Reputation Management: Why You Need to Keep a More Proactive Watch Over Your Most Valuable Asset

Reputation Management: Why You Need to Keep a More Proactive Watch Over Your Most Valuable Asset

While it’s true that your brand’s reputation will play a significant role in an essential factor like word-of-mouth, the real power of paying attention to what people are saying about you runs a bit deeper.

The Importance of Reputation Management: Facts and Figures

Consider the following statistics to help paint a vivid picture of the situation you’re dealing with:

  • According to one study, an incredible 74% of people now consult Yelp or a similar service when looking for some type of business or service provider – even if they plan on carrying on a relationship exclusively in “real life.”
  • The above statistic may actually be on the conservative side – another study indicated that 97% of consumers say that they read online reviews about local businesses on a regular basis before deciding whether or not to make a purchase. 
  • Speaking of which, a one-star rating hike on a service such as Yelp often equates to a 5% to 9% rise in overall revenue. Let that sink in for just a second. 
  • Another study by the World Economic Forum revealed that on average, more than 25% of a company’s market value could be tied back directly to its reputation and general perception. 
  • A massive 86% of people say that they would pay more for services if they could guarantee they were being provided by a company with higher ratings and a larger number of positive reviews.

As these and other statistics indicate, reputation management is a lot more than just doing what you can to control word of mouth. Even people who discover your brand, your products, or your services entirely independently of anyone else could still shy away from that purchase if your reputation isn’t what they were expecting. 

The most alarming statistic of all, however, is the fact that 50% (!) of business owners say that they have found incorrect information on their business listings. This means that not only is this info damaging your reputation in a potentially harmful way to your bottom line, but it’s doing so needlessly as it is incorrect in the first place.

Getting a Grip on Your Reputation

The most important thing to understand about reputation management is that it is NOT something you do once and then forget about. This will require you to look online on a regular basis to see what people are saying about you, what information is getting posted, and taking advantage of any opportunities for course correction as they present themselves.

But even going beyond just correcting false information, there are a number of other essential proactive steps you can take to help strengthen your reputation as much as possible. 

Send follow-up surveys to buyers to see what you did properly and, more importantly, what mistakes you made. If someone sends you an email with a legitimate issue, be sure to follow-up on that issue within 24 hours.

Never, under any circumstances, encourage people to leave “fake” or “artificial” reviews about you or a competitor. The consequences far outweigh anything you will gain. This includes offering gifts for good reviews.  If you’re caught, and you likely will be, there is no telling what damage you might sustain.

In the end, reputation management is something that you will have to do on a regular basis moving forward. It’s a large part of why many businesses hire employees with this particular job in mind. But then again, when you’re talking about what is arguably the most valuable asset your business has, it makes perfect sense that this amount of effort would be required. 

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Handling Negative Online Reviews Like a Pro

Handling Negative Online Reviews Like a Pro

Online reviews can make or break a business. More and more often, customers are turning to sites like Yelp, Google, and Facebook to get an unbiased view of every business they use.

Negative reviews are pretty much inevitable, regardless of how hard you try. Your responses, or lack thereof, can also have a dramatic effect on how people view your company’s credibility and dedication to customer service. Here are a few tips to handle negative online reviews like a pro.

First and foremost it is important to have a consistent approach to handling both positive and negative feedback.

Meet Kelly…
Kelly owns a local hair salon and uses many types of online profiles to represent her business. Since public comments can’t be deleted, Kelly has developed a solid approach to protecting her business’ online reputation.

Set Up Alerts

The first line of defense for Kelly’s online business reputation is daily alerts. Setting up alerts through Google, Facebook, and Twitter lets Kelly know when someone has mentioned her business. She gets these alerts sent to her inbox daily.

Comment Always

Kelly’s policy is to comment on as many pieces of feedback as possible. She leverages the personal touch by interacting with her customers in a timely manner to all forms of feedback. She’s also turned her responses into an art form.

Positive Feedback

Kelly always responds to positive feedback. It doesn’t have to be the great American novel, but Kelly makes sure it’s genuine and has a personal feel to it. Observe the magic:

3/24/2015: Jen, this is one of the sweetest, most thorough reviews I have seen. Thank you so much for your kind words about the salon and our wonderful nail artist, Nickie!

Negative Feedback

Kelly always acknowledges the client’s concerns and states in the public reply that she will contact the person to follow up and resolve the issue. If she doesn’t have the client’s contact information, she invites the person who posted to contact her directly.

At this stage, Kelly understands the importance of not engaging in justification, excuse making, claims of innocence, or outright denial. Here is an example of what NOT to do…

Michelle,
I am really surprised by some of the comments in your review. You were 15 minutes late for the appointment. The stylist you were booked with had already packed up to leave and you were marked in our books as a no show (15 minutes late for a 45-minute appointment is pretty late). I tried to convince the stylist to stay and see you because it was Valentine’s Day and I didn’t want you to go away disappointed. She needed to get to her other job but agreed to do the blowout even if it meant being late for work. I asked you if you minded skipping the complimentary hand massage that we usually do with our blowouts since you were late and she needed to get to her second job. I’m sorry if that made your experience less pleasant. However, she did stay late and do an amazing blowout for you.

What a complete turnoff! If you want to try and win her back and impress others? Try this instead:

Hi Jonathan,
Thank you for taking the time to submit a review. We are sincerely sorry that your experience was less than satisfactory on this visit. We would be grateful for the opportunity to make this situation right for you. Please feel free to contact me at XXX-XXX-XXXX and I will assist in reconciling this issue. A private message has also been sent. Again, many thanks for the feedback – it only helps us serve you better!

The Clock is Ticking

Kelly promptly follows up on her commitment to reach out. The best person for this job is the business owner or general manager – someone with the clout and authority to fix the issue in one phone call or email. She and her manager put on their best customer service hats and really listen to the client’s concern.

Follow-Up on the Follow-Up

Once the issue is resolved, and only if it was a positive result, Kelly asks the client to follow up on the posting and comment that the issue was resolved. This can be the most impactful. Kelly always goes back to the original posting personally to briefly talk about how the resolution went down.

The key to success lies in being genuine, working proactively, and embracing the age-old philosophy, “The customer is always right!” even if you aren’t in agreement.

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Put Your Core Values on Display Through Marketing

Put Your Core Values on Display Through Marketing

The core values that you’ve dictated for your business play an important role in just about every decision that you make. What many people fail to realize is that they need to play an important role in your marketing, too. Marketing isn’t just about communicating what services you provide or what products you offer, but what type of business you represent. The customer/business relationship is one that is built on trust, and putting your core values on display through marketing is one of the best ways to strengthen that relationship both now and for all time.

It’s About Clarity

In many ways, the most important part of marketing has nothing to do with whatever new product you’re touting at the time. It’s about distilling everything – your products, your services, your employees and more – into a single message that lets the customer know who you are, what you’re trying to do, and why you’re trying to do it.

Consider the message that ends every Visa commercial you’ve ever seen, the message: “It’s everywhere you want to be.” This message isn’t overly reliant on how shiny the cards are or what perks or rewards you might get for signing up. It’s beautifully simple and conveys an important message: by signing up for a Visa card, you’ve got access to a trusted financial resource anywhere you could possibly need it. You’ve got a partner that you can depend on, day in and day out.

That one simple message is one of the single best examples of putting your core values on display for your audience through marketing in the modern era. It says everything that you need to know about what type of company Visa is AND what type of service they offer in six short words.

Honesty and Integrity Can Also Mean Humility, Too

If you’ve decided that two of the most important core values for your business are honesty and integrity, you need to accept the fact that the best way to display this to your audience will not necessarily always be positive.

Consider what happens when you make a mistake as a business owner. Maybe you released a product and said that it did one thing, while it really did another. Maybe you claimed that it did one thing really well, when in reality, it was barely functional and not ready for public consumption. These are the types of mistakes that business owners make on a regular basis – it’s a fact of life.

The thing that separates the successful business owners from the ones who quickly disappear, however, is what they do next. If you’ve always told your customers that you value honesty and integrity, the path is clear: you own up to your mistake in your marketing. You acknowledge the problem as a learning opportunity and pledge to take the experience and use it to do better work in the future.

It’s something that you see time and again. Coca-Cola introduced the stunning disaster that was New Coke in 1985. Microsoft released the Windows 8 operating system. What do these businesses have in common? They’re still around, thanks to the fact that they understood that the core values of honesty and integrity sometimes mean humility, too. They admitted that they made mistakes, apologized to their customers, and pledged to do better in the future.

Far too many business owners label the core values of their business as “not for public consumption.” Now, more than ever, the relationship between a business and its customers is one that is forged from a strong sense of transparency. One of the best ways to show your customers what type of business you are is to let those core values reflect outward with your marketing materials.

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Transparency and Authenticity: Two Keys to Marketing Success

Transparency and Authenticity: Two Keys to Marketing Success

Trust is essential to success in today’s business world. It’s not enough to offer a terrific product or service. You need to back that offering with the type of high-quality brand experience people won’t find anywhere else. Doing so doesn’t just create customers — it creates advocates. It creates a legion of followers who are willing to champion your brand to their friends and family members, extending your reach farther than you ever could on your own. In order to achieve this, however, you need to focus on two key qualities: transparency and authenticity, especially in your marketing message.

What is Transparency in Marketing?

At its core, transparency means being truthful about your business at all times. Far too many business leaders believe that acknowledging problems or mistakes is akin to showing signs of weakness. As they see it, letting people know your business may be going through a rough patch is proof that blood is in the water and the sharks will soon begin to circle.

In reality, transparency is one of the best ways to establish yourself as a trusted brand. If you make a mistake, don’t attempt to sweep it under the rug. Instead, lean into it, take the heat, and use the experience to better your organization. From that regard, transparency isn’t a weakness at all. It’s a way to show your organization is run by human beings who sometimes make mistakes but who always care about their customers above all else.

Consider the recent surge in data breaches that have affected some of the biggest companies on the planet. There are commonly two types of reactions to these events. Some companies try to pretend like a data breach didn’t happen for as long as possible. This never ends well and only damages their reputation. Others step up, take full responsibility, and go to great lengths to do right by their customers. These are the companies that survive the PR disaster that a data breach represents.

Authenticity is Key

Gabe Newell is the co-founder and managing director of the Valve Corporation, a highly successful video game development and distribution platform. When asked about the early days of Valve and the major success it had with digital distribution when so many other platforms were faltering, Newell said the key was simple. “One of the things we learned pretty early on is don’t ever, ever try to lie to the Internet,” he said. “They will catch you. They will de-construct your spin. They will remember everything you ever say for eternity.”

Newell understood what so many others failed to: authenticity is no longer a recommendation for business professionals. It’s a requirement.

Building a following for your business is always a challenge, especially as new competitors crop up with each passing day. Transparency and authenticity are two of the most important resources you have that will move you toward that goal.

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The Importance of Reputation Management

The Importance of Reputation Management

Companies used to be able to control a large portion of their message through advertising. Now, thanks to digital media, online reviews, and customers doing their own research, creating and maintaining a positive image requires much more subtlety and work.

The importance of a positive image

Customers naturally want to do business with companies they feel they can trust. They want to know a brand performs well, will meet their needs, and will be there to help with any problems that arise. A strong brand presence can be a fantastic advertising tool. It helps to spread your reach and encourage new prospects to become paying customers. But just as a positive review can boost sales, a negative one can spread like wildfire through social networks and hurt a reputation — and the bottom line.

Steps to foster a positive reputation

  1. Focus on the customer experience. When customers feel valued and trust that service is a genuine priority, they become much more likely to return and recommend your brand to others.
  2. Focus marketing efforts on providing value for customers. Customers today research companies before making a purchase, so be that reliable source of information they can turn to for answers to their questions.
  3. Build a community around your brand. Encourage customers to interact with you and with each other through social media and real life events. Strong communities build loyalty and positive associations.
  4. Anticipate people leaving reviews on the major review sites. Take the time to upload pictures and provide information, so the review sites show a complete picture. Encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews.

How to handle a negative review

Most well-established companies do end up getting the occasional negative review. It’s impossible to please everyone all the time. You’ll probably have at least one customer who thinks you should have done something differently, so it’s important not to panic if someone writes something less than friendly on either a review site, social media, or a blog. It’s also not the time to get defensive and start a battle of words. Instead, take the opportunity to demonstrate the professionalism and commitment to customer satisfaction your brand advertises.

Respond to the negative review personally, saying how sorry you were the customer didn’t have a good experience. Restate your commitment to making the customer happy and offer to rectify the situation. Contact the customer offline whenever possible, and see if the situation can be improved. Discounts on future services, money back, and sometimes even just an apology can help smooth over hurt feelings and improve the relationship between customer and company.

In certain situations, you might not want to apologize. Say, for example, the customer complains about something that’s a critical part of your brand. Rather than apologize, try restating your company’s goals. Apologies should be genuine. If you have nothing to apologize for, then stick with being professional and courteous to the customer.

If the situation is resolved completely, you can ask the customer to remove the negative review. You can also post another reply to the review, saying you were glad you were able to work with the customer to resolve the issue.

By making your efforts to satisfy the customer public, you’re advertising your commitment to customer care. People understand that even the best companies make mistakes. It’s the steps taken to correct these mistakes that matter.

Managing your brand’s reputation will have an enormous impact on the trust potential customers feel. Understanding the factors that go into reputation management in the digital age can help you better leverage technology to improve how you’re seen online.

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Hitting a Home Run in Business Starts with Your Reputation

Hitting a Home Run in Business Starts with Your Reputation

Baseball has been an important part of our cultural fabric for more than a century. It makes sense, therefore, that baseball has many lessons it can teach us about managing a business. One of those lessons has to do with managing reputations.

Over the years, baseball has survived scandals and strikes that could have easily crippled it: the 1919 Chicago White Sox throwing the World Series; the strike-shortened 1994 season, when there was no World Series at all; the steroid scandals of more recent times. While the sport hasn’t escaped completely unscathed, it does remain a popular pastime for many who enjoy playing and watching it throughout the summer and fall.

Fortunately, most of us will never have to deal with issues as powerful as those that have hit baseball throughout its history. Even so, managing a company reputation in the digital area can be a very tough responsibility.

Customers can spread information, positive and negative, about your company instantaneously. While it might seem tempting to just bury your head in the sand and hope such criticism goes away, you can’t afford to just ignore what is said about you online. Fortunately, the lessons from baseball tell us that people generally tend to overlook occasional slip-ups or poor experiences if the overall impression of the company is one of value.

The primary step in relationship management should always be to offer customers outstanding value and products. Here are three additional steps you can take to build and maintain an overall positive reputation.

  1. Become an important part of the local community.
    Get in front of customers by sponsoring youth sports teams, having a table or booth at local fairs, or sponsoring charity sporting events. Show customers you care, and give them the chance to interact personally with employees to begin building relationships.
  2. Listen to customers online and in market research, and address complaints sincerely and quickly. This might mean offering to replace defective products, providing coupons or discounts after a poor customer service experience, and issuing refunds when necessary. That might sound like an expensive proposition, but earning a poor reputation online will cost you far more.
  3. Pay close and careful attention to the experience of your customers. Make it easy for customers to contact you and easy to find resolution to their problems when they do. Too often, customers get passed from person to person or find themselves dealing with frustrating automated systems that are little to no help. Customers want to know they’re more than just an order number. Show them you care about their experience far after the sale.

Just as baseball has discovered over its long and storied history, managing a reputation can be a difficult proposition. But doing so is essential to the continued growth and viability of any organization. Reputation affects marketing success and whether or not people are interested in what you have to sell.

Fortunately, reputation is not always cut and dried. People are often willing to overlook particular problems in favor of value and an overall positive experience. Following the above advice should make it easy for your company to do just that.

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Honest Abe, A Cherry Tree, and Running a Successful Business

Honest Abe, A Cherry Tree, and Running a Successful Business

Quick: Name two of the most popular historic U.S. presidents. The first names that come to mind for most people are George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. These two presidents are well known for their leadership during tumultuous times in American history. But they’re also known for their place in American folklore. Specifically, they have both gained reputations for being exceptionally honest.

George Washington and the cherry tree

According to the popular story, young George Washington was playing with his new hatchet when he killed his father’s favorite cherry tree. When his father confronted the household about who had hurt the tree, young George quickly confessed, telling his father that he could not tell a lie. His father forgave him, reinforcing the importance of his son’s honesty. George Washington carried this lesson about the importance of telling the truth with him the rest of his life.

Honest Abe

Before Abraham Lincoln became involved in politics, he was involved in a number of businesses. He bought a small store, was a lawyer, and served in Congress. In each of these positions, he became known as ‘Honest Abe.’ Stories abound about young Abe returning a few cents of change or tracking down customers to complete their orders if their requests were mis-measured. He carried this reputation as a reputable businessman with him to the White House.

What these two men can teach us today

Many people couldn’t tell you the date the American Civil War ended, when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, or when George Washington died. Despite these gaps of knowledge, most people would be able to tell you that these men were known for their honesty. Why is that? Because people value honesty in their leaders. They want to be able to trust the people they elect.

This also applies to their business leaders. When customers are looking for companies they want to work with or buy products from, they need to be able to trust that the company will provide them with the quality service they’re expecting. They want to trust that the advertising they see is accurate and that if they have any kind of problem, they’ll be able to get the situation addressed by a quality customer service team.

How you can show your honesty to potential customers

Since we all know customers are looking for honest businesses, it’s important to display this characteristic in all our dealings with customers, especially online. Social media and websites make customer service and customer opinions very public, for all potential customers to see. This makes honesty and quality customer service even more critical.

As a business leader, it’s important to monitor the web for discussions about your company to see what people are saying. If customers have legitimate complaints about the quality of service they received, make sure you do everything you can to make it right. This may include issuing refunds, providing coupons, and addressing other concerns.

Similarly, when you come across positive reviews, it’s a good idea to send notes of appreciation or coupons to encourage repeat business and as a sign of thanks. Above all, you should strive to be above reproach when it comes to honesty.

People like knowing they can trust their leaders, whether presidents or business owners. Stories abound in the collective consciousness about the honesty of some presidents in particular. When you (and your company) gain the same reputation for honesty, you can also live in the public consciousness as someone worth following; and that’s how customers are gained.

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Protecting Reputations in the Limelight of Social Media

Protecting Reputations in the Limelight of Social Media

Thomas Paine once said, “Reputation is much easier kept than recovered.” There are two groups who understand this better than anyone else: businesses and celebrities. Both groups spend a considerable amount of energy protecting their reputations and promoting the image they want to portray. And both groups have seen this task grow increasingly complicated thanks to the Internet and social media.

Celebrity Reputations
Quick, when you think about Angelina Jolie, what word comes to mind? Probably something like ‘humanitarian.’ What about Paris Hilton? Her reputation revolves largely around being a party girl. These celebrity reputations are not organically developed. They’re carefully orchestrated by publicists and marketing teams, who help the celebrity determine what to say, when they should be seen in public, and what types of stories should be given to the media.

Hugh Grant’s experience
Today, Hugh Grant has a carefully cultivated image as a British gentleman and has starred in a variety of romantic comedies. During the mid 1990s, however, the star faced a considerable amount of unfavorable press following his participation in some illegal activities. He managed to save his image, and his career, by giving candid interviews about his own stupidity and then going on to make a variety of hit movies. Now, most younger fans probably don’t even remember that past.

How businesses can apply the same concept
As companies grow, some types of negative press are inevitable. It’s impossible to make all customers happy 100 percent of the time. Sooner or later, a disgruntled customer will complain about prices, service, or something similar. The trick to successfully maintaining a positive reputation is to address the issue head-on.

Social media and the reputation
Social media has changed customer service. Now, when customers have something to complain about, they’re not forced to call a special hotline. Instead, all they need to do is take to the company social media page or blog. They can rip the company to shreds and make their dissatisfaction known for all the world to see. The customer now has much more control over the reputation of a company.

Consider how Hugh Grant planned his comeback. His team worked to help him plan his interviews and create popular movies. He worked past the problem by addressing it bluntly and then looking toward the future. That’s also how companies must work.

Celebrities carefully construct their reputations by guarding everything that goes online, similar to how a company guards their own brand and what is posted online. When problems arise, however, they must be addressed, not glossed over. Once the celebrity or company has addressed the problem, they must then focus on providing quality in the future to give people something else to talk about.

For example, if a customer has written a blog post about a genuine grievance, reach out to them to see how the matter can be corrected. If customers post remarks on social media pages, show genuine concern that the customer had such a negative experience and try to make it right. Correct misunderstandings whenever they arise.

Customer service now takes place in the public sphere, and new clients will know if the company doesn’t care about past customers. At the same time, once a company has made genuine attempts at restitution, they must focus on providing quality for the future.

Protecting a reputation can be a difficult task in the age of social media, but it’s essential if you hope to survive. It involves carefully engaging the public while producing quality services or products that people can appreciate.

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Enhance Your Business Credibility

Enhance Your Business Credibility

Customers have more choices than ever in today’s competitive business world. That’s why it’s so important to do everything possible to stand apart from the competition. One great way to gain a competitive edge is to increase your credibility. Here are a few tips to help you establish and enhance credibility with your prospects and customers:

  • Provide customer testimonials, references, and customer success stories that enable prospects to hear about your company from a relevant point of view.
  • Encourage people to get to know you, especially on your website. Promote what you do, what you sell, and your full business address (not your P.O. box). Include your phone number, fax, email address, and other ways to contact you.
  • Talk about your history. People are always curious how businesses got started. By providing some background you’ll not only personalize your customer’s experience but also increase your business legitimacy.
  • Popularity sells, so consider providing a list of customers on your website. If you’re worried about customer privacy, use a map instead to show customer locations.
  • Use professional photos on your website and marketing materials.
  • Contribute articles to industry publications, or volunteer to speak at industry events. Start a podcast, create a newsletter or blog, or write a column in a local newspaper that offers how-to guides and helpful tips.
  • Portray a professional image by using quality printed marketing materials, forms, letterhead, envelopes, labels, business cards, and more.
  • Create a strong online presence through your website, social media, and online business directories (D&B Credibility Review, MerchantCircle, etc.).
  • Promote any awards, registrations, certifications, or other reputable, prestigious information that will increase your credibility.
  • Create a customer referral program that enables prospects to hear about you from a fellow customer’s voice.
  • Become involved with your community. Attend local events, buy from local businesses, and sponsor local fundraisers.
  • Offer a seminar, training class, or webinar to share your knowledge with others.

If you need help creating print materials that will enhance your credibility and professional appearance, give us a call today!

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Circle of Trust

Circle of Trust

In the movie Meet the Parents, Jack (Robert DeNiro) explains to Greg (Ben Stiller) his philosophy which he calls the “Circle of Trust.” Greg is planning to marry Jack’s daughter. He’s an outsider who desperately wants to be included in Jack’s Circle of Trust.

Greg tries to fit in, but every effort is met with failure and ridicule because he tries to be something he is not.

In an effort to impress our prospects, we sometimes make the same mistake of trying to be something outside of who we are. But if you really want to get inside a customer’s Circle of Trust, you must have integrity, and you must show that you truly have their best interest in mind at all times.

Above all, be yourself.

With all the mishaps and disasters that happen during the movie, Jack is convinced that Greg is not a good fit for his daughter. But at the end of the movie, Jack realizes that Greg really loves his daughter and has her best interest in his heart.

To enter and stay in a customer’s Circle of Trust, always have their best interest in mind and show them that you truly care about them and their business.

Now, here’s a short and funny compilation of the Circle of Trust scenes from Meet the Parents. Enjoy!

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