Five Ways to Discredit Your Own Small Business

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oopsPeople tend not to buy from your small business unless they believe it is in their own best interest to do. The central question a customer asks when making a buying decision usually boils down to “Why should I buy from you?” While the specifics may vary, unless your prospect provides an answer that takes some form of “I want to buy from your business because I have trust and confidence in your small business” they aren’t likely to buy from you.

Credibility is key to the success of your small business. If your customer doesn’t accept what you say about your business as being true, or stops believing that what you say is true – or even begins to doubt the credibility of your business, the likelihood to lose business increases.

Unfortunately, small businesses can shoot themselves in the foot unintentionally. You can have the best marketing intentions in mind, but any of the following five small business blunders can damage and discredit your business:

1. The Typo: We begin the easiest mistake of all – an innocent typographical error. A typo means more than a letter in the wrong place, it can be a missing letter, letters in reverse order, a misspelled work (notice anything?), a missing word, duplicating a word word (catch that?), or a misused word. Most of us tend to be more forgiving when we ourselves make such a smiple (you noticed that one too, didn’t you?) mistake. However, you can be guaranteed that a typo on your website, sales proposal, or any other marketing material is going to jump right off the page and shout “I am not paying enough attention to my marketing materials, how can you trust me to pay attention to my customer’s needs?”

2. Not Fessing Up: The customer may not always be “right” as far as you’re concerned, but your customer is right to expect that you will acknowledge they are dissatisfied whether or not there is any basis for that dissatisfaction. For example, if you promise 24 hour delivery yet give notice that any orders received after 4:00 p.m. will be processed on the following business day it means a customer ordering something after 4:00 p.m. isn’t going to receive there (misused word), should be “their”) order in 24 hours. When a customer calls to complain it’s been more than 24 hours and they still haven’t had delivery, FIRST acknowledge the fact that they are dissatisfied they haven’t received their order; DON’T “inform” them of your policy, acknowledge, apologize for the inconvenience and THEN explain your policy.

3. Over Automating: Customers may accept (OK, be forced to accept) over automated customer service processes when dealing with large corporations or government agencies. However, when dealing with a small business, a customer’s loss of patience with an overly automated phone system or impersonal automated online messaging can cause them to jump ship pretty fast. There are plenty of other small accounting firms, florists, insurance agents, home health care agencies, carpenters, dry cleaners, you-name-it out there to choose from. And customers tend to choose small businesses that provide a more personal level of service than large banks we won’t mention by name.

4. Not Checking the Facts: Content is King which means content marketing is (or should be) high on your tactical marketing list. Small business owners aren’t always the world’s best writers, especially when it comes to presenting “opinion” versus “fact.” Be careful with word choice. For example, the word “can” is interpreted by your reader to mean “might”, or “could”, or perhaps “it’s possible.” On the other hand the word “will” indicates that whatever follows is an indisputable fact. If you present something as fact and it isn’t, you lose credibility. For instance, note that we said “when dealing with a small business, a customer’s loss of patience can (not “will”) cause them to jump ship pretty fast.” It isn’t a certainty a typo will cause you to lose a customer, but it can. And don’t believe everything you read on the Internet; do everything possible to vet (examine and scrutinize) the reliability of a source of information. And always quote, link to, or cite information or content you’ve “borrowed” from other sources.

5. Over Promising: It can be very tempting to tell customers and clients what they want to hear in order to win their business. And, as long as you can deliver, telling the customer what they want to hear is, of course, the tack you want to take. However, be careful about “fudging” as this can get you into real trouble. Even a modest “adjustment” of a fact or figure to make your business look better can easily blow up in your face and make your business appear to be dishonest to your customer. The same holds true for providing vague or noncommittal answers in an attempt to evade providing a direct answer – if your customer buys it they’re likely to expect you to be able to deliver on whatever it was you were trying to avoid.

Last modified: October 6, 2013
Annie Kile


This story is part of our Small Business Corner, a peek into the life and trials of small business owners.

Category: MPR Authored, sales, Small Business, Small Business Corner, small business owners, tips

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