Let’s face it: we’re living in a highly review-centric society, where peer assessment means everything. The great majority of consumers nowadays investigate various online forums and review websites before finalizing their purchasing decisions. As a result, now more than ever, small business owners have to pay close attention to both their online and offline reputation, lest they risk losing prospective clients. Yet, how can small businesses even compete with bigger brands and corporate giants at their back? Simple: by taking these five easy steps down below.
Take the helm
In order to attract (positive) attention, you need to establish yourself as an industry expert. Now, as a small business this might seem too great a task, but in reality it all comes down to one thing: producing positive content. This could be anything from useful tips and tricks posted on your blog or your social media profiles, to free advice in the form of classes and lectures. The gist of it: by creating content that is both free and helpful, you’re more likely to spark attention from your fans and followers in the form of shares and likes, drawing even more potential customers into the mix. Not only that, but your brand will now be used as a respected source of industry-related information and expertise; thus, increasing your online traffic and boosting your reputation even further.
Build your company culture from the ground up
Nowadays, it’s not just the customers you have to worry about, but the employees as well. Namely, if word gets out that you’ve treated one (or more) of your employees unfairly, you’re in for a rough ride; expect rants on Twitter and raging debates on Facebook, as frustrated customers and unhappy employees join forces. To counteract this issue, you need to ensure that your employees have a positive work environment; in other words: an exceptional company culture. Businesses that have this all figured out attract top-quality candidates into their ranks, resulting in top-notch products, and services overall. In the end, the ethical groundwork that you’ve set up will ensure a positive reputation for both you and your products.
Take care of your image
To a small and up-and-coming business, image means everything. In essence, you’re still the new kid on the block and you need to prove yourself; so show them just how cool you can be. However, you can’t expect anyone to trust you if you have a rundown shack for an office, with makeshift equipment and shoddy furniture inside. This will not only look bad for business, but will also give off the impression that your business isn’t doing all that well; and who’s going to risk doing business with a company so close to bankruptcy. Hence, you need to make your brand more presentable by moving to a more adequate location, ordering some state-of-the-art office equipment from Winc, for instance, and redesigning the general layout of your office space to suit your brand’s image. That way, you come off as a serious entrepreneur and not as some shady back-alley dealer.
Listen to what your customers have to say
One of the most common mistakes brands make on social media is looking at them more as a monologue, rather than a dialogue; it’s not all about you. Instead of simply posting branded messages and calling it a day, brands need to listen to what their followers (and customers) have to say. Analyse their comments and respond accordingly; don’t let them wait too long, otherwise you risk losing their trust. What’s more, never respond emotionally — or defensively for that matter — as it looks extremely bad in written format. Just remember, you’re dealing with live, unedited, chat; you’ve nowhere to hide. So, be extra careful when communicating with your clients, engage them, find solutions, address their needs, and you’ll earn their respect.
Generate positive customer reviews
Now, generating (positive) customer reviews should be your ultimate goal, and everything you’ve done so far should lead up to this point. In essence, a review is like a physical manifestation of client satisfaction — or dissatisfaction — and it acts as a green light for customers who are also looking to make a purchase. However, the last thing you want to do is erase negative reviews, or even post fake reviews in their place, to boost your ratings so to speak. What you ought to do is encourage your customers to leave a (genuine) review — hopefully a positive one — after each purchase. Additionally, you could also feature some of the better reviews, especially from the more reputable clients, to highlight the positive aspects when it comes to dealing business with your brand.
In the end, your business doesn’t have to stand all on its own to get noticed by customers. For instance, you can collaborate with other businesses, both related and unrelated, to get referrals and expand your reach. Just remember: respect is earned, not bought — hence why your marketing efforts have to come off as genuine, unless you wish to risk losing face.