Managing your business reputation is tricky and complex. Because most businesses provide some sort of service or product, the statements you make, how you market yourself, what others are saying about you and how you respond to negative or constrictive criticism, among other things, can all come into play to positively or negatively impact you. Some of these things you can control, others you cannot. Regardless of your business’ size, you must be proactive when it comes to your reputation. Focus on establishing and maintaining your reputation and handling issues before they become a crisis.
Just like in our personal lives, business reputations are often earned. However, there is no guarantee on how they will evolve, especially if they aren’t managed appropriately and regularly. Having a solid reputation is wonderful, but maintaining one is even better!
So how do you get started in building a positive reputation from the start? First and foremost, we want to challenge you to change your thinking slightly. We encourage you to move away from the idea of management alone and think reputation marketing as well. A positive reputation is one of the most valuable marketing tools you have. It can help you generate business, keep loyal customers and will save you when a crisis does happen – and it will!
In today’s post, we’ll share some basic, simple guidelines for creating and managing your reputation, and using it to your advantage when it comes to marketing your business.
KNOW YOUR BUSINESS’ VALUES AND VISUALIZE HOW YOU WANT TO BE PERCEIVED BY CUSTOMERS
Start by asking yourself some questions: What is your vision and value proposition? Do the services and experiences you provide match those? If not, what needs to change? Do you know what you want your customers to feel when they interact with you? How do you want others (potential customers, media, online followers, etc.) to respond to you?
Knowing these answers will help you set goals and a foundation for managing and maintaining your reputation. What steps can you take to ensure you’re achieving the answers you want from the above statements?
CREATE YOUR REPUTATION AND CONTROL YOUR MESSAGING THROUGH YOUR MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS PLANS
First, you can create your own positive reputation from the start. Hold true to your values, know your product or service and positively sell yourself to establish yourself as an expert. You can do this through a variety of methods:
· Create your own content through a website blog or social media that helps solve the problems of your customers and offer information they are seeking.
· Build positive relationships within your community and gain publicity through media relations, guest blogging and networking opportunities. Engage with your customers and audience (more on this gem down below!) by focusing on customer service and a positive “buying” experience.
· Take control of your advertising. Create positive, professional messages that are attractive to your customers. Be leery of insensitive or inappropriate ads or messages as those can quickly backfire on you.
MONITOR YOUR ONLINE REVIEWS AND ENCOURAGE THEM
It’s critical that you keep a close eye on online reviews. Today there are thousands of review websites and databases that have an incredibly large following and reach. It’s important that you know what your customers are saying about you. Potential customers follow this information, believe it and use it when making decisions about who they plan to do business with. One negative review left untouched can do extensive damage to your business. Don’t ignore the problem, it won’t go away on its own.
· Be Responsive. It’s important to be responsive and acknowledge any problems or negative feedback. Learn from a mistake; own up to it; make it right as best you can; and move on. This allows you to show potential customers that you’re listening, accountable, and proactive. It’s also important to thank people for their positive reviews. Customers like to know their voice is heard.
· Encourage Reviews. According to Forbes Magazine, 90% of consumers read online reviews before doing business with someone and 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Bottom line: you need the positive reviews. Use them.
· Track yourself! Google Alerts, social mention and other platforms and applications exist that can help you keep track of mentions and reviews, so you can respond where needed.
BE CONSISTENT, RESPONSIVE, OPTIMISTIC AND HONEST
Bits of these points were mentioned above, but no one likes sporadic, defensive feedback when they’ve had a poor experience with a business. Someone is more likely to do business with you again, even if they encounter an issue, if you’re consistently present from the beginning, responsive to their needs, optimistic in finding a solution and honest in your approach.
WHAT YOU SHOULD AVOID
We’ll talk about some of these details in our next series post about Crisis Communication. But, it’s important to not respond to negativity with negativity or to fully ignore the situation. In addition, don’t be tempted to go out and buy 5-star reviews or some software that guarantees its going to bury all negative comments out there about your business. Lastly, don’t threaten to take legal action unless, well, someone has done something unlawful.
We realize managing reputations isn’t easy or in some cases, enjoyable. But if you’re proactive in your approach, follow a plan and take daily actions to build and maintain, your customers will help you drive your business in a positive direction.