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.

Advertisements

High School Loyalty and Brand Community

There’s something about high school that inspires loyalty for decades after graduation. For an outsider looking in, it can be difficult to understand why people care so much about their past high school experiences. Whether it’s journeying hundreds of miles for a high school reunion or feeling offended when someone insults the old sports hero, high school loyalties run deep for many people.

Why?

High schools have built an incredibly strong community within their walls. The students have countless shared experiences together, from classes and teachers to events and activities. These common moments help to tie the collective memories together.

This same sense of community, which helps bring high schools such strong loyalty, can also prove helpful in the business world. Building brand loyalty can lead to higher numbers of repeat customers and more referrals, both of which are excellent for the bottom line. Here’s how to go about building a community around your brand.

Create shared experiences

Help customers get to know each other and your representatives. Host get-togethers and customer events. Get involved in your local community. Raise money for a national charity, or sponsor regional fundraising events. All of these are fantastic ways to bring your customers together, improve your reputation, and get your brand in front of new potential customers. They’re also great conversation starters with followers later on social media or in blog posts.

Encourage connections

Invite existing customers to tell stories about using your products or services on various social media platforms. Have contests where people take pictures of themselves with your product or share stories of how your service helped them. This type of sharing builds credibility for your brand and helps participating customers feel more connected to your company. It helps encourage a concept known as the ‘bandwagon effect,’ where people are more likely to try a product or service when they see others doing so. Having customers share their experiences with your brand helps all customers and potential customers see themselves as a part of a desirable group, which increases loyalty.

Highlight clients and employees

Show prospects the people behind the reviews and the employees who will be helping them succeed. Highlighting past clients and employees in this manner serves two purposes. First, the person highlighted will enjoy and appreciate the attention cast upon them. And second, other customers will feel a connection to the person and thereby feel a strong connection to your brand.

Building a strong community around your brand can help tremendously when building brand loyalty. Just like a high school looking to encourage its alumni to come out and root for the home team, creating a strong loyalty can serve your company well for years to come. Keep the above three tips in mind and start coming up with ideas to build loyalty for your brand.

Instilling School Spirit at Your Company

Many factors go into the decision about where to attend college. While majors, location, and ranking undoubtedly hold a high place, the experience of other students and the school’s reputation also play a crucial role.

Schools must strike a careful balance between providing a rigorous academic environment, while at the same time offering an enjoyable experience that will make students talk about their school in a positive way to other prospective students.

Satisfied students can be the best brand ambassadors an institution can find. When students love their school, it emanates from everything they do.

  • The students root for the home team during sports matches.
  • School tour guides who speak about the university to groups of prospective students are enthusiastic and insightful.
  • Successful professionals who have ‘made it’ in their respective fields eagerly voice their support for their alma mater.

Such enthusiasm builds a positive culture around the school and encourages new students to come and try it out. Building a strong brand around any organization entices people to want to belong to that particular select group and culture.

What colleges can teach us about building a winning culture

Most professionals realize that employees are important for keeping the company running smoothly. They know that turnover is bad because it wastes time and resources. They also know that high turnover can damage their reputation among potential hires.

What they don’t realize, though, is the importance of employee satisfaction when it comes to the customer experience.

Just like the college student who loves their school so much they broadcast it to anyone who asks their opinion, employees who feel respected and appreciated help to broadcast a positive image of the company and can increase customer satisfaction rates.

Think about it.

Employees are the face of your company. When they feel valued, they take the time to invest their energy into the company and their interactions with customers. They also strive to embrace a culture of success, which can help inspire their peers to improve their interactions with customers, too.

Employees and brand advertising

Employees can be wonderful sources for building up your brand. Just as happy college students take the love for their school to every facet of their life, satisfied employees tend to bring their jobs with them wherever they go.

Think about the last time you heard someone complain about the company where they work. How did those complaints impact your perception of the company? Chances are, that negative feedback made you feel worse about the brand in question — and less likely to turn to them when you need products or services in their industry.

An entirely different experience, however, comes when an employee is positive and upbeat about their employer. When they tell you enthusiastically that they can help you solve your problem, you become inclined to trust them.

Treating your employees well can help boost their satisfaction and improve how they represent your company to the general public. Remember that your employees are the face of your brand. That means you need to select them — and treat them — with that goal in mind. Cultivating a great employee culture is a wonderful way to improve your brand’s reputation from the inside out.

