Reputation management word cloud

10 Steps to Building Your Reputation: It’s Not Marketing Magic

How is your business seen in your community, by your customers, by your suppliers, by your partners?

How do your customers, suppliers, partners, staff talk about you to others?

Are those unfamiliar with your business getting a good impression? Is it likely they will do business with you based upon what they hear, read, and experience?

Are these things important to you?

If you’re not managing it, someone else is creating it… “it” is your reputation… online and offline.

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You might think of reputation management as simply online reviews; and you’d be partially correct. But it’s more than that. Reputation management is the practice of attempting to shape the perception the public has of your business by influencing the information about your business.

Reputation used to be easier to manage… it took a top-down approach. Companies would create and distribute information to shape people’s opinion of them or their products. There was some word-of-mouth (good and bad) but it was localized. Today however, a company’s reputation is often created for them. Today people expect good service, people (both you, the business owner, and your customers) are busy living and working so saying something great about you gets lost among the other things on the daily to-do list, and the internet has provided a platform to amplify what a few unhappy folks might be saying about your company. But the internet allows you to amplify your voice too, you just need to know how. Unless you’re on top of it, your reputation is being created for you and it becomes difficult to manage once it has been shaped from the bottom-up.

Now you know what it is and intuitively you can probably figure out why it’s important… it will impact your financial performance – both top and bottom line. Bad reputation = lower sales; bad reputation = unfavorable financial terms. Having a great reputation will create an element of trust even before a potential client comes to you or buys from you, it helps create loyal customers that come back over-and-over, and it enables confident referrals from customers and strategic partners.

So, what makes up your reputation? Well, there are many things: reviews, how you respond to issues, the quality of your work, what you say, and how you act. And when I say “you” I mean your business and everyone in it… how your staff works, what they say, and what they do reflects on your business. Customers don’t see your staff as separate from your business so your systems should set expectations for performance.

Now we have a mutual understanding of what reputation management is, why it’s important, the impact it can have, and what reputation management is made up of. So, how do we manage reputation? Reputation is managed online and offline. Reputation needs to be managed proactively… before others create your reputation for you. NOTE: if you’ve been in business for any amount of time, you probably already have a reputation. If it’s good you can make it great; if it’s not, don’t worry, start improving it now. Your reputation can be built (or improved) using the below tactics.

The following 10 (+ 1 BONUS) items are elements that I believe are key to managing your reputation.

  • You need to know who your ideal customer/client is. You won’t make every customer happy so don’t try to appeal to every customer. Know who your ideal customer is, what they expect, and what WOWs them.
  • Claim your online real estate – Google My Business, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yelp, Houzz, Avvo, WebMD, The Knot, Realtor.com, etc. Many of these sites allow you to create a profile and collect reviews. Claiming this real estate allows you to control the message people see about your business. If someone has already claimed your business work with the tool’s vendor to take it back. (Listings and reviews from these online directories are also used to some extent by Google to assess your reputation which can impact your SEO score and placement in search results, which, in turn, could improve how people perceive your company… higher rankings infer a better reputation.)
  • Provide valuable, educational content. Give your prospects and customers content freely. Teach them something and they will appreciate it. Provide them with tips and tricks to save time and they will appreciate it. Give them tools and templates to make what they need to do easier and more efficient and they will appreciate it. Also, be sure to vary the content format to appeal to the many ways people consume information… podcast, blog post and e-book, video, social media updates, etc. More people are using YouTube to learn about what you do or how to use your product… post an explainer video.
  • Present your company as an authority. The content you offer helps you position yourself as an authority… if you’re seen as a teacher or the go-to person on a subject or in a niche, you’ll improve your reputation. You can really take it to the next level by publishing articles in magazines or trade journals, writing a book, offering webinars and live workshops, posting how-to videos on YouTube, hopping on the lecture circuit, or even just speaking at one of the many business/networking events in your community. Be seen as a teacher and you’ll be seen as an authority.
  • Implement a review funnel. You and your team probably forget to ask customers for reviews. Those you do ask, probably forget to give them. Implement a system that asks happy customers to give you a 5-star review, reminds them to do so, and makes it super easy. Checkout our video on implementing a review funnel below.
  • Monitor and respond authentically to reviews. As you get collect reviews from your review funnel, monitor and respond to those that have taken the time to provide either a great review with a “thank you” or those that have been critical with an apology and offer to fix their issue. The key in any interaction however is to be authentic with your customers, they’ll know when you’re faking it and that won’t help your reputation.
  • Be social, be authentic. Interact with your customers via social media. Being social is not standing by while others “talk” to you online. Your customers are providing reviews, posting and checking in on Facebook and Twitter, and commenting on your blog posts. Be social and be authentic. To be social you need to interact with your customers and make it easy for them to get answers and engage with you. Post videos “day in the life” or “behind the scenes” videos on YouTube or go live on Facebook. People will want to connect with you and your brand both professionally and personally. Being real enhances your reputation.
  • Leverage social proof. You’ve collected all this good will, now be proud of it. Share what others are saying about you online and in person. Record a video testimonial and post it on your homepage; share it on Facebook. Show the world that others like you. Social proof is also about your credentials, awards, licenses you hold, certifications you’ve earned, etc. Be sure to promote your accomplishments. When people recognize your for your awesome work others will see those endorsements as key reputation elements.
  • Implement a partner program. This means finding other businesses, in different lines of work, that serve the same ideal client/customer as you do. Think about your customers, where would they go to get the other services they need to compliment what you do… or just ask them. Ask your existing ideal customers who else the enjoy doing business with. Approach those businesses with an offer to partner together to advance both your work. Partnering with an organization that has a great reputation will only help yours. You’ll inevitably “inherit” the good will their clients have for them when your partner refers you to new customers, their existing customer. But remember, you have an obligation to live up to high expectations so if using this element of my plan commit to it or it could turn out worse than if you didn’t do it at all.
  • Be referable, then request and reward referrals. So, you’ve got happy customers, you’ve collected reviews, you’re seen as an authority… now ask your customers to tell others. The hard work you do to make customers happy and build a great reputation can return exponentially. One person tells 5 friends, the friends tell 5 friends, and they each tell another 5… you quickly have 125 people that know and experience what a great job you do.
  • BONUS: Document your systems. You and your team do work every day but, is how you do that work documented? How you interact with customers - onboarding, staff interactions, invoicing, sales, service, and support, etc. all have an impact on how you are perceived – as organized or adhoc. Organized business operations say to the world that you care about your business and your customers. Having systems documented enables process improvement and having good systems that are followed helps to ensure customers have a great experience.

You may feel overwhelmed by all these things… start out by doing a few and you’ll begin building your reputation online and offline. Once you’ve got things going add more elements of this plan, it’s really the combination of all these elements working together that will kick things into high gear. Providing great service and content to your ideal customers/clients; getting great reviews and building social proof; speaking and being seen as an authority on your subject; using the tools to capture and respond to feedback in an authentic way; and having the systems in place to ensure your customer’s journey is a great experience will, collectively, capture referrals, facilitate partnerships, and create a buzz online and offline that will mute detractors and trolls and amplify the great reputation you have or want to build.

Again, this is a lot of stuff. To get you started, I’m offering you an opportunity to check out what people are saying about you now online. Head over to www.client-reviews.com for a FREE Review Scan to generate an instant reputation report and see how your business appears on local review sites.

If you need help with any of these items or if you’re in the Las Vegas valley and want to chat over coffee or cocktails contact me, I’m here to help, my reputation matters to me too.

About the Author Mark Mraz

I have been in project management and process improvement for over 15 years working for large and small for-profit companies, associations, and not-for-profit organizations. After working in hospitality management for over 10 years, I underwent a career change moving into technology, working for GE. It was there I began working in project management and process improvement; training with GE's Six Sigma program. Later my career had me working with Constellation Energy in Baltimore, Caesars Entertainment in Las Vegas, and eventual transitioning into consulting working for federal agencies and most recently an industry association in the utility sector. I enjoy working with and helping small and medium-sized organizations build value in their business through strategy, project execution, systemization, and marketing.

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