Your customers want to know why you are able to do what you do, how or where your learned to do it, how have your industry and your peers recognized your accomplishments, and other measures of fitness we call “credentials.”
Credentials come in a wide variety of forms. There are the basic ones like a high school diploma, a college degree, or an advanced degree. But in many industries, such credentials are either the norm–not extraordinary–or considered to be irrelevant. If you and/or your team have exceptional credentials, they can be important differentiators for your brand. I’ve seen companies that add the years of experience of their team members, for example, to claim exceptional expertise. But those claims are not especially attention-getting.
For young companies, it can be hard to claim credentials since you don’t yet have a history of success. Regardless of the experiences and other credentials that your team has had collectively, you don’t yet have much of a track record together. So it may be valuable to think very creatively about credentials. Here are several circumstances that can associate your brand with specific credentials, ranging from standard expectations to unique differentiation:
- Whatever credentials are standard in your industry or in any of the positions that your employees fulfill should be prominently noted on your website, in LinkedIn profiles, employee bios, in your office space, and/or in any other appropriate visible ways. These credentials include degrees, certificates, licenses, continuing education credits, and so forth.
- Your credentials may also extend to your customer list–who have you taught, supplied, or otherwise assisted through your company’s products and services.
- You can deliberately set out to associate your brand with exceptional credentials. Many customers like to do business with “green” companies– both business customers and retail consumers have these preferences. Architects and construction companies construct LEEDS buildings while other companies gain credentials by occupying such buildings. ISO-compliance or a Baldridge award are credentials that companies can earn through rigorous processes of improvement that are externally documented and verified. “Lean” certifications in manufacturing processes are valuable credentials.
- Your employees may have skills or experiences that can credentialize you. Perhaps you have a preponderance of people who speak a second language, or who have done business in different parts of the world, or who have had unusual learning experiences, whether specifically work-related or not. These can set you apart from your competition. Providing a bilingual service or an international capability may be a distinguishing credential for your company.
- Many industries give awards for all kinds of achievements. Typically you have to invest time and sometimes money in the form of entrance fees or review fees in order to qualify for these awards. But especially if you are a young company or a relatively unknown company, deliberately seeking award recognition may have important credential value for you.
As you build your brand, don’t overlook the individual or collective credentials that you may already have or that you can deliberately seek to earn. Credentials may have a significant role in building your brand.