You have something remarkable to offer.

A product or service that will change people’s lives.

A solution they both need and deserve.

Just one problem, though:

It’s new, and you’ve only had a few buyers. It’s hard for customers to trust an unproven offer from a little-known company enough to invest their hard-earned cash in it.

Prospects don’t buy because you don’t have enough credibility and authority to convince them. And you don’t have enough authority and credibility because prospects don’t buy from you… Talk about a Catch-22!

The good news is, you can break this vicious cycle. You can become an industry authority, from scratch, and get all the credibility you need. The best part? You don’t need hordes of loyal fans, expensive advertising, or big-name celebrity endorsements to do that!

That’s what today’s article is all about. We’re going to examine 8 ways to build iron-clad credibility in your chosen industry, even if you’re just starting out – with no testimonials or case studies to your name.

Let’s dig in!

1. Screengrab every nice thing people say about your brand

Did you know? Receiving an unsolicited love note from a customer is good for much more than making you crack a big, goofy smile!

Whether it’s an email, a tweet, a Facebook comment, a blog comment, or any other message that doesn’t quite qualify as a full testimonial… use it! Take a screenshot and proudly display it where potential buyers can see:

  • On your website
  • In your social media profiles
  • On your product page or sales page
  • In your sales emails
  • In your content: blog posts, videos, images, you name it!

This tactic is one of the best ways to build social proof quickly and from scratch. The best part is, you can use any kind of message, not just the ones from customers to you!

For instance:

Let’s say that a loyal customer plugs your product to someone else on social media, and you happen to see it…

Or maybe your customer support rep talks to a potential prospect, determines that they are not a good fit, and politely convinces them not to buy…

Or perhaps a competitor acknowledges (however grudgingly) that your product or service is great…

All of these are fair game, and your reaction should be the same (didn’t mean to rhyme here) – screengrab it!

Note: Whenever you screengrab someone’s message, don’t forget to ask for permission to use their name. Nine times out of ten, you will get a yes. And even if you don’t, you are allowed to use the screenshot, as long as you redact the person’s name out of it.

2. Demonstrate your product or service in action to build trust

A picture – or better yet, a video – of your offer in action can be worth a thousand words. Yes, even if those words come from customers gushing about your product or service.

If you don’t even have said thousand words to begin with, showing your offer in action becomes essential. As a proof element, it’s extremely powerful and uncommon – by using it in your marketing, you will have no problem differentiating yourself from the competition.

To create a compelling demonstrations that will help your potential customers trust you, make sure it falls into one of these categories:

  1. Show off your product or service performing exactly as advertised. For example, do a quick internet search for something like bulletproof vest test.” You will see dozens of pictures, going back as far as 1901, of people shooting at other people wearing bulletproof vests. It’s hard to think of a better way to inspire consumer trust, isn’t it?
  2. Does it look impressive when people use your product, or when you perform your service? Then put on a bit of a show! Everyone wants to look good, and your potential customers are no exception. They will relish the spectacle, and will be more likely to consider a purchase. Case in point: GoPro’s entire marketing strategy is based on this!
  3. Just show people using your product. That’s it. No mind-shattering feats of coolness, no shots or explosions. Just people using your product and service to make their lives easier. Sure, now that we’ve covered action cams and bulletproof vests, it sounds a bit underwhelming – but this approach works! If you want proof, remember every stupid infomercial you have ever watched!

3. Cite big numbers behind your brand (yes, even vanity metrics)

Big numbers are just one of those things that human brain is drawn to. We trust big numbers, and being exposed to them influences our thinking in many subtle ways. It’s a well-documented cognitive bias.

That’s why, if you need to project authority to potential customers, you want to think about any and all big numbers that are associated with your business. Things like:

  • How many daily sales you get
  • Your lifetime number of customers
  • The size of your email list
  • Your daily/monthly/yearly blog readership
  • Daily active users of your software
  • How many years you’ve been in business
  • How many data points you have analyzed
  • The number of awards you have collected
  • The volume of free content you’re offering
  • How long people spend on your website

And more.

