When an entrepreneur begins their own business, it’s more than just a career choice for them, it’s a way of life. Many CEOs are inextricably linked to the businesses that they built up. When the business takes a hit, they bleed. If you’ve launched, or are planning to launch, a startup you’ve probably got an idea of how you want others to perceive your business through branding, and this will be determined by the nature of your business. You may want to be perceived as dynamic, cutting edge and vigorous or you might want to appear warm, reassuring and homespun. The one thing you will always want, however, is a good reputation. Because their business is so inextricable from their personal ideologies and their years of hard work, many entrepreneurs want their business to have a good reputation because they have a profound personal connection to it. Though the implications of reputation for business success may seem like common sense, few are aware just how far reaching the effects of a good or poor reputation can be.
Reputation in the digital age
There was a time when a business’ reputation was determined solely by word of mouth but in an age of social media and professional online networking, businesses have unparalleled access to the people that they are trying to influence. This is, of course, a double edged sword as constant visibility means that businesses are always under the spotlight and toxic influencers like detractors can strike at any moment. Here we’re going to look at the elements that determine a business’ reputation, the ways in which businesses can help to manage theirs, the implications on SEO, the people that can damage it and how to mitigate the damage that they can do to your brand.
The building blocks for a strong reputation
Whether its among customers or potential investors and stakeholders, your brand’s reputation will be determined by the following:
Ethics: Nobody wants to trade with an amoral, profit driven leviathan. An ethical awareness and ethical practices are vital in today’s business climate.
Financial performance: Financial strength implies competence and trustworthiness. A record of profitability and strong growth prospects will make your business more appealing to investors and customers.
Employees: Whether your business has a physical presence or exists solely in the digital realm, your employees will be an important point of contact for customers and they can make or break your reputation.
Management: Competent employee and business management and a clear strategy for the future is another strong building block of reputation.
Leadership: Innovative businesses that lead trends and are ahead of the curve are invariably the most appealing.
Customer care: Businesses with a strong focus on outstanding customer service can be found in customer care point under the building blocks for a strong reputation and creative strategies for customer retention are strongly positioned for success.
Product Quality: All the marketing bells and whistles mean nothing if a business isn’t built around a string product.
Reliability: In an uncertain and capricious world, people want to turn to brands they can rely on.
Social responsibility: Organizations that support social causes and promote charitable causes are always more appealing than those that don’t.
Of course knowing the building blocks of reputation is only half the battle. The key to success lies in implementing strategies that will provide real results.
How you can help to improve your business’ reputation
Communicate effectively- People expect their written and verbal contact with your business to be articulate concise and informed without being packed with esoteric jargon that risks alienating or belittling the customer. Making sue your communication is effective, informed and concise plays an undeniable role in your reputation.
Establish trust- Trust is intrinsic to reputation, and you and all of your employees must do your bit to establish it. Keeping your word when you make a promise to a customer, paying vendors when they’re due and ensuring that your products live up to any claims they make are key to building and solidifying trust in your business.
Resolve mistakes quickly- You and your employees are only human and it’s only natural that mistakes are made. Nobody expects you to be perfect, but everyone expects you to resolve and rectify mistakes quickly, apologizing, taking personal responsibility and avoiding assigning blame to others.
Be responsive- In a busy workplace it can be difficult to respond to calls and emails in a timely manner but failure to do so can seriously damage your credibility.
Offer value for money- You don’t have to be the cheapest game in town but you do have to offer the best value for money. Customers will happily pay extra for a valuable and reliable product.
Embrace technology- Businesses that are ahead of the curve are sure to attract the curiosity and excitement of customers and investors so be sure to embrace new changes in technology in your sector as much as your budget will allow. Using technology in creative and innovative ways is one of the surest ways to grow your reputation and create a buzz around your business.
Maintain your online presence- A glitzy, professional looking website is meaningless if it hasn’t been updated since 2008. Make sure your business website and social media presence are updated regularly with new and original content.
Embrace cause advocacy- Allying yourself with a charitable cause is a surefire way to demonstrate that your business has a social conscience and an ethical focus. Likewise donating your time and effort to support a local cause can generate serious interest in your business at a local level.
Reputation and off page SEO
Look at the davidcarralon.com site and you’ll see many posts covering all aspects of Search Engine Optimization that you may or may not be familiar with. Many people think of SEO as something that belongs solely on the page and while your content should be written with SEO in mind (Yoast is a great tool for this), the little things that grow your business’ reputation can also improve your search engine visibility off page. Some additional things that you can do to improve your off page SEO include:
- Incentivize reviews- Giving your customers incentives to leave you positive reviews on the likes of Google, Trustpilot and Trip Advisor is a surefire way to boost your off page SEO.
- Link generation- Drawing customers to your web site’s content through social media is a great way to start building meaningful relationships with potential leads. Alerting customers to special sales and promotions through exclusive links and voucher codes will bring floods of new leads to your online presence.
- Get to know your audience- Engaging with customers and leads through social media is a surefire way to improve your brand’s reputation through off page SEO.
The people who can damage your brand and how you can deal with them
As impenetrable as your infrastructure may be for building your brand’s reputation, there are people out there (and inside your operation) who can bring the whole thing crashing down like a house of cards. Lazy or incompetent employees can do a huge amount of damage to your business, especially if they have a negative encounter with a customer. Of course, everyone appears bright, chipper and assertive at interview. For this reason it’s important to ensure that staff are kept motivated with incentives, regular training and performance reviews to ensure that they do not become complacent. Brand detractors can also be extremely damaging. As the figurehead of your business you must be ever vigilant against negative customer reviews or official complaints. Fortunately, most complaints can be turned around if they are addressed promptly and effectively. Most detractors respond favorably to an opportunity to give you a second chance especially if they’re incentivized by a heavy discount off their next purchase or a little something for free.
By staying on top of the factors that influence your business’ reputation and building them into your business strategy, you lay the foundation for years of growth and prosperity.