Your brand reputation is fundamental to the survival of your business, so much so that it influences purchasing decisions of consumers. It is how the public perceives your organization. Needless to say, a negative public perception could hamper your growth and, in some critical cases, collapse your business. Consequently, maintaining a positive reputation on all fronts is non-negotiable.
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What is Reputation Management for Business?
Business reputation management encompasses all aspects of improving and maintaining a positive brand image. It seeks to control the narrative of how the public perceives your business. The idea is to make sure that consumers have positive thoughts when your brand comes to mind.
Typically, the stage for this is the internet. A lot happens online. From trending hashtags to Twitter threads and online discussion forums, there are multiple online channels for people to talk about your brand. According to Brightlocal’s 2023 consumer review survey, 87% of consumers evaluate local businesses on Google. The same source also states that 76% of consumers read online reviews when browsing local businesses.
Additionally, in the era of “cancel culture” where mistakes are unforgivable, Trustpilot reports that 90% of consumers avoid companies with bad reputations. Consequently, reputation management for businesses mostly focuses on monitoring and protecting a brand’s online presence.
Online reputation management (ORM) allows you to stay on top of all the chatter by offering strategies that give your brand a facelift, and help you maneuver out of unfavorable situations. It is a continuous process that allows you to tackle reputation-damaging issues as soon as they arise, thereby maintaining a favorable public persona for your business. Here are some of the tactics involved.
- Press and social media monitoring: Given that most people get their information from either or both of these sources, it is important to monitor them. Reputation management follows both online chatter and news reports about your business and industry to evaluate your company’s social standing.
- Review management: In a survey by ReviewTrackers, 94% of consumers admitted to avoiding businesses with bad reviews. Negative ratings are one of the most discouraging things that can happen to any business. Not only are they proof of bad customer experiences, but they also discourage potential customers from patronizing your business. With reputation management, you can effectively address customer feedback.
- Misinformation suppression: Before people can confirm the authenticity of an issue, news about it must’ve already spread. In cases where there are no professionals to handle the situation, the misinformation can do irreparable damage to your business. Reputation management quickly attacks false information by shutting it down before it irreversibly mars your brand.
- Crisis management: Corporate crisis is more common than you think. According to PwC, 96% of corporations have experienced disruptions in the last two years. Without proper reputation management, businesses would not be able to survive such emergencies and redeem their integrity.
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Reputation Management for Small Businesses
It is a common misconception that only big industry names need reputation management. While larger corporations typically require less work to keep a positive image due to their widespread fame, small businesses need to put in more effort to build a sustainable reputation. Given that small to medium enterprises (SMEs) have a lot more room to develop, establishing and maintaining a positive reputation is pivotal to their growth. For such businesses, the stakes are higher.
Building a solid reputation from the ground up is a smart business move. Several corporations have suffered setbacks due to scathing revelations about their early days in business. A popular instance of this is the Nike sweatshop scandal of the 1990s. The scandal continued gaining attention until the early 2000s, significantly affecting Nike’s popularity. As a small business owner, investing in reputation management early ties up loose ends that could potentially become reputational risks and sets you up for global recognition.
If you have limited resources to invest in PR management, here are some reputation management software for small businesses you can use.
- Birdeye: This is a top-rated reputation and customer experience platform for local businesses. It is an online review management software that lets you request, respond to, and promote reviews. It is very robust, compiling data from over 150 review sites. It also has an option for monitoring your social media accounts as well as conducting competitor analysis. With Birdeye, you pay $299 monthly for the standard subscription and $399 for the pro subscription.
- Podium: This award-winning platform makes review management as simple as texting. The software uses text messages to help small businesses boost their online reputation, generate leads, and convert more customers. Additionally, a unified dashboard lets you quickly respond to customer inquiries and follow up on prospects. Podium offers a monthly subscription starting at $249.
- NiceJob: This is a cloud-based reputation management service that helps businesses manage reviews. By leveraging customers’ feedback, the platform automates social media marketing, thereby generating leads from social networks and improving your general online presence. Additionally, NiceJob offers the most affordable subscription on this list at $75 a month. That’s quality and affordable service.
- Trustpilot: The platform allows business owners to transform customer reviews into revenue. By collecting consumer feedback, entrepreneurs can display positive consumer feedback on their websites and search engine results pages (SERPs). Trustpilot offers a free subscription with limited features and a standard monthly subscription of $199.
Importance of a Positive Business Reputation
The significance of online reputation management for small businesses cannot be overstated. It determines whether your brand will be widely accepted or treated like a corporate outcast. Here are some advantages of having a stellar business reputation.
- It generates better business reviews: Consumers generally love talking about positive brand experiences. If a customer enjoys patronizing your business, chances are that he/she will advocate for your brand. Additionally, by leaving positive reviews and recommending your company to others, satisfied consumers help build your reputation by making your business look more appealing to potential customers.
