29. 6 Credibility Strategies from Curtis Blair, Who Led 5 Companies to Multimillion-Dollar Valuations
Credibility is becoming increasingly important in business. Potential customers don’t trust as easily as they once did, so it is much more important that we do everything we can to build strong relationships of trust, be honest, and be real in those relationships. In today’s episode, Curtis Blair and I discuss how to build stronger credibility in our relationships.
Curtis has led five companies to multimillion-dollar status. His most recent success was leading a marketing company from zero to $12 million in four years. He’s directed marketing teams for the international brand Fila. In addition to being an incredible businessperson, he is also an amazing person.
1. The Three Rs of Credibility Marketing: Real, Raw, Relevant
Curtis remembers an ad from when Instagram first became popular. A celebrity was walking through the airport, and she was pulling a very beautiful luggage piece, one that could be used for an executive or fashion model. It was a very versatile, nice-looking bag. She described the wheels, the ball bearings, the handle, the three different sizes, the many pockets, and it was supposed to be off the cuff like, “Hey, I just got off the plane, and I love my piece of luggage.” However, it was just so inauthentic. So much so that it was almost done in poor taste. At the time, there were a lot of social influencers being paid big dollars to do advertising, but it didn’t take very long for people to realize that the ad was inauthentic.
Curtis says there are three key ingredients to developing social capital. They are being real, being raw, and being relevant. This means we must be organic, consistent, dynamic, entertaining, thought-provoking, a little vulnerable, and share stories that are compelling. With so much being fake online, it is important for us to be authentic because our customers can tell the difference. It is something that is qualitative, not quantitative.
One way we can be more authentic is to share a backstory from our company. People love to hear what is going on behind the scenes. As we provide that to our audience, whether that is employees, customers, shareholders, or vendors, we can improve our social capital.
“If we don’t find ourselves being a little bit more real, a little bit more raw, and a little bit more relevant, we will be left behind.”
– Curtis Blair
2. Adding Value in Our Relationships
When we are trying to grow meaningful relationships, in business or in our personal lives, one key piece is to add value to the relationship and to reciprocate the value that the other person has added to the relationship. We have to be very careful when approaching relationships that we are adding value to. There are appropriate times to ask for something, but it’s important when we receive something like a piece of great advice not only to attribute where that came from but also to pay it forward. We should give value in return. Part of adding social credibility and adding to the credibility capital is taking what we’ve learned and paying it forward.
Our relationships need to be considered priorities. There can be a shared feeling of trust and belonging in relationships, but those feelings if not constantly nurtured can fade.
Recently, Curtis sold a business. During the transition phase, he was trying to help the new owners figure things out. They were asking Curtis questions that he knew he had answered for them before, but he could tell there was something else going on. He swallowed his pride and helped them go through it again. He did his best to help them, to resolve any fears or concerns they had, and to really truly answer the questions they were asking. He didn’t give any excuses or try to take over by saying this is what I would do. He just let them figure it out and grow from it. Sometimes adding value means that we have to put our egos in our back pockets for a moment and just make sure that we’re delivering a relevant and important response or comment.
3. Credibility from Experts and Outside Sources
It is much better for someone else with a tremendous amount of credibility and clout to say something good about us than it is for us to say about ourselves. How much more credible is it when Oprah says that someone has a meaningful book or podcast than when they say it themselves? How much more credible would it be if Liam Neeson were to tell me I was a great actor or if Elton John were to say that someone was a great musician?
That credibility is much more powerful than if someone were to say it about themselves. We’re witnessing this in politics, entertainment, and business. It’s even prevalent on a smaller scale; most students won’t take a class from a professor unless they’ve heard about them from someone else, which is how websites like RateMyProfessors.com thrive.
“Credibility is a leader’s currency. With it, he or she is solvent; without it, he or she is bankrupt.”
-John C. Maxwell, American author, speaker, and pastor
4. Hard Times Grow Relationships, Build Character, and Encourage Innovation
One of the secrets of credibility is being there in the hard times. When you have to take a stand or when you go through something tough with someone, it builds a deeper relationship and deeper credibility in the relationship because they know they can trust us to be there for them when times are tough. We can’t just be there when times are good; we have to be there when it’s hard to be there for them.
In a business sense, we can apply this to when an employee or customer is going through something tough. Perhaps they’re sick with COVID or their spouse is going through cancer. Maybe a customer is facing bankruptcy and we let them out of the contract that we didn’t have to let them out of. When we are there for people in times like these, that’s when we can build some of the most loyalty and the most credibility capital. When we do something for somebody when they really need help, that’s one of the key secrets to building relationships that last.
As Curtis gets together with his associates and friends that helped him get to where he is, they don’t talk about their successes or the great things they’ve done. They talk about the hard things; they talk about the scars and the battle wounds, discussing the lessons they’ve learned. It’s during those times that character really shines, that’s when the rubber meets the road. Leadership and character are defined in those dark moments.
Hard times encourage us to innovate in ways that we wouldn’t have if things had stayed the same. Curtis thinks that there will be more creativity, more innovation, and more market segment verticals opened up to us because of this COVID crisis than we would have seen in five years had everything just stayed status quo. He’s seen it in his own marketing businesses, in the campaigns that they’re drawing up, in the customer journeys that they’re mapping out for clients. We are becoming much more creative, engaged, and vulnerable. We’ll be able to come out of a crisis like this with our chins up and our heads held high. True character, true innovations, and some of the greatest thought leaders will come out of our communities during these times.
5. Fill Our Networks with People We Want to be Like
“The less you associate with some people, the more your life will improve. Any time you tolerate mediocrity in others, it increases your mediocrity. An important attribute in successful people is their impatience with negative thinking and negative acting people.”
-Colin Powell, Former United States Secretary of State
When Curtis moved from Connecticut to Colorado, he noticed there was a change in style. His friends in Connecticut had worn black rock T-shirts. In Colorado, 501 button-fly jeans were in style. Curtis realized that location and association matter. Most of your Facebook friends live within a 100-mile radius. Most kids choose colleges within a 30-minute drive from their home.
It’s been shown in socioeconomic studies that suicide and obesity are happening in networks and pockets of communities. The same can be true of positive things. So as we think about the concept of belonging, it is important that we respect the law of association. We become like those we surround ourselves with. We become a part of their social network and rub off on each other. Hopefully, we can surround ourselves with the kind of people we want to be like, as well as be the kind of person that other people want to be around. For me, Curtis Blair is definitely one of those people I want to be like.
6. Experts and Thought Leaders
When I asked Curtis who is the person who has the most credibility for him in his life and why, he told me that it changes every week. He is reading a new book every week, but it is always the person he is investing time in who’s an expert and who’s a thought leader. This comes back to the same common principle; the person most credible to us is an expert who is giving us great advice. In that relationship, there’s trust, respect, thought leadership, speaking from a place of experience, and speaking from a place of vulnerability.
Connect with Curtis
If you enjoyed this interview and want to learn more about Curtis or connect with him, you can find him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/curtisbblair.
Thank you so much Curtis for sharing your stories and knowledge with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:
1. Be real, raw, and relevant in our marketing. Our customers can tell when we’re being inauthentic.
2. Add value to our relationships and prioritize those relationships.
3. Sometimes adding value means swallowing our pride and letting the other person figure things out on their own.
4. When experts, customers, and other credible sources talk about us, it is much more credible than when we talk about ourselves.
5. Be there for people during the hard times to establish stronger relationships.
6. Surround ourselves with people we want to be like.
7. Listen to experts and thought leaders who speak from experience and vulnerability.
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