Your reputations is about more than just online reviews, social media likes, "thumbs-up" and five-star ratings.
Your reputation is a function of the relationships you have with both customers and prospects. Great relationships result in great reputations. Focus on the relationships you have - online and offline - and your business will become known for great work that adds value.
To build relationships you need to know who you want to work with. You must put the effort into defining who you serve and serve those customers to the best of your ability. You won't want to work with everyone and it'll show. You'll only really build relationships with those customers that are right for your business and in turn, they will value and respect you. This will grow your reputation.
Create and maintain online profiles on social, professional, and industry specific sites. Examples include: Google My Business, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yelp, Houzz, Avvo, WebMD, The Knot, Realtor.com, Alignable, etc. Create company pages, groups, personal profiles. Build a YouTube channel and fill it with valuable, educational content (see the next element below). Use these site as portals for communicating with your ideal client wherever they may be.
You develop a good reputation by helping people and bringing value to them everyday. Teach your prospects and customers something new and they will appreciate you. Their appreciation grows your reputation. Vary your content in both format and distribution channel... written content (online blogs, books, templates); visual content (how-to videos, public speaking); audio content (host a podcast, be interviewed) allow for different learning styles.
Many of these dozen elements are related. Delivering valuable, educational content presents you as an authority on a subject. When you're seen as the go-to person in your niche, you'll have authority and credibility. Build on your initial content efforts by publishing a book or journal article, Become a keynote speaker on your topic of expertise. Be the person newspapers and TV turn to for "on the record" quotes. Leverage public relations to expertise to accelerate these efforts.
It's not all about five-star rating and reviews, but reviews and rating are one of the twelve components. Are you and your team asking for feedback from your customers? Are your clients giving it? If not, why not? Not because the don't like you but because you never asked, or they forget, or they think it's too difficult. You have a great relationship with your best customers, ask them to share that. Create a review funnel that asks, reminds, and makes it easy for your best clients to share how they feel about you and the relationship they have with you.
When you've claimed your online real estate, when you're asking for reviews and ratings, when you're being social, you need to monitor what is being said and respond to the good and bad with authenticity. Say thank you for the good ones and address the bad ones with true concern. Relationships and reputation may be built by good deeds, but they are strengthened by how you respond to mistakes, critics, and concerns from prospects and customers. Customer recovery - how you fix a problem - can be one of the most powerful reputation builders.
If responding to prospects and customers is reactive, being social is proactive. Being social is not about standing in "the corner" while the conversation goes on around you. Being social is about starting the conversation, engaging with your customers and prospects - online and offline. Leverage your online real estate to conduct a survey, post your content, highlight accomplishments, and recognize customers, staff, and suppliers. Translate your online relationships and social engagement to the offline world.
Showing appreciation for customer, staff, and suppliers is how you turn the word "relationship" into deeds and actions. These demonstrations of appreciation and the relationships you have with others are the deeds that build a great reputation. Show your appreciation for those that help your business grow by sending a card or a gift, hosting an appreciation day party, recognizing milestones (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.), and simply saying "thank you, I appreciate you and your business" - these simple words can go a long way in fostering relationships and building reputations.
Social proof is the good will and recognition you've collected - it's your demonstration to those that don't know you, that those that do, appreciate and value you. Social proof can be a testimonial. Record a video of your best customers speaking highly of you and then share that on your homepage, on social media, and across your online real estate. Be sure your homepage includes references to and displays of the certifications, licenses, awards, commendations, and credentials you hold. Promote your accomplishments; they will make others feel comfortable, they will enhance and reinforce the reputation you've built.
Find other, non-competing businesses with that serve the same ideal client. If you're a personal trainer, partner with a message therapist. If you're an accountant, partner with an attorney. If your an architect, partner with a decorator. Partner with a business that has a great reputation and you'll both get and give value. Your new partner will be happy to have access to a whole new list of customers. Your customers will be thankful that you are helping solve their problems, And you will inherit the great reputation and relationships your new partner has.
Be referable - then request and reward referrals. Being referable means that you stand out from your competition. You are top of mind for clients you have a relationship with and that know you to have strong reputation. If your doing what I've described above and you have a genuine connection with your customers, ask them to tell others about you... and they will. When they do, send a card to say thanks, include a small present, gift card, or coupon. The most cost effective way to fill your Marketing Hourglass(TM) is to ask people that already know, like, and trust you to share their relationship and your reputation with others.
We've come the the last of the twelve. You might wonder how documenting your processes will help your reputation and relationships. It all has to do with experiences and expectations. With documented processes, people in your business engage with customers the same way; and as a result, your customers come to understand the experience they should expect, how they will be treated, and the way you operate. Without documented, standardized processes, everyone could be working with customers differently. Some customers may get treated differently based upon who answers the phone or what day of the week it is. These things do not build a trusting relationship and can result in the one mistake or bad deed that sinks all the work you did to build a great reputation. A side effect of documented processes is that you can more easily identify areas for improvement, you may realize efficiencies, and mistakes, rework, and non-value-add steps may be reduced or even eliminated - these, collectively, result in a better experience for your customers, a relationship built on more than just price, and a reputation that will bring in new clients.
The relationship you have with your customers started before they became your customers and continues well after the sale is made.
Develop relationships and you'll be more than a supplier to them and they'll be more than a customer to you. Make your relationship about more than the sale and it'll be about more than the price.