Webster's Online Dictionary defines "virtuous" as:
having or showing high moral standards
Yet today, it can feel like the definition of "morals" is subjective and wildly open to interpretation.
How, do we live out a virtuous definition of success?
We live in a world that views any person who is successful in business, as somehow a bit on the "shady" side. The unspoken opinion is the person did something immoral or illegal to get to the "top of the heap."
In order to fight this stigma of pure "success" as an entrepreneur, many new companies define themselves as Social Entrepreneurs. That is, their aim is to "bring business techniques and strategies from the private sector into areas that find solutions for social, cultural or environmental issues."
Does that make anyone but me scratch their head? It sounds like we're playing with words. Isn't that a bit like the lamb who wears a lion hoodie?
Entrepreneurship by definition is bringing ideas into the marketplace in a new way.
Is It Old Fashioned to Be Virtuous?
The "virtuous definition" isn't assigned to just businesses with a Christian ethic. High standards of excellence, quality and value abound in even the most areligious. So, this is by no means addressed to just the Christian business entrepreneur.
Maybe the challenge comes because the idea of virtue and moral excellence has fallen into the cracks as silly or old-fashioned. In fact, one dictionary definition said that "virtuous" as assigned to "chasteness" is an archaic term.
We find it hard to believe that men like David Green of Hobby Lobby or Truett Cathy of Chick-fil-a are really GOOD men. Those are the big names we recognize. Yet, inside every city, town or hamlet are men and women who want to create a virtuous, morally excellent, deeply honest business.
The challenge for a business owner arises that she declares her business a house of virtuous values, it immediately opens itself up for ridicule and defamation. If a mistake is made, that company is held to a higher standard.
As a result, many entrepreneurs hesitate to brand themselves with a virtuous badge.
Allow any run of the mill company or business without such a declaration to make a bookkeeping error or indulge in shady practices, and it might be on the news for a day or two. However, allow a company that stands by a virtuous definition of business make a mistake, and it will be on the news for weeks.
And it isn't just in business. We see the same standards for government and public service officials. We want the people who say they have high morals to exemplify that to us always.
When you choose to designate yourself as a business of high moral standards and excellence, you must be willing to take the heat if you make a mistake.
More than anything, we must be willing to say we're sorry and make it right.
The Golden Rule Runs Both Ways
As consumers, we expect excellence. We want a guarantee. We want to know we can get our money back if we aren't happy. Our expectation is that that every transaction is guarded.
Unfortunately, the reality is that honest mistakes happen. On the darker side are those people and entities that purposefully out to take advantage of consumers. Just recently I had two scammer phone calls. One was from Jamaica with a big promise of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the other was that the IRS was about to sue me for tax errors.
I'm glad that I knew about the scams before I heard the calls, but what about the myriads of people who don't? My poor mother was a victim of the Jamaica money-scam!
As creators, our duty is to live out the axiom "Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you."
Due to all of the scams in the marketplace, many consumers believe the creator believes "get it while the getting's good." Only by consistently serving at a higher level can we hope to earn the trust of our audience. It is only in the every day operation of our business that we can begin to rise to the top of the noise.
According to the Edelman 2016 Trust Barometer, influence is more important than authority. We see this in every segment of society. Consumers are more likely to find out what their friends on social media think about a brand, than the company's Better Business Bureau rating. Edelman calls this the "Inversion of Influence."
More commonly, it's known as "word of mouth."
Does Your Business Fall Under the Virtuous Definition Heading?
Your company will only gain loyalty when the people you seek to serve believe you actively hear what they want - and respond. Edelman's report goes on to say:
It means behaving in ways that show your interests are aligned with those of society as a whole. It requires a sincere and authentic set of values, and a broad, inclusive approach to engaging with stakeholders.
Understandably, our clients don't want us to "talk at" their problem. They want - we want - real solutions.
In today's climate, your clients trust you more when they believe you are "just like them." More than ever before, an entrepreneur must communicate she can walk the talk of what she offers. Authenticity shows.
Our faker radar is up and active. We are more prone to distrust than trust.
How to Earn the Trust of Your Audience
For just a moment, think about the last time you got a phone call from a number you didn't recognize. What was the first thing you did? What did you think?
Believe it or not, there was a time when there wasn't such a thing as caller id. People answered the phone when it rang with anticipation (not anxiety) for the voice on the other end of the line.
In 2000, Business Week published a report that said only 27% of the population believed that companies charged fair prices. If it was that level then - what can we expect it to be now?
In a world where telemarketers abound and pixels target us around the web, more than ever before, earning the trust of an audience is vital. Attention spans are shorter. And, suspicions are higher. Rarely, if ever, do we get a second chance with a new consumer. There are millions of options. Once they've left your site - you're out of their mind. Usually forever.
Here are a six ways to increase your trust factor.
- Short Video
People want to see you eye-to-eye.
Take advantage of Live Streaming. Showcase your product. Let people see it in action.
Engage in conversation.
- Social Proof
Not just any social proof. It must be from people your audience can say, "yeah, they're just like me."
If you don't have it yet, discover a way to get it. Who can you give the product or service to for a test run? Run a Beta Test or Beta Group.
This runs both ways. Be interviewed and interview others.
Write articles or do roundup posts on your blog. Get on podcasts or internet radio shows. Create a podcast or interview format for your own business.
In the age of the Authority of Influence, discover who is influential in your market's eyes. If you don't know who those people are, ask them!
Can't quite reach the top Influencer? Who else can you reach?
You can discover Influencers on iTunes, Stitcher and Google Radio. Discover them on Blab, Periscope and Snapchat. Follow them on Instagram and Pinterest. Scour YouTube.
Do a search online. Influencer: (your market).
- Local Market
Face to face is still the best in your local market.
We may dread it. We may wish it would go away. But network events are still the best way to reach your target market if you want to serve your local community. Depending on your product or service, community events which allow vendors is another option.
Online advertising for local search is another venue, though this can get pricey.
- Online Groups
Whether a Facebook Group, a Twubs chat, a Blab or Periscope presentation get in the mix and have conversation.
Play nice and don't take over someone else's presentation or group. Offer real assistance in a considerate way. Be an advocate for the person who's running the show.
- Collaboration - Market Sharing
Online Summit or Joint Venture
Who serves your market, too? Create joint opportunities to share your market reach. It is very simple to create an event using Google Hangouts, Zoom.us, or your favorite webinar platform.
Mutual collaboration with other local merchants.Just like an Online Summit, create a joint venture with the local merchants serving your client. For example, do you serve millennial women? Who else is reaching out to them? Where do they shop? What are their interests? Can you share space with another service company or leave your information in their store?
Don't Expect Overnight Success
While none of these six suggestions will guarantee you overnight fame, there are huge benefits for implementing them. Especially relevant though, they offer a path to follow for greater influence with the people you want to serve.
Because honestly, as an entrepreneur in the business of bringing a dream to life, you didn't expect it to be easy did you? However, it is worth it.
The time and energy you INVEST in earning the "Virtuous Definition" - a business of high moral standards, will serve you time and again. Your reputation is priceless. And, THAT is what goes viral. When you serve your client to the highest and best possible standard, admit your mistakes, and offer real-life solutions, she will tell all of her friends about you.
Most of all, your advertising dollars will never earn you the extended social capital dividends a Virtuous Definition of Success Badge of Honor given by your clients will provide. When you earn THEIR trust, they will shower referrals, word-of-mouth praise and ultimately income into your business account. How much is their trust worth to your bottom line?
Finally, retain your passion - retain your vision - retain your purpose. Earn trust. Earn a reputation of a virtuous, visionary entrepreneur.
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