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It takes years for you to build a solid business reputation, and, unfortunately, in this digital age, one misstep can potentially destroy years of painstaking work. For example, retailers and wholesalers can suffer from pricing misprints in emails; lumberyards can become the scapegoat when material shortages deplete stock, or homebuilders’ reputations can tank if the post-sale experience falls short of rising homeowner expectations.
The days when all you had to do to manage your business’ reputation was to focus on delivering great products and services are gone. Today, perceptions make reputations, and that’s a frightening reality. It’s the reason why so many savvy business owners and managers consider reputation management as a factor in every decision, from business communications and technological innovations to new products and services.
For better or worse, we are a digitally connected society, and negative impressions travel quickly online. They can affect your ability to attract and retain customers, investors, and even employees.
Consider these statistics:
Developing a solid reputation management strategy can distinguish your business from competitors and turn the fragility of business reputations in our digital world into your competitive advantage. For small and medium-sized enterprises, that strategy can be as simple as following these five rules:
Reputation management rule #1: Set a Google Alert to monitor business reviews
Google Alerts (link: https://www.google.com/alerts) is a free service that notifies you by email whenever your business is mentioned online. When someone posts a negative review, you will have the opportunity to respond – not react – and address complaints. That may involve correcting misunderstandings by posting relevant information, asking the poster to contact you offline to resolve an outstanding issue, or offering a solution. Avoid arguments at all costs, even if you’re right. An aggressive attitude is a red flag for anyone reading reviews and considering doing business with your company.
Here’s a quick guide to setting up Google Alerts.
Reputation management rule #2: Engage with your audience on social media platforms
Millennials value 1-to-1 engagement with your brand, and their trust rises with your willingness to communicate and be transparent, whether it’s a B2B or B2C relationship. They want to know that you care enough about your customers that you will engage in ongoing, natural conversation rather than forced monologues. They want to associate the names and faces in your organization with your business. To be communicative is to be worthy of trust.
Communicating regularly on social media also provides a forum for addressing industry issues that may affect your business and your customers’ experiences. For example, posting articles about material or product shortages is a great way to avoid being blamed for issues you cannot control. You can also use these platforms to occasionally invite your best customers to review you on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. And you can leverage engagement to ask for product feedback or learn more about the products and services your customers would be interested in buying.
Reputation management rule #3: Check and double-check all written communications
Before you hit “send” or “post” on an important email or article, have it proofread by someone other than the original writer. Remember, there is no such thing as private correspondence anymore; anything that goes out can come back to haunt your business. Correct problems with the tone, grammar, and facts, and determine whether you have addressed complaints. Train your employees to appreciate their roles as ambassadors, and know that your brand and company reputation are at stake in every communication.
Reputation management rule #4: Treat employees with respect
What happens in the company doesn’t stay in the company, and it’s best to accept that as the new reality. Make it your competitive advantage by building a company culture of respect down the leadership chain so that employees at all levels speak highly of their experiences on a growing number of platforms, including LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Indeed. A superior employee experience also results in more referrals to qualified candidates and higher retention rates, lowering your labor costs while raising employee performance.
Reputation management rule #5: Use negative feedback as a tool to improve your business
It’s challenging to improve your customer experience if you think you’re meeting expectations on all fronts. Even market leaders across the segments we represent find occasional negative feedback online about their businesses. But what separates them from their lesser competitors is their willingness to learn what isn’t working, make necessary improvements, come up with solutions, and be transparent through the process.
Managing a business reputation isn’t a finite project; it’s an ongoing endeavor. When you do the daily work to manage perceptions of your business, you’re also doing the work it takes to uphold a strong business reputation.
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