Reputation management is critical to upholding the respect your brand demands to remain relevant, to reinforce the trust necessary to spur innovation and fuel organic growth. Experience informs my approach as I work with leaders who have invested in big data, top-tier colleagues and the latest greatest software – only to wonder what isn't working in the implementation of a stealth strategy.
If you're among the many who haven't yet grasped the importance of proactive reputation management, or would like to tweak your awareness, it is possible to make a valuable start with a meaningful strategy.
1) Be aware of what is being said by your employees, prospects and current clients: this knowledge is crucial before you can react to what others are saying regarding your products/services and commentary on their unique customer experience or lack thereof.
Lies become facts if you let them …
Word-of-mouth is the highest determinant in your prospects and customers buying decisions. According to Tweak Your Biz:
"… if [you] ask the actual consumers about the factors which influence their purchasing decisions the most, recommendations from the person's family and friends will rank as the most influential factor …"
There are a variety of tools to help you, such as Google Alerts, YEXT, and social media moderation. This involves monitoring the comments being published on other social media accounts and using the search function to find your brand mentions. In addition to manual moderation techniques, numerous social media tools offer quick and easy tracking.
2) Encourage and monitor online reviews by asking your clients to leave online reviews – if you don't ask, you don't get – unless it's a negative encounter with your brand. Unfortunately, that's human nature. Providing the Ultimate Client Experience is the most effective approach to the organic growth of your company – without it, the data and software investment, training, time and scaling are worthless. (see next step!)
3) Respond to ALL users – especially the angry ones with empathy and the respect of active involvement. In other words, "hug your haters." They are not your real problem yet unless you ignore them.
No response is tantamount to lighting a fire that you don't have the insurance to cover. Consistent interaction with your client base should be a standard operating procedure, especially as increasing numbers of consumers are interacting with businesses in the public domain – "customer service has become a spectator sport."
Forthright and compassionate responses and meaningful solutions to negative commentary will highlight your commitment to take care of your clients, enhancing the recruitment of new prospects and reinforcing the retention of current ones.
"It's not just about making the unhappy customer happy, now it's about how the onlookers perceive your business…" ~ Jay Baer
4) SEO is not just a "nice to have" when your brand's reputation is subject to public scrutiny. Search Engine Optimization ensures that your evocative content rises to the top for those searching for your brand's products and services online.
Optimizing your SEO provides a dual strategy: defense against negative content, in tandem with a proactive offense in promoting the positive aspects of your brand, products, and services. Google recently enhanced the ability to search for answers to questions, as opposed to crawling infinite sites for key terms.
5) Content Strategy is your protective gear as you engage your clients with captivating content that addresses their questions and concerns proactively. The power to position the promise of your products/services and unwavering commitment to the ultimate customer experience will demonstrate a keen focus on best practices that will propel your content search to the top.
Remember, you have the power to decide what your company isn't.