Mastering Business Strategy at the Chess Board

The game of chess has a long and storied history. Early versions were played from about the 6th century, while the modern game has been played since the mid 15th century. Even as technology advances, chess remains one of the most challenging and educational games around. It’s been used to teach military strategy and to improve critical thinking skills.

While most people are familiar with the intense challenge chess provides the brain, you might not realize how much it can teach you about marketing and running a business. Two key lessons involve pragmatism and playing the “long game.”

Pragmatism

To be successful at chess, you must be pragmatic. You need to be able to think on your feet. While most successful chess players have concrete strategies they enjoy using, no player can completely predict the moves their opponent will make. That means they must be able to make decisions on the spot.

A good chess player also has the skills needed to read their opponent. Through experience, they can often anticipate an opponent’s next move and will devise strategies based on what those moves might be. This gives them the insight they need to succeed with the next skill: playing the long game.

Playing the long game

A chess player knows that one must be willing to sacrifice a pawn or two for the long-term goal of winning the match. A good player will never get so caught up in an individual “battle” that they lose sight of their end goals. Chess players are continuously looking to the finish and developing their strategies based on their desired outcome.

How these lessons relate to marketing

Pragmatism

To be successful in marketing and business, you must realize you’re not going to be able to completely control every factor in your industry — or even in your company. You can’t control the response of your audience, what your competition does, developments in the industry, and other factors. Instead, you must be able to adapt your business and marketing strategy to whatever’s going on around you.

That said, a successful marketer will be able to “read” their intended audience and anticipate the type of marketing that is most likely to solicit a response. They’ll also be able to change their strategies based on customer actions and industry trends.

Playing the “long game”

When you’re successfully managing a business, you must always have your end game in mind. You can’t allow small upsets to disrupt your goals and strategies. You must have the presence of mind to know what you’d like to accomplish and what you need to do to get there. That might mean making a few sacrifices here and there to reach the end point. You don’t want to get so caught up in the small battles that you lose sight of where you want your company to be in the long term.

Chess has been used for centuries to teach strategy and improve critical thinking skills. As you sit down to play your next game of chess, think about how the strategies you learn on the chessboard can be applied to making your business a success.

Keep Your Existing Customers Around By Improving Engagement

If you’re like many business professionals, you know that half the battle of growing your business is getting existing customers to stick around. When you provide your customers with outstanding customer service, some incredible things happen:

  • Customers are willing to pay more, just for your service.
  • Customers are more likely to recommend you to others.
  • You end up spending less for each conversion (it costs less to retain customers than find new ones).
  • You build customer loyalty.

In our intensely competitive modern market, you can’t afford to overlook these benefits.

The key to providing this outstanding level of service is taking the time to engage your existing customers. Too many organizations focus so much energy on attracting new customers that their existing customers feel neglected and overlooked. This can lead to feelings of resentment. Fortunately, with just a little bit of extra effort, you can keep your existing customers engaged and invested in your company. Here are a few ideas to get started.

Leverage the ‘social’ part of social media

Social media was designed to give you a platform to chat and get to know your customers on a personal level. Rather than advertising blindly to large populations, you can communicate directly to individual people and meet their needs personally. Encourage your existing customers to communicate with you on social media. You can do this in a number of different ways.

  • Invite them to ask questions about using your products or services.
  • Start fun contests that involve customers telling stories about using your products or services.
  • Respond to inquiries quickly and personally.

When you use social platforms to reach out and communicate with your customers, you show them how much you care about their experience, which resonates with both existing customers and those considering your company.

Run relevant promotions that existing customers can use

We’ve all experienced times when special promotions or discounts were made available only to new customers. Such deals often leave us feeling unappreciated and annoyed. Many customers facing such restrictions look for ways to get around them, such as switching back and forth between companies just to take advantage of the promotions. This leads to poor service and frustration for customers and does no good for the company’s reputation.

Instead of rewarding only new customers, offer your longtime customers a “loyalty” discount based on their longevity with your company. Customers will feel more appreciated and more loyal to your brand. They’ll see this simple ‘thank you’ as evidence that your company truly does value them, not just the bottom line.

Develop communications relevant to your existing customers

The more personal you can make your communications and correspondence, the more likely your customers are to respond. When people buy from your company, remember what they bought and why. Initiate messages, such as emails, asking customers about how well their needs have been met and if they have any questions about using your products or services. Ask customers for reviews and feedback, and make your requests using the name of a salesperson the customer dealt with personally.

