9 Steps for Building a Reputation Plan That Wins Customers

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As an entrepreneur, you probably already know that your company’s reputation is one of your most valuable assets. In an era where information spreads like wildfire, your reputation can make or break your business in a hurry.

This underscores the importance of a solid reputation management plan, something that can help you not only protect your brand but also leverage consumer sentiment to win more customers and gain a competitive edge.

Below, I outline how to build a reputation management plan that will protect your business and set you up for success. Let’s delve into the steps you can take to create a plan that will not only protect your brand but enhance your company’s image and bottom line.

1. Define your brand identity

Before taking steps to manage your reputation, it’s crucial to clearly define your brand identity. That means creating clear statements on what your business stands for, your core values and, critically, what sets you apart from competitors.

Once you have a firm grasp on those core pillars of the brand and what your company is built on, you can better align your reputation management efforts with those principles.

2. Monitor your online presence

Managing your reputation effectively means tracking the online conversation surrounding your business. Generally, that includes setting up alerts and regularly monitoring social media platforms, review sites and news outlets for mentions of your company, when and wherever they pop up.

Fortunately, there are various tools available (with varying degrees of reach and effectiveness) that can automate this process, making it easier to stay on top of the online chatter.

Related: Is it Time to Strengthen Your Company’s Reputation? Here’s How to Get Your Online Image (and Reviews) Back on Track

3. Turn positive experiences into positive reviews

Positive online feedback can be a powerful tool for cultivating trust and strengthening your online reputation. Bulking up your positive review presence starts by encouraging satisfied customers to leave reviews on platforms like Google, Yelp and the social media channels they enjoy the most.

It’s also crucial to make it as easy as possible to leave great feedback. Providing links and reminders at important touchpoints can help facilitate this process. Responding to these reviews promptly and thanking customers for their feedback also goes a long way toward encouraging positive comments and praise in the future.

4. Build a strategy for addressing negative feedback

In business, negative feedback is inevitable. But how you respond to it can be a game changer, especially for the image you create across the web.

When you come across negative reviews or comments online, it is essential not to ignore them or lash out in anger. Either can make the situation far worse in a hurry.

Instead, focus on crafting a solutions-based review response framework–one centered on polite, professional responses that address customer concerns and seek resolution in every scenario. This shows not only that you care about customer satisfaction but have prioritized it as part of your customer service model and are willing to go the extra step to make things right.

5. Create content that strengthens your position

Managing your online reputation is about more than just tracking your brand and dealing with reviews. To really shape and control your online image, it’s critical to create, share and promote quality content that touts your value and strengthens your credibility with customers.

This includes blog posts, articles, videos and social media updates that can consistently reinforce your expertise and authority in your industry, as well as any content containing information that educates and inspires your target audience.

6. Reach out to your audience

Engaging with customers is vital to building a positive reputation. On the surface, that means responding to comments and messages on social media. On a deeper level, it means publicly showing that you value customers’ input and are willing to engage in meaningful conversations outside the customer service process.

Conducting meaningful interactions with your audience helps humanize your brand while strengthening long-term connections between your business and your customers.

7. Create buy-in through authenticity

For a reputation management plan to work, you have to incorporate authenticity. Being honest about your products, services, company updates, and any challenges your business faces demonstrates your willingness to make consumers a trusted part of the brand journey.

Transparency builds trust and buy-in with your audience, and customers are far more likely to forgive and support your business when you’re upfront about where you’ve been, what you’re doing, and what steps you plan to take down the road.

8. Follow your competitors closely

To build a reputation strategy that puts you on top, it’s important to keep a close eye on your competitors’ online behavior, interactions and sentiment. Understanding what’s being said about the competition can provide unique, helpful insights into industry trends and what customers are looking for at any given moment. It can also help you identify areas where you can outshine the competition, allowing you to build on those strengths and maximize your advantage.

Related: 4 Ways to Pull Ahead of Your Competitors in Business

9. Be ready for a crisis

No matter how well you monitor brand mentions or navigate online reviews, there will likely be a time when you face a PR crisis. This could be anything from a minor customer dust-up to something more substantial, such as a product recall, data breach or other public relations disaster.

In any case, having a crisis management plan in place is essential, allowing you to identify potential crisis scenarios, outline a response strategy and empower a crisis management team to handle such situations quickly.

Whatever you do, have a plan to protect your reputation

In our hyper-digital business landscape, a strong reputation management plan is not just recommended; it’s essential. Your reputation affects your ability to attract and retain customers, differentiate yourself from competitors, and weather crises when