Scout's Honor

Toss out the cheesy ads, cheap stationery and phony testimonials. Building true credibility will take your business farther.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the May 1998 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Offering the lowest price for your product or service won't help you much if your prospect doesn't trust you. Boasting the widest selection and the most convenience won't aid your cause if your prospect thinks you're a crook. Face up to the fact that prospects won't call your toll-free number, access your Web site, mail your coupon, come into your store, visit your trade show booth, talk to your sales rep or even accept your generous freebie if they don't have confidence in your company.

Your prospects can't afford to waste time or money on companies that haven't earned their trust. To earn that confidence, you have to use guerrilla marketing weapons properly.

Jay Conrad Levinson is author of the internationally acclaimed Guerrilla Marketing series of books and co-founder of Guerrilla Marketing International. For information on the Guerrilla Marketing Newsletter and other products and services, write to P.O. Box 1336, Mill Valley, CA 94942; call (800) 748-6444; or visit the Web site at

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.

More from Entrepreneur
Our Franchise Advisors will guide you through the entire franchising process, for FREE!
  1. Book a one-on-one session with a Franchise Advisor
  2. Take a survey about your needs & goals
  3. Find your ideal franchise
  4. Learn about that franchise
  5. Meet the franchisor
  6. Receive the best business resources
Entrepreneur Insider members enjoy exclusive access to business resources for just $5/mo:
  • Premium articles, videos, and webinars
  • An ad-free experience
  • A weekly newsletter
  • Bonus: A FREE 1-year Entrepreneur magazine subscription delivered directly to you
Try a risk-free trial of Entrepreneur’s BIZ PLANNING PLUS powered by LivePlan for 60 days:
  • Get step-by-step guidance for writing your plan
  • Gain inspiration from 500+ sample plans
  • Utilize business and legal templates
  • And much more

Latest on Entrepreneur