Do you consider yourself an expert in your field? Did you start a business with the goal of making money because of your expertise? Is it not working in your favor because you are a new brand (or dare I say, existing brand struggling to prove yourself to consumers)? If you answered yes to one or more of these, it is highly possible the culprit of your struggle is credibility. Yes, I am aware that you would not have started a business if you weren’t credible in your field; nevertheless, you have to think of credibility more broadly when it comes to business.
Consumers need to know three elements about you and/or your business when it comes to credibility:
1) credibility in knowledge (what you know)
2) credibility in quality (degree in product/service individuality, make, and/or luxury), and;
3) credibility in the services provided (level of customer service or customer care). I am certain you have no problem delivering those three elements to your consumers; however, knowing how to increase credibility is achievable by investing time (and unfortunately, sometimes money) by networking within prominent groups.
Here are the top four reasons for why joining professional organizations can increase credibility:
1. Opportunity to market your experience
Have you heard of the saying, “there is strength in numbers”? Well, this could not be truer for small businesses (especially if you are a sole-proprietor). Why? Because other small business owners knowing your experience can lead to others (consumers and/or business owners) knowing your experience. Naturally, word of mouth is effective, but did you know that other small business owners rely on other small business owners for products and services? All the time. Many small businesses seek services for social media marketing, logos, accounting, and/or website development. If you have a company that provides any of these services, networking at an event held by a professional organization gives you an immediate (and upfront) opportunity to market yourself and your company just by connecting (networking) with other small businesses or potential consumers.
The other way to gain credibility is to join a professional organization that has a database that both internal and/or external parties can “tap” into for resources. For instance, if you provide grant writing services because you are a certified grant writer (not just a technical writer that can write grants), it would be advantageous to join the American Grant Writers Association to increase your exposure; as well as, gain access to other special interest groups. The associations credibility gives you credibility.
2. Brand exposure
It is not until you are in the full swing of business that you realize how important consistency in marketing becomes. Whether your business is a start-up or existing, getting to the next level of growth will not and cannot be done “in a vacuum”. The same way you can market the credibility of your experience through professional organizations is the same way you can market your brand to make it credible. Yes, read that again because it can be vital to your ability to grow your brand.
Think about it, how many small business websites have big company logos as clients? How do you think those connections happened? It happened because of networking within a professional organization, at a conference or seminar held by a professional organization, credible word of mouth, and sometimes being in the right place at the right time to pitch your brand and your experience. But it rarely happens to small businesses that are just starting out and solely promoting on social media platforms. You have to put yourself out there (even if you choose not to join a professional organization; take the time to participate in professionally organized functions.
3. Business knowledge gaps
You are knowledgeable. You are experienced. You are educated. But do you know everything about your target market, potential target markets, social media marketing, and all things inclusive of owning a business? Surely, if I were the gambling type, I could bet every small business owner my paycheck that I could come up with at least 3 things about owning a business they will not know. Why? Because businesses (no matter what kind) are not fluid. Being a business owner is messy, and complicated, and time-consuming… Even with all of those, being a business owner is rewarding. And it becomes more rewarding as you fill in the gaps if things you do not know.
One tip I can offer any and all small business owners: “Never stop learning about business and never stop learning your business”. Joining a professional organization provides an opportunity to speak to others who specialize in the same interest as you. You are able to share experiences, exchange knowledge, and even network or partner on projects, info sessions, etc. It is said that “knowledge is power”; though, for a small business owner, knowledge is growth.
4. Mentor, sponsor & advocate
Last, joining a professional organization provides you with an opportunity to find three essential types of people that can contribute to your credibility, your business, and your brand: a mentor, a sponsor, and an advocate. I know you are wondering what is so important about these three people that can have a positive and lasting effect on your business growth and professional credibility, right?
To have a mentor is to have an adviser. Someone who can provide guidance, encouragement, and offer suggestions or recommendations to further the direction of your business growth. It is imperative to have someone who is experienced and connected (again, even mentors should be able to connect you to information to provide gaps in your knowledge).
To have a sponsor is to have a fund provider; even if it is not in large quantities. Sponsors are typically connected to financial resources that can provide or contribute to funding projects, purchasing promotional merchandise, or supporting other business efforts you are looking to achieve (especially if you are an existing business looking to expand).
To have an advocate is to have someone to speak on your credibility to the public. Think of this person as a professional promoter for your brand. Someone who will willingly “campaign” on your behalf to other professionals and publicly recommend your products or services.
So, go seek and join a professional organization or seek a public function held by a professional organization or public entity. You know how to get things done. You are a “go-getter”. Get connected. Network, network, and network your way to success and credibility!