- Consumers trust your brand: Consumer loyalty is vital for running a successful business and at the foundation of that is trust. A solid business reputation builds confidence in your brand. With loyal customers who can vouch for your integrity, it’s easier to manage your reputation and avoid corporate crises. Additionally, it encourages other brands to partner with you.
- You get more visibility: One of the keys to expanding your business is increased brand awareness. There are several associated benefits of getting more exposure for your business. With an impressive reputation, more people become aware of your products and services. Consequently, you generate more leads, convert more customers, and earn more revenue.
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Here are some of the risks associated with a poor brand reputation.
- Reduced customer engagement: The immediate impact of a tarnished business reputation is that people begin to boycott your brand. Unsurprisingly, consumers generally avoid disgraced companies. This means you lose existing customers, and the chances of gaining new ones are significantly reduced. This also affects other sources of revenue like government sponsorships and partnerships with other brands.
- Higher marketing expenses: A damaged reputation requires more marketing expenses to resuscitate. This poses an even bigger issue because while you’re spending to look more appealing, with a bad reputation, you most likely aren’t earning enough to make up for it.
- Business collapse: The worst-case scenario is for your business to fold up. A consistently negative reputation cannot birth a successful business. Additionally, it could take just one costly misstep to ruin your reputation and sink your business.
10 Online Reputation Management Tips for Businesses
Here are 10 online reputation management tips to help you boost your brand.
1. Rebrand Your Business
If your business struggles to overcome a negative reputation, rebranding could help consumers see you in a new light and rekindle brand loyalty. Successfully rebranding your business should increase its appeal and almost make consumers forget about the old brand. Just as redemption depicts an individual as a brand new person who has learned from past mistakes and is willing to improve, rebranding your business could give it a fresh start.
2. Collaborate with Influencers
This is called influencer marketing and the idea is to hire someone who’s widely loved and respected to represent your brand. Influencers are public figures with massive followings on social media. Given that they wield a strong influence on their followers, having them advocate for your brand effectively sways the opinions of their fans in favor of your business.
3. Hire a Brand Reputation Management Company
Reputation management is a continuous process that often requires a professional touch for the best results. As your business expands, overseeing this responsibility yourself may no longer be possible. In this case, you may consider looking at what reputation management companies for small businesses have to offer.
4. Hire Professionals to Manage Your Social Media
Not all of us can excel at social media management. Some people have the gift of effortlessly amassing followers and keeping them engaged. Such social media-savvy individuals would be best for managing your social media accounts. They can create content and respond to consumers across various networking platforms. Companies that provide online reputation management services for small businesses tend to have social media experts on their teams.
5. Use Paid Ads
Paid advertising is a great way to increase visibility within your industry. It helps you attract customers and business partners that can expand your operations. Additionally, it indirectly helps you grow word-of-mouth referrals which is an excellent way of boosting your reputation. The more new customers you gain through advertising, the quicker the news of your products and services spreads.
6. Improve SEO Practices
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the best way to get online visibility. It is responsible for organic web traffic, the most rewarding source of website visits. When you optimize your website for search engines like Google, consumers can easily find your business when they look for related keywords online.
7. Offer Public Apologies
If your company winds up in a public mess, the advisable way to proceed is to offer a public apology. Open regret communicates remorse and accountability to your target audience and can potentially help you rebuild trust with consumers. A genuine publicly tendered apology to all those affected by your indiscretion is an effective method of reputation repair.
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8. Create a Positive Brand Experience
Creating a positive brand experience inevitably builds a good reputation. Brand experience refers to the impressions that consumers have from interacting with your business. It shapes their perception of your brand which ultimately determines whether or not they will continue doing business with you and if they might recommend your business to others. A positive experience will not only keep customers coming back but will also help you establish a reputable brand.
9. Put Together a Likable Support Team
Your customer support team is an important representative of your business. Consumers typically have more online interactions with the customer service team than any other staff member. Competent and endearing support agents can smooth things over with disgruntled customers before they escalate. In addition to avoiding overblown criticism, they boost your reputation as a brand with excellent customer care.
10. Reward Consumer Engagement
When you reward consumers for their engagement, it motivates them to continue interacting with your brand. Discounts, promos, and referral bonuses all contribute to increased engagement. This generates leads for your business and earns you a likable reputation.
Your business’s reputation is perhaps its most valuable asset. Once that is tarnished, it becomes difficult for your business to function properly and might even signal the end of its operations. In the past, reputation management for businesses may have only been a tool for salvaging messy situations, but now, it is a brand essential. It upholds your brand image, tackles potential risks, and handles damage control in cases of reputational crises.
Investing in business reputation management will not only protect your brand but will also help you convert and retain customers, expand business operations, and generate more revenue. Besides, hiring a competent branding agency can help transform your business reputation for the better.