Granted, this tactic sounds a bit cheap and too easy to have any effect on your target market… but you shouldn’t dismiss it. There’s a valid reason respected brands like Hubspot like to flaunt their numbers. It works. And the good news is, you don’t have to wait until your company grows to an impressive size – it’s all about picking the right numbers!

4. Quote a thought leader to support your brand message

You will actually see us using this tactic later in the article (see if you can spot it). The idea behind it is very simple:

If your business is new, and you don’t have a lot of credibility yet, one of the ways to get around it is to borrow someone else’s authority and expertise. And because you probably don’t have the clout to get a direct endorsement from a big-name thought leader… you can do the next best thing, and quote them!

Needless to say, you should be careful about how you’re using this tactic. For starters, you will want to:

  • Pick an influencer whose values and views align with yours, and those of your brand.
  • Find a quote that supports the basic premise behind your offer. No taking things out of context, and no putting words in someone’s mouth!
  • Use the quote strategically where you think it will make the biggest impact.

Here’s an example. Let’s say that you run a brand-new SEO agency helping small and medium-sized businesses. You can quote a number of people to support your message. Here are just a few possibilities:

  • A company that’s already a global authority in the world of SEO, like Moz.
  • A high-profile employee at Google who said something about the benefits of SEO for your target market.
  • A well-known business owner sharing their SEO success story online.

You get the idea.

Note: You might want to save this tactic for later, in case nothing else gives you the credibility boost you need (very unlikely, but possible). It’s very important to use it sparingly, and ethically. So make sure you don’t twist anyone’s words, clearly attribute the quote to the source, and don’t take any credit for what they say on the subject.

5. Want to be known as an expert? Question authority

If you don’t have any formal credentials or qualifications, there’s only one way to build a reputation as an expert – by putting yourself out there and challenging people.

But not just any people. If you want everyone to notice your expertise and your ideas, you have to challenge and question established authorities in your space. In other words, you need to pick a fight. The civilized kind – with mutual praise, kid gloves, and no animosity between parties… but a fight nonetheless.

Find an influencer (a person or a business) you disagree with, and pit your ideas against theirs. You can do it in a variety of ways:

  1. Create a piece of content that critiques someone else’s signature idea, theory, or methodology. And don’t worry: if you don’t like the thought of being confrontational, you can do it in a very respectful way. What matters is that you will use this content to differentiate your brand from everybody else, and make sure people know what you stand for. A great example of this approach is Signal v. Noise blog, where every post challenges conventional wisdom of the tech startup world – like so.
  2. If you sell services, a great strategy to get some traction would be to do a very public teardown of a well-known brand or person. Not in a mean way, but in a way that demonstrates what your company is capable of. For example, check out this post where Peep Laja critiques the homepage images of 26 high-profile businesses. Peep is a conversion optimization expert, and his teardowns offer good-natured, valuable feedback to his authoritative “targets.” An awesome way to get noticed!
  3. Finally, if you sell products, you can do a public test of your offer against those of your competitors, or possible alternatives. If you’ve ever seen ad ad pushing a brand-name laundry detergent versus a generic one, you know what we mean. By the way, this approach works for less “tangible” offers like software, and even services, too. Just look at this comparison chart from a pet care company!

6. Run a joint venture partnership with an influencer

Jay Abraham famously said, “Joint ventures are the single fastest way to build your business.” And if one of the most respected business strategists in the world says something like that, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to pay attention!

(See how we just used tactic #4 on you by quoting one of the biggest authorities in the world of business and marketing?)

Just in case you need a refresher on joint ventures, the way they work is simple. Two or more businesses team up and pool resources to execute a marketing campaign. To make it worth everyone’s while, they agree to equitably share profits, leads, and any other positive gains with one another.

Doing a joint venture with a bigger business helps you punch above your weight in terms of reach and sales. Plus, it lets you borrow someone else’s credibility and name recognition to sell your product or service. What’s not to love?

