Last time I wrote about the first two tips for building your small business’s reputation from day one. Here are the next three tips!
Anyone can try to attract new customers by saying their new piece of software is the best thing since sliced bread. Anyone can try to attract investors by building up a Potemkin village that will stand for a while until the cracks start showing. Anyone can pump this newly-invested money into non-essentials, trying to patch up those cracks.
One day, however, the jig will be up. One day, the world will realize that there is nothing but a façade there.
In other words, your company will definitely fail to deliver.
When that day comes, the reputation of the small business will be in shatters and there will be no way of returning from it.
Perhaps the best example of this has been Theranos, a once-upon-a-time favorite of some of world’s largest startup investors who sank millions in a façade. Sure, Elizabeth Holmes (the brain behind the whole Theranos fiasco) will get a great book deal, but her business reputation will never recover.
Theranos as a company is doomed and facing serious litigation. Its reputation is non-existent. It is toxic.
They failed to deliver. They promised to change the way we do blood tests forever and they promised to do it at the fraction of a price.
They didn’t deliver.
As a small business, you have to deliver. It really is as simple as that. It is the basic principle of business and business reputation.
Respect Your Customers
Running a small business is not easy. This is probably the only 100% truth about the SMB ecosystem. Running a small business requires a unique vision, almost fanatical amount of hard work and a lot of luck (no matter what they want you to believe).
In such a situation, many smaller companies lose sight of the most important aspect of running a business – providing their customers with that they want.
For some small businesses, this is a problem that starts early on, before they even have customers. They completely misread the market and they do marketing for something no one wants. Other times, they change their product so much that it stops being what their customers want. This is something that can easily happen with companies which get so obsessed with their product that they do not notice their customers shifting away.
Respecting your customers also means hearing them out and helping them out in any way possible. Maybe you plan on cashing out as soon as a buyer comes around, but this does not mean that you can ignore your customers, especially the early ones who are more likely to become the ambassadors for your brand.
Finally, respect your customers when doing marketing. Treat them as intelligent and informed people they are.
Be Ready for Problems
Things go wrong in small businesses. The market is nowhere near as big as it seems. The KPI data is not coming in fast enough to make timely pivots. Deadlines are not being met. Someone goes online and blasts your small business on Twitter. You suffer a cybersecurity breach.
All of these (to some extent) harm your reputation. The best way to start dealing with them is to do it before they even happen.
By being ready.
If you are letting down your customers or investors, it is absolutely crucial that you are upfront with them and that you own up for everything that you did wrong. Sometimes the reasons will be out of your hand and you will want to explain this to the people who have been negatively affected by the problems you encountered.
It would also be a good idea to have a crisis management plan of some kind in place as a way of handling problems in a structured and calm way.
When it comes to managing your online reputation, it is something that takes a bit of time and a structured approach.
Identify your set of core values, be omnipresent, respect your customers, always deliver and be ready for things to go wrong.
Believe it or not, but this will build a superbly strong foundation for a reputable small business. Once you handle the basics, building on top of it will come easy.
Author: Dan Radak is a marketing professional with eleven years of experience. He is a coauthor on several websites and regular contributor to BizzMark Blog. Currently, he is working with a number of companies in the field of digital marketing, closely collaborating with a couple of e-commerce companies.