Getting your business ‘out there’ and attracting loyalty and great reviews can seem an uphill struggle for small business owners. However, there are smart strategies you can use to establish and enhance the reputation of your business.
Choose the right name
Your business name is going to (hopefully) be around for some time, so right from the start, give it careful consideration. Avoid any multi-part name that could spell something embarrassing when turned into an acronym (or when run together as a website address – Pen Island is one of the most famous examples!).
Know Your Relevant Media Outlets and Journalists
Once you’re ready to launch, make sure you let all the relevant media contacts know, whether they be bloggers, press offices or the local paper. Establish friendly but professional relationships with these contacts and remember to keep them informed of any significant news.
This should not only include expansion, new products and events, but also any schemes you become involved such as supporting a charity, signing up to a local school’s work experience programme or joining a business association or network.
Becoming involved with your community, e.g. by donating items or sponsoring local sports teams, will boost your reputation locally. Ensuring these actions are mentioned on your website and social media platforms and also reported in the media will help expand that reputation beyond your locality.
Know Your Target Audience – and Interact with Them
Gather data on what your target audience and existing customers like and dislike about what you do, and where their other interests lie. Tailor your business and communications to cater for these interests. Respond to feedback and ensure they know that you’ve done so. Show them that you relate to them and care about their experience.
Network and Partner Up with Other Businesses
This can be a great way to bolster your reputation, reach and sales, but be choosy; ensure you’re partnering with reliable businesses whose ethos and business practices are in harmony with your own. You want this association to enhance your reputation, not damage it!
Respond Swiftly and Professionally to Customer Complaints
These days, customer complaints are just as likely – if not more likely – to be expressed on social media than expressed via email, letter or phone. This means that complaints can no longer be dealt with discreetly, away from the public gaze. They’re instantly out there for all to see.
Of course, it’s wise to instruct customers use the direct messaging facilities on these platforms if they intend to contact you via social media – but many won’t do so. Once they’ve made the initial comment in a social media post, respond politely with concern, and request that they send you a personal message with full details so that you can deal with it swiftly. Again, not all customers will do so. Some delight in making their complaint into a public spectacle.
Always remember that existing and potential customers may be watching – they’ll be noting how you deal with these complaints. Remain polite and professional, respond swiftly to comments and complaints and be seen to be dealing with your customers fairly. Make sure any apologies, compensation or placatory measures are made just as public as the initial complaint.
However – don’t be afraid to ignore customers who become abusive. In your final reply to them, reiterate your request that they contact you directly, provide any details they need to do so, and explain that you don’t publicly engage with customers who are abusive. Block them if you must. Having a public row with unreasonable customers or trolls will do nothing for your reputation.
A good reputation means good business, so don’t miss any of these opportunities to improve the standing of your business with its customers, target audience and local community.