit.com.