Building a Business Reputation

Building and losing your reputation

Nigel Charlesworth, Director of The Smart Agency, has elaborated on the impact a good or bad reputation can have on your business.

It is a truism – when presented with similar products, each with similar prices, the defining factor can be the reputation of the supplier.

Companies big and small know the value of reputation and accountants put a value on it when totting up what a business is worth.

That is fine, but how do you build and then protect a reputation for whatever you want to be known for (be it quality, price, service, innovation or a challenger brand)? Unfortunately, as Gerald Ratner (the former prawn sandwich-priced jeweller) found out, reputation is an intangible asset that is built slowly and lost quickly when, in his case his eponymously named company, product quality was questioned.

Why should people buy from you?

It is a question that is relevant for established companies concerned about getting service and price right, but an absolutely crucial one for start-ups and growing businesses. In fact, getting the answer wrong could make or break a fledgling enterprise.

Building a good reputation and trust is vital and at the risk of provoking a “he would say that wouldn’t he” response, PR has a role to play – not spinning but providing opportunities to show that you know your stuff and are running a credible operation.

Press publicity, online content, blogs and broadcast interviews can help communicate your knowledge, and relevancy of your background, and in the end, boost your standing as a credible business person. Just as important is the need for the starter businessperson to project their enthusiasm and passion for the business. People like doing business with people who care passionately about what they do.

We know that many new businesses fail in the first year. Why? Probably a mix of cash flow, overspending on stock or marketing and finding out that people just did not get what you were offering. However, I believe that another game-ender is that customers (and we are talking business to business here too) just did not want to take the risk of trying someone new. There was no compelling reason to take the chance – even if you were cheaper.

Risk aversion happens because the newco did not tell its story properly and establish credentials and reputation from the outset. Who trusted Innocent before the founder’s profile and back story was revealed? By finding out more about Richard Reed, we liked him and believed in the company’s products.

Start-ups have an advantage over their more established corporate competitors. They are the face of the business and the personality behind the products – someone who people can trust and identify with.

Of course, this works both ways and your reputation is intrinsically linked to the business. When your personal stock goes down – so does that of the business. Care and honest external advice is needed.

Ten steps to boosting your reputation

  1. Get your profile right online. Make sure you have consistent, full and accurate profiles at networking sites like LinkedIn and Profile.com as well as your own website to reassure visitors you are who you say you are.
  2. Ask happy customers to recommend you and your business and ask if you can post their comments at your website.
  3. Compile and distribute customer case studies to show you can deliver on your promise.
  4. Do not hide your light under a bushel – offer to speak at events and to the media.
  5. Write a blog once a month and talk about what makes you passionate about your business. Keep it personal, not corporate.
  6. Answer customer queries quickly and honestly and responds to any Twitter or TripAdvisor comments (good or bad).
  7. Presentation is key – so ditch the happy snaps and invest in some decent photos of you, your team and your business activity.
  8. Thank people when they do business with you.
  9. Profile and publicise the excellent people in your team.
  10. Take every opportunity to promote your successes. People like to be associated with popular, winning organisations.