Keeping customers engaged is an important step in encouraging them to stay with your company. When you do this successfully, you can grow your customer base and your bottom line.

How Engaging Are Your Sign-up Forms?

Take a moment to think about the forms you ask your visitors to fill out and submit when they visit your website or come to your store. These forms help convert those individuals from anonymous visitors to active leads you can contact regularly. To make that happen, you want people to feel encouraged to leave you with their name and information so you can remember them.

Make the offer look enticing

Leads are the lifeblood of any organization. If you want people to provide you with their contact information, you need to give them a reason to do so. Make your sign-up forms appealing. First, make the offer something desirable. Then, make the actual screen look inviting.

Desirable offers

Developing a desirable offer means understanding the people with whom you’re speaking. Carefully analyze your buyer personas and consider the type of information and material that would appeal to them. Once you develop the information you want to put behind a sign-up wall, advertise it on the parts of your site where you know those specific buyers are likely to venture. For example, mention it at the bottom of relevant blog posts or alongside product information geared toward specific customer groups. As with all content, your primary goal should be to provide high-value information.

Appealing appearance

When visitors reach your landing page, you want to make sure the offer looks appealing on the screen. Add an image or two to help them connect with the offer. It doesn’t have to be an image of the real offer. A cartoon drawing with the name of your ebook, for example, will work just fine. Use a balanced layout and enticing language to encourage people to sign up.

Make the form itself manageable

Once you’ve attracted visitors to your sign-up page, the last thing you want to do is scare them off by making the process too drawn out or complicated. Make sure the form itself doesn’t look too intimidating. The amount of information requested should be comparable to the offer you’re providing. If it’s just a basic ebook, you should only ask for basic information. If you ask for too much, people will get turned off and click away.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to entice leads, contact us today at 847.768.2679. We’d love to help you with your marketing campaign.

Finding Your Niche in a Crowded Industry

The Internet has been an enormous asset when it comes to doing business. We now have the power to reach potential customers around the world. But while the Internet has given us incredible benefits, it has also produced one major drawback: competition.

Thanks to the Internet, you’re likely competing with far more businesses than ever before. Today’s consumers often research companies online before giving them a try, so avoiding the Internet altogether is not an option. Even local businesses must often compete with one another online, too.

To survive in this intensely competitive atmosphere, you need to carve yourself a niche. With the right niche, you’ll have something unique to offer your customers and will know exactly what type of clients you’re looking to reach. Thanks to modern technology, you can now find each other.

So, how do you discover your niche?

Start by focusing on what makes your company unique. For some, that might mean discovering a product or service that appeals to a very specific group of people. For example, there might be a few different companies that make pet clothing, but you can set yourself apart by focusing on a particular type of clothing, such as winter gear or beach gear for pooches.

If yours is more of a service industry, focus on finding what makes your service different from your competition. There are countless companies and professionals who provide marketing services, for example, so branding yourself as a general marketer might not be that helpful. Instead, specialize in a particular type of business, gain particular certifications, or focus on a particular type of marketing.

Look for groups that have been under-served within a particular industry. You want to find potential customers who have been just waiting for someone like you to come in and help fulfill their need. When you reach these customers, you’ll have the best chance of growing your business.

What do you do once you have your niche?

Once you’ve figured out what sets you apart from the crowd, make sure your potential customers see your value as well. Take the examples above. If you want to specialize in producing beach gear for dogs, you don’t want to focus your advertising efforts on attracting the attention of people who just want dog clothes. You’ll be up against countless competitors! Instead, focus your marketing efforts on those who are seeking your specific products. Target those going to beaches regularly, those researching information about taking pets on vacation, or those who live in seaside towns.

In the second example, incorporate your unique qualifications into your advertising materials and use them as keywords in your online marketing.

Once you’ve identified your niche and discovered how to market specifically to them, you need to focus your efforts on becoming the niche authority. Since this is your specialty, you’ll have incredible insight to offer your customers. Take the time to develop valuable information and content that can help you stand out even further. This will help potential customers trust you.

In today’s competitive marketplace, you don’t have the luxury of being a general provider. You need to find something that sets you apart. Whether you provide services or products, finding a way to appeal to your customers on a unique level will provide you with the key to growing your business.