Small businesses in every industry are starting to discover that their online reputation is going to impact their business – for better or for worse. Even local businesses that don’t rely on the Internet to generate revenue are learning this lesson.
Lawyers, dentists and contractors are all learning that their businesses need an online presence, and that they need to have a stellar reputation.
Why? Because your clients, both prospective and existing, head online first to discover more about you. If they find that your online reputation is non-existent, they’ll be suspicious as to why. If they discover a negative reputation, they’ll avoid you altogether.
Your online reputation has become a core part of your overall reputation, whether you have been managing it or not.
I know this might sound extreme, but it’s the reality of operating any business these days. You need to be aware of your online reputation and actively work to improve it.
Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. In this post, I’ll be breaking down exactly how you can boost your small business’ online reputation.
Put Customer Experience First
When it comes to your online reputation, customer experiences will make or break you.
Being honest and transparent is the beginning of a positive interaction. Everything you do should make your client’s life easier. And if it doesn’t, they’ll compare notes online and your reputation will suffer. It’s very easy for bad experiences to go viral.
Entirely too many small businesses focus on the next sale and not the current client experience. I’ve seen plenty of people promote things like a money-back guarantee, while making it hard for dissatisfied customers to actually get their money back. Creating loop-holes like this will hurt your online reputation – quickly.
Cultivate honesty and transparency in yourself and your employees. Carry this into how you interact with people online, and you’ll establish or improve your reputation by leaps and bounds.
Get Involved in Your Local Community
Small business owners have the potential to become staples of the community – including the online communities. By being involved, you’ll improve your reputation and likely gain new clients. Community involvement might seem like it has nothing to do with your online reputation, but the exact opposite is true.
Pretty much every community event is promoted online. Sponsoring such an event, like a fundraiser, will have your business mentioned in their online promotions.
Having you and your team volunteer for a local cause can also boost your digital reputation and create goodwill for your brand. Simply take a few pictures of your team out at the event, then post them on your social media profiles. That’s it!
Get creative, since every local community will have different ways to become involved. Joining a group of other small business owners will help you updated on opportunities (along with opening up other partnerships).
Partner With Other Local Businesses
Joining a group of small business owners is a great way to network with others in your industry or related industries. There’s endless benefits that may arise from this, one of which is a boost to your online “street cred.”
Look for other local businesses that have a strong social media presence and stellar reviews on Google Maps and Yelp. Approach them and see how you can work together. See what you can offer them for free (or cheap) in exchange for being mentioned somewhere meaningful in their online presence.
Perhaps you and a few other businesses can host your own charity fundraiser, community event or online awareness campaign for a chosen cause. Each of these efforts will boost your reputation, both by your own efforts and any media coverage that you might earn.
Land Some Press in the Local News
Most local news stations are desperate for something to cover. All the major stories are picked up by the national news branches, so they need something unique to offer in order to earn views.
You can be that unique news story. Many of the above techniques will may help, especially sponsoring events and being active in the community.
Don’t wait for the news to find you. If your business is doing something newsworthy, let them know. Most news stations have a system in place for submitting stories. Put together a short, compelling pitch and enjoy the free press.
Go Out of Your Way to Add Value
Adding value to your clients lives and the digital world at large is a great way to enhance your online reputation. Begin by going out of your way to totally delight your clients with thank you notes and unexpected discounts. These easy and inexpensive techniques will likely surprise people, prompting them to spread the word about your business.
How do people spread the word these days? It’s almost entirely online.
You can also add value by providing free content that will help your clients and business partners. Put together a comprehensive blog post, white paper or case study that imparts some information you believe is valuable. Keep it free and spread the word about it to your industry contacts.
Respond Respectfully to Negative Feedback
Negative feedback is a part of life. Even businesses that go out of their way to provide a positive experience and treat customers well will eventually receive negative feedback. Putting forth effort to ask for positive testimonials will help offset this fact, but you still need to deal with the negativity.
You’ll have negative feedback both online and directly in your face. If you receive a bad review, respond to it. Explain the situation as best you can and offer a resolution. Your explanation is more for the benefit of others who may come across it. The resolution is for the person who left the review.
Of course, handling bad client experiences in person helps prevent bad reviews from popping up in the first place. If someone is upset when they’re in your office, deal with it then. Don’t try to rush them out of the door – they’ll probably leave you a negative review with their phone on the way out.
Instead, work with them. Look for the cause of their frustration and solve it on the spot. Then, you perform a new type of alchemy where you transmute a future negative review into a future positive review.
Consider Your Online Reputation an Asset to Protect
You protect your own assets by forming a business, and you protect the business with all types of legal maneuvers. Your online reputation is a new asset that must be protected.
As you can see, none of the above tips are incredibly time consuming. Placing value on the customer experience, becoming involved in the community and providing value will help cultivate a positive reputation. In turn, this will enhance the growth of your business as a whole.