Scout's Honor

The Road To Credibility

Guerrillas think in terms of achieving and deserving credibility. All their marketing materials carry a "meta-message"-an unstated yet powerful communiqué to prospects. The meta-message for Deuce Cleaners, for example, of a well-written direct-mail letter on very inexpensive stationery is quite different from the meta-message of the same letter for Ace Cleaners when it's printed on costly stationery that looks and feels exquisite.

Believe it or not, paper stock carries a strong meta-message. The typeface you use speaks volumes, and the reproduced or handwritten signature is telling, too. The Ace Cleaners letter boasts superb stock, an elegant typeface and an authentic signature. These are tiny but nuclear-powered details.

Entire marketing plans fall by the wayside because inattention to seemingly unimportant details undermines prospects' confidence. Does that mean that cheap stationery, a plain-Jane Web site, fuzzy type and poor English destroy your credibility? Not entirely. But shabbiness in these areas certainly doesn't help.

You communicate credibility through the building you're in, the people you employ, the technology you use, the attention you pay to customers, the testimonials you use and the trade show booth and signs you employ. The way your phones are answered can either earn you credibility or rob you of it. Just recently, I decided not to make a purchase from a store I had called simply because they put me on hold for too long. Minor detail? Maybe, but somebody else now has my money.

You gain credibility through your advertisements, your newsletter, articles you write and speeches you give. You gain even more through your support of causes, such as preservation of the environment. All these things contribute to your reputation.

Give a seminar. Volunteer for a community organization. Ask customers to refer people to your business. Establish your expertise, your authority, your integrity, your conscientiousness and your professionalism. When you're in the newspaper, make reprints, frame them and post them; include the articles on your Web site and in your brochure or newsletter.

However you go about earning customers' trust, true credibility is well worth the price you pay in effort.

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The late Jay Conrad Levinson is the Father of Guerrilla Marketing. His books have sold more than 21 million copies worldwide, appear in 62 languages, and have become the most powerful brand in the history of marketing. He was the chairman of Guerrilla Marketing International. Learn more at

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This article was originally published in the May 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Scout's Honor.

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