Here are some ideas of joint ventures and partner promotions you could run:

  • Team up with a company whose product you love, and host a giveaway, a contest, or a challenge. Check out this post for some more information.
  • Offer to deliver some valuable training to an influencer’s audience – on condition that you will get to keep their email addresses when they sign up.
  • Volunteer your signature product or service as a free or discounted bonus to someone else’s popular offer. You will need to share the profits, but you’ll get to keep all the new customers you’ll acquire!

Note: Unlike all the other tactics in this post, this one will take time to implement. Building relationships with influencers is a marathon, not a sprint. So we recommend that you keep this one in your back pocket, for when you develop a solid partnership with someone whose target market is very similar to yours.

7. Showcase jaw-dropping results to increase conversion rates

Being a new kid on the block, or a new player on the market, is hard. You don’t have millions of loyal customers, nine figures in annual revenue, glowing celebrity endorsements, or thousands of raving testimonials. But that doesn’t mean you can’t impress potential customers!

If you’re looking for a way to convey authority, but you can’t appeal to any of the things we’ve just listed, don’t worry – there is another way. Think small instead.

Narrow your focus, and think about one insanely impressive result you’ve achieved, or helped someone else achieve. Brag about that!

Sure, maybe your consultancy has only had 3 clients… But if you helped one of them to 10x their revenue in a year, that’s an incredible testament to your expertise!

Perhaps your sports socks are new to the market… But if your local football team started wearing them – and proceeded to have a successful season – it’s an achievement that will resonate with your target customers.

Maybe your website gets just 2,000 visitors per day… But guess what – last month, you had zero! This rapid growth is an indicator that you know what you’re doing. It’s worth discussing.

Of course, we just quoted these examples off the cuff, but you don’t have to dig deep to find some real-world examples of people using this tactic to great effect (like so). You can do that, too. It’s all about focusing on the single biggest result you’ve achieved so far.

8. Use indirect signals of trust and authority

OK, let’s assume that everything is terrible. You can’t rely on any obvious “heavy hitters” (like testimonials or case studies) to signal authority and credibility, and even most of the tactics from this post are unavailable to you. What then?

You can use indirect trust signals – things that don’t speak to the value of your offer directly, but help to persuade potential customers that they can deal with you safely and confidently.

There are literally dozens of indirect trust signals you could use in your marketing. Here are just a few examples:

  • Any and all awards that your company has won
  • Badges that show you are using secure payments
  • Guarantees and policies that protect the customer
  • Social profiles you link to from your main website
  • View counts, share counts, and other indicators of popularity
  • Map and location details of your company HQ
  • Logos of websites you’ve been published or featured on
  • Memberships in any professional organizations in your industry
  • Third-party certifications from influential organizations
  • Security certificates proving your website is safe to browse

And more.

Note: To use this tactic successfully, you will want to think hard about the kind of trust signals that will resonate with your target audience. For example, what if you are marketing to an older demographic? They probably won’t care if your website runs a 256-bit encryption to protect their transactions. But they will pay attention to other things that communicate credibility: industry awards, high-profile endorsements, guarantees, and so on. Use your judgment and the deep knowledge of your target market to make the right call!

How to build iron-clad credibility, one step at a time

The insights in this article will help you become an authority in your industry fast – your competitors won’t know what hit them! Needless to say, we would love it if you took action and put these tactics to good use.

That said, we don’t expect you to take this post and run with it, frantically implementing all 8 tactics at once – all of them half-heartedly! Instead, here’s what we recommend:

  1. Choose 1-3 tactics that speak to you the most. We like 1, 5, and 7 – they offer just the right mix of low-effort and high-impact.
  2. Implement them one at a time, in a way that makes sense for your industry and your target market.
  3. Each time you do, measure what kind of results you got, and move on to the next tactic.

And if you drop us a line later to share your experiences with building credibility from scratch – using any of these 8 methods – we would love to hear from you. For now, enjoy!