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A lot of people don’t know this but, all your marketing efforts, money spent on adverts, time spent on R&Ds can be destroyed by your reputation. Here’s the deal;

Customers need to attain a degree of trust in you before they can go ahead to buy your products or services, and this is why your reputation is so important. Because your reputation directly or indirectly impacts how the customer perceives you and determines his trust in you.

But why do customers actually have to trust you before buying from you?

It’s simply because people are scared of making mistakes. No one wants to make the wrong purchase decision. These guys have had experiences in the past where they made wrong buying decisions and they were criticized for that by their boss, their parents, their spouses, their friends etc. People have had past purchase experiences that went wrong. They have had their friends made jest of them for buying something too expensive, they’ve had the feeling of being scammed or something similar. People have paid for products and services at a certain price and later discovered they could have gotten the same exact product and service at a cheaper price somewhere else, or discovered they bought the wrong product or they bought a sub-standard product. They’ve had various experiences in the past with various products and they’ve heard various stories concerning various products. So no one wants to make mistake, no one wants to waste money, no one wants to put money down for a product that won’t actually deliver the value that was expected of it, no one wants to be made fun at, no one wants to be seen as the guy who makes the wrong purchase decision every time.

This is one reason why a lot of husbands find an excuse not to go to the market on their way home to help their wives buy whatever it is she forgot to buy. The wife says something like, “Darling, please can you help me get some vegetables on your way back from work?” and the husband finds an excuse not to do that, “Oh, I might not be able to, because I will be leaving the office really late, and I'm not sure I’ll pass that route”. The guy knows that when he gets back home with the vegetables, the wife tell him how he bought it too expensive and how if he had stepped further inside the market, he could have gotten it way cheaper, and this would make him feel bad because he just realized he made a wrong purchase decision. No one likes making mistakes, no one likes to feel cheated, no one wants to feel he overpaid for something. no one wants to feel that way. The guy knows this, and thinks of an excuse to escape.

Your customers don’t want to make mistakes, they don’t want to make the wrong buying decision, so they need to trust you before they can decide to buy from you. until they’ve achieved a particular degree of trust in you, they can’t buy from you.

Whenever I follow my mum to the market, it’s usually stressful because it’s always going to be a long walk. My mum, just like a lot of other Nigerian mums, won’t stop at the first shop to get what she wants. After getting all the necessary information she needs to make the purchase decision from the first seller, she’ll still go around from shop to shop, getting all the information regarding price, quality, satisfaction etc., then when she’s satisfied with her information gathering process, she’ll then go back to the first seller to make the purchase. Why? This is because she wanted to be sure she’s not making the wrong purchase decision. She needed to attain a level of trust from the first seller before she could make the purchase decision, she attained that trust by comparing what the first seller said with what other sellers said.

Your customers need to trust you. They need to see you as an expert, they need to see you as credible, they need to perceive you as an authority in your field, they need to see you as someone who actually wants what is good for them and not someone who just wants to collect money from them. Your customers need to know this. This is what shapes your reputation, and your reputation either kills or enhances your marketing effort. You can spend a truckload of money on advertising, have amazing PR stunts, create giveaway contests etc., but if your reputation is bad, all these efforts will go down the drain.

What your customers perceive you as is more important than who you truly are. If your customer perceives you as the expert, it doesn’t matter if you have a certification with the name ‘expert’ in it, it doesn’t matter the amount of letters of the alphabet that comes after your name. If your customer perceives you as an expert, then that is who you are. Who your customers perceive you to be is very much more important than who you truly are. If your customer perceives you as an expert, sees you as an authority in your field, sees you as credible, sees you as someone who knows his onions, then they’ll most likely trust what it is you’re giving them and whatever it is you are saying. This is one reason why in the Western world, a lot of people publish at least one book in their field. This is because customers see them as an expert, they assume because you are able to write a book in your field, then you must be knowledgeable in your field, so they assume you’re an expert and they tend to trust you more.

If you teach a particular thing, you are also perceived to be an expert in that thing. They assume you can’t teach others unless you’re good at something. The moment you start teaching a particular thing, people perceive you as an expert in it. This is partly due to the fact that this is the “Knowledge Economy”, and in this economy, knowledge drives money. I remember while I was growing up as a kid, it seemed like the fastest way to live in mediocrity and poverty was to be a teacher and the moment you decide to take the teaching job, it just means that you’re not going to be rich. This is because at that time, when you look at teachers where i grow up, they weren’t rich, they were living in very small apartments, had no car, they lived from hand to mouth etc. so a lot of us detested the idea of being a teacher, we all wanted to become a Doctor or a Lawyer. But right now it has turned on its head, because right now, knowing something really well and successfully teaching it to others drives money in your direction. Knowledge drives money. The knowledge you have about something and the fact that it is visible that you are knowledgeable about it makes people perceive you as an expert. So the moment you start teaching others about something, you’re perceived as an expert in it.

What other people say about you also shapes your reputation. What your customers, your competitors, other experts, industry leaders (both from your field and other fields) are saying about you makes or mars your reputation. If you tell me you’re competent in your business, I may not believe you, cos I won’t have expected you to say otherwise, so I begin to start looking for proofs and evidences to corroborate your claim. I have no beef with you, it’s just I might not believe you until I find an evidence that shows what you’re saying is true. But if someone other than you comes around and tells me you are competent in your business, I tend to believe that person more easily than I would believe you, simply because the person is not you. What others say about you has more weight to your customers than what you say about yourself. Your customers and prospective customers believe what other people are saying about you, whether it’s positive or negative. If what other people say about you is negative, then you’re killing all your marketing efforts, irrespective of what you’re doing, because your customers and prospective customers won’t trust you. It’s easier for them to trust third parties than it is to trust you.

Another factor than shapes your reputation is your Association. This talks about who you are associated with or who people associate you with. If you are associated with industry leaders and experts, and the big guys in your field, then people tend to see you as one of the big guys in your field. That is borrowed reputation. They perceive Mr. A to be the top guy in his field and because they see you having lunch with Mr. A, they see you playing sports with Mr. A, they see you talk with Mr. A, they see you interview or get interviewed by Mr. A, they see both of you featured in the same magazine or journal, they see both of you being members of the same association, they automatically assume you’re also a top guy in your field, they assume you’re an expert.

If you interview experts, you’re being seen as an expert also, if you’re interviewed by experts (which makes more sense), you’re being perceived as an expert also, if you’re being interviewed by media agencies, you’re seen as an expert also.

So, because you do some particular things, your customers and prospective customers begin to assume some things about you and these shape your reputation, they make customers and prospective customers trust you, they see you as credible, as someone with authority in the field, as someone who is knowledgeable, which in turn makes or mars all your marketing efforts. You won’t have to do so much in convincing customers before they believe you, they just believe what you say because of your reputation. They assume you’re an expert based on these things they’ve seen about you, based on the level of knowledge they’ve seen you display, based on your association, based on what other people are saying about you. If these are done right, your conversion process is smooth, because you’ll have hot prospects calling you, they can’t wait to work with you, they can’t wait to experience what others have experienced.

Your reputation is very important when it comes to selling. Take note of what people are assuming about you, the perception they have of you. Your reputation can kill your marketing efforts or bring it to life.

I hope you enjoyed this long article. If you did, I'll like you to help me by leaving a comment so I can know what you actually enjoyed most and what you would like me to talk about next, if you also have a question, please feel free to write it in the comment section, most importantly, if you have received something valuable from this article, please share it with others so they can also benefit from these insights and of course, that would also show you are knowledgeable in it since you’re applying the theory of “borrowed reputation”.

My name is May-Las Akorede (The Mouth to Mouth Expert), I'm the host of “The Business Gist” podcast, I run a portrait photography business called “Data Studios”, and a wedding photography business called “Wedding Clicks”, I also run a consultancy firm where I help businesses with little or no advertising budget come up with word of mouth marketing strategies that they can incorporate into their businesses to make their customers tell other customers about them. Follow me on twitter and Instagram for more updates. When in doubt, you can always find me on akorede.disha.page.

See you soon.