Focus on building legitimacy before launching your business, so you’re prepared when potential customers go looking for your business online or when they walk into your brand-new store. Taking the time to invest in “props”—the trappings associated with a respectable business, such as a website, an official social media presence, cohesive branding, and relationships with appropriate businesses and organizations—before launch will help you project a professional image, and boost customers’ confidence in your business. Building legitimacy is important for securing access to opportunities with vendors, banks, customers and future employees. Additionally, securing relevant online real estate before your business grows could save you money in the future—as your online presence naturally scales with your business, you won’t find yourself having to implement an expensive major overhaul of your digital presence.
Steps in building digital legitimacy
- Register your domain name through an approved registrar. A domain name is the address the internet uses to help people find you. It's essential to your business's digital identity. For more information on this topic, read about registering your web domain.
- Begin creating official accounts on social media platforms for your business. Ensure that you use your company name across all platforms consistently, and keep the accounts private until you are ready to use them.
- Setting up a professional email address that uses your domain name is a very straightforward and practical way to build credibility for your startup. Choose an email service provider (ESP) that you’re already comfortable with.
- Build a landing page where potential customers and business connections can find information about your startup, such as launch dates and contact information. Alternatively, forward your business website’s URL to your primary social media channel until you build out your website or have it developed by a professional.
- Confirm your business’s information (such as location and hours of operation) with platforms like Google and Yelp, and encourage customers to leave online reviews, which can help establish the public’s trust in your business.
Building brick and mortar legitimacy
- Invest in professional branding material, such as business cards, brochures, window signage and sandwich boards. Well-designed and professionally printed materials indicate credibility, and help you to feel pride in your business.
- Set up secure and reputable payment options both in-store and online. Not only will customers feel more secure about their transactions, you’ll be protecting yourself as well.
Leverage legitimacy from other businesses by seeking out partnerships and joining industry associations.
- Introduce yourself to the owners and operators of other businesses in the community. Nurturing relationships with long-standing local businesses who can collaborate with you and refer customers will help build trust, credibility and a sense of belonging for you and your customers.