Engineering credibility -- The best path to market adoption and growth

By: Bill Van Eron Friday August 31, 2012 Tags: Bill Van Eron

By Bill Van Eron

Chief Innovation Strategist at Headwaters Marketing 

I am genuinely impressed with the amount of innovation I am seeing in Fort Collins and along the Front Range.

But I am not surprised.

Long, long ago - so long ago that it now feels like the opening of a Star Wars movie, when I left one of the Meccas of creativity - NYC - to come to Colorado, many of the top creative professionals scoffed at the notion that great design can happen anywhere. Sure, there is still more happening in Silicon Valley and up and down the Eastern and Western Seaboards and yes, there still may be a stronger creative force in NYC, Chicago, Texas and California -- but the gaps are closing fast.

That's exciting.

But before we get too excited about our potential for great things, we have to own up to the fact that many startups still fail. Thankfully, according to the latest statistics published by the Small Business Administration, seven out of 10 are surviving at least two years and 51 percent are making it to five years.

The SBA goes on to cite the seven biggest reasons for failure: starting a business for the wrong reasons, poor management, insufficient capital, bad location, lack of planning, over-expansion and no website.

While I cannot disagree with this list, one major reason companies large and small fail is noticeably missing - credibility - and, related to that, having a compelling value proposition.

As a marketing consultant in very demanding environments, I know from experience every time my company or clients achieved credibility, they were largely successful. By defining and mastering this "credibility marketing approach," I am helping them to engineer success and stronger, more predictable market adoption. That speaks volumes to success. It amazes me how this critical conversation gets lost in business and how many core assumptions fail because they have not passed the credibility index that customers have as entrenched values and decision criteria or developed value propositions that real customers see as important and actionable.

With the value of credibility being so clear when it is in place, why then do so many startup and even larger companies fail to pay attention to it? Why do many fail to achieve it or lose it over time?  Mostly, because the perception of what it takes to earn and keep it is often short-sighted. The path to achieve credibility often requires fresh, reasonable market insight as just a starting point. Making this investment can slow the stride of the majority of companies that prefer an increasingly outdated model to run on intuition and be "fast" to market.

All understandable, yet critically flawed.

Here are a few time-tested questions on our list of dozens we consider. Again, the answers will vary, as will the path:

1.       How are your primary and secondary customers influenced? Who really matters in that equation?

2.       Which trends are reinforcing traditional industry paths and which are challenging them?

3.       Which demographics see your offering as important and why?

4.       What space is your competition trying to own, and which are achieving that positioning?

5.       What can you learn from leaders in and outside your industry?

6.       What do you stand for, and does that matter to your customers? How do you know?

7.       Who else reaches the same customers, and is there a mutual win in working together?

8.       What unmet needs, cool factors, and pain points can you address to be seen as more valuable?

9.       If anything were possible, what would the perfect customer experience be? Model it in detail.

10.   How much of that can you deliver alone and with others?

11.   How fast does the "get-it" factor happen, and how well do you move customers and influencers to hit their own "I believe" buttons?

This sampling of questions is just a start but gives you a preview of what it takes. Finding your path to credibility requires a desire to be a real customer champion, and then applying critical and creative thinking about earning their attention and trust about things you now know they care about.

Look at traditional means - customer reviews, pilot studies, case studies, articles, awards, expert reviews, media roundup coverage. Also, look at non-traditional  means - social media, a fresh perspective, a new way of thinking, trust, head-to-head demonstrations, YouTube, challenges, inviting editors to live focus groups, taking a calculated risk to show you are better and share that with influencers, experts, channels and customers.

Additionally, be aware of how you want them to see you in the grand equation:

a.       Are you the challenger or a company with declining brand equity?

b.      Are you well differentiated?

c.       Is your brand meaningful? Does it look outdated, or just cool but no substance?

d.      What does your company stand for? Is it important to your customers?

e.      How can your competitors hurt you? Can you block that?

Find the gaps to understanding your product or service and acting on it. Is it a disruptive technology, a me-too product, hard to explain, or under their radar? Can you close these gaps?

Are you in dialog with your market and creating a foundation for advocacy?

Anything less than credibility and a compelling value proposition in today's "seen everything, trust nothing easily" society puts a startup or established company at high risk. Large companies become dinosaurs as fast as startups gain traction anymore, and the earning or erosion of credibility is often central to defining which path a company, organization, university or community is on.

Looking good or being good...credibility is the difference. Where are you in that equation? If you have not paid conscious attention to it, it still may not be too late.


Bill Van Eron

About the Author: Bill Van Eron

For Bill Van Eron, life & work are all about conscious observation and earning our needed humanity high bar. Whether Bill was an art director or lead designer in NYC, the most demanding marketing environment, or shaping a more relevant brand for soon to be major companies in Denver, or across his 25-year career in HP, as its champion for progressive enlightenment, diversity, inclusion and the highest relevance, which followed every project, Bill stays inspired to help others shape a better world, lives & work as connected to greater attention to our humanity, creativity and value-creation. All as vital to any organization's greater success. Bill now is championing the first and most conscious innovations that resolve challenges to our planets environment, as well as business and government realizing each’s greater purpose and brand value. Tired of conventional approaches and willful ignorance, Bill was recruited as one who can champion each solutions authentic relevance. Bill hopes Colorado and Fort Collins can open up and get in flow, as a community Bill & his wife only wish the best for as also enabled with a view all others benefit by, whether they see it initially or not.