As a number of prominent people and organisations have been finding out of late reputation is key. It takes years to build up a good reputation and can take only moments to knock it down. However it’s not just for the celebrities, politicians, or the BPs of this world. Any business whatever its size should be taking its reputation seriously. After all if we don’t take business seriously why should anyone else?
For small and medium sized businesses this can be more personal. How we as small business owners, and our business, appear to our target markets is fundamental to what keeps, or stops, them coming to us. As the saying goes ‘people buy people’ and your reputation is intrinsically linked to your business.
It’s not just about your brand – your brand is largely about how you want your business to be seen. Your reputation goes beyond brand. Your reputation is mainly about how your stakeholders, from customers through to staff and investors, see the business. So what can you do to help manage your reputation…
What’s out there?
First you need to be sure that you’re making the right impression. Do you know what people are saying about your business? Is your business being mentioned in the right forums? – Google your name, your business name? What comes up? What comes up when you look for your competitors? Are they doing a better job of making the right impression? What can you learn from them?
Ask trusted customers what they think of your services, the business, and while you’re at it why not ask for permission to use any particularly good feedback in your marketing. It all helps to build up a good reputation – especially when expressed by other people.
Make the most of social media
Monitoring what is being said about your business, and your business associates, has become so much easier through google alerts and social media. If you know what’s being said you can be part of the conversation and if there’s a problem you will be in a much better position to find a solution.
Make the most of social media (like twitter and blogs) and social networks (like LinkedIn and Facebook) – it’s not just a passing fad. They are valuable business tools which, if used in the right way, can help to enhance reputation and generate business.
Communicate your values
Make sure you tell your stakeholders what your business stands for and work with those that share your values. If your business gives something back to the community, as a matter of principle, then don’t be shy about it. Some of the things we do in our business – ‘because it’s important to who we are’ – those are the things that speak volumes about our values. They make our business stand out from the rest, and enhance our reputation, and that’s definitely worth shouting about.
However, do be careful who, and what, you associate your business with. Make sure you work with suppliers and partners who share the same values and who can be relied on to represent you in the right way.
At the end of the day, managing your reputation shouldn’t be about simply avoiding a crisis or a scandal. It should be about presenting the right face to the right people and making the right impression. But if it’s not authentic then you’ll be wasting your time because you will get found out sooner or later.