“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently” – Warren Buffett
For any business / company, the best bet for increasing business and establishing market reputation is the ‘good word’ from customers. Customer referrals, testimonials, and discussion networks are the most potent and yet the least expensive forms of promotion and advertising for a company. However, this inexpensive ‘business accelerator’ is not easy to gain, unless a company has built a reputation with customers on a sustained basis. A great reputation helps a company forge ahead of its competitors, gain the trust of its existing and potential customers, and attract positive attention from the market and investors.
Building reputation with customers is possibly one of the best and greatest assets any company can have – and it would be ‘boast worthy’. The process of building such reputation would be the responsibility of the business / company – by keeping their customers happy. It is about addressing their needs, giving them top class products, competitive pricing, and all these topped by customer service excellence. All these factors put together make for exceptional experiences, which in turn build your reputation with customers as a company that cares and can be trusted. The question you will probably ask is how to get customers and then ensure that they become happy enough to help your company with referrals, advocacy, and testimonials ensuring a formidable reputation with them and in the market. Every business is new at some point in time, right.
As mentioned, building reputation with customers is a process and as with every process, there should be a structure and a methodical approach. Some businesses try to gain market share and build reputation by offering freebies, discounts, and other such short-term incentives. However, these are not sustainable in the long-term since it would be costly and additionally, customers would become habitual of buying from your company only when there is ‘free stuff’ for grabs. The better and more sustainable form of growing a business would be by building reputation with customers. The great part is that there are so many ways to do that now, even before your company actually has built any kind of customer base.
Communicate regularly and extensively with your target audience and others through articulate, interesting, and engaging content. This is the most basic method of highlighting your company’s expertise and ‘authority’ on a variety of subjects, and putting it out there for a wide audience to view. With so many channels of communication – both online and offline – companies really do not have any excuse for not publishing content and information that their customers and others could use. It would be safe to assume that almost everyone who is online would be searching for some kind of information – that is not trying to sell them something – and if your company becomes known as ‘the company’ that provides interesting yet useful information, people would begin to draw closer – their interest and curiosity stoked. The company’s website and social media sites are great places to start – this would increase the opportunities for your company to gain customers and begin the process of building trust and confidence in them.
Another form of spreading high quality content and awareness for your company is to take part in networking events. The leaders of the company could speak on subjects of value, while being entertaining, such that people come to associate knowledge and expertise with the company. Every opportunity that a company gets must be utilized in order to influence and attract potential customers. The more visibility a company can gain through its leaders and speakers, the higher the chances of building a market reputation and a profitable customer base. There a number of online and offline networking ‘communities’ that get together often – attending these groups will help build stronger relationships in the market and open up opportunities that may not be available online. Of course, both methods (offline and online) have their distinct advantages, but it is necessary to build a presence on both to put your reputation building exercise into top gear. Whichever channel a company decides to use, it is vital to remember that simply publishing content may not suffice – especially if your company is new – it would be necessary to build on communicating directly with people through forums, seminars, lectures, and other such brand building events. Remember also that attending such events would mean that the company representative is prepared mentally and has the necessary things required for success. Read up on the event, the organizers, the participants, and about their industries – this way you would be better prepared to not just field questions about your company but ‘show-off’ your knowledge on a wide variety of subjects. People who can communicate knowledgeably and with confidence have a wider and long-lasting appeal.
Post attending such events it is important to follow up. Every such event would have a large number of people attending, and it is very likely that the people you would like to stay connected with and promote your company to may have forgotten you. Following up through a phone call, or email, or even with a request to meet for a personal interaction, would show your company’s commitment, and interest in an association. If you make a promise or say that you would do something, post the event – ensure that it happens as soon as you return to your ‘home base’. This makes you and your company appear dependable and trustworthy – elevating your status in the mind of others, drawing them closer and eager to become customers or may be even recommend you to others.
With growing concerns about a number of issues in the world – environmental, social, and other causes – people tend to respect and want to associate with companies that are socially responsible enough to give back to some cause or another. Your company should become involved with volunteer work, contribute resources and or expertise, and do whatever it can to build goodwill. Such ‘behaviour’ displays your company’s potential, to care – a trait that potential customers would see as beneficial for them. Being there for others and helping those who need, is a great way of building respect and reputation with customers and in the market place.
Every new business would have several challenges – with limited resources and budget being at the top of the heap. Despite these challenges, it would be extremely crucial to maintain always a calm demeanour and a professional approach. Ensure that everyone in the organization understands the importance of behaving professionally, dressing appropriately, and conducting themselves with grace even through their online presence. Each person within the company must understand the importance of showing customers and the ‘outside world’ a unified front and seamless operations. Customer service should be part of everyone’s performance indicators such that customers receive awesome service and memorable experiences at every contact point. Building a reputation with customers starts from the inside of a company and then ‘spills over’ to those outside – the impression they get would either draw them close or push them away for good.
We know therefore, that building reputation with customers is a by-product of many factors and it is the responsibility of a company to put together and display those factors. Staying true to promises, being honest and transparent, high quality products, and top class customer service are some of the ‘big’ ways to attract customers. Figure out the other smaller ways that would work best for your company and be sure to build a formidable reputation with customers that would leave your competitors fuming and ‘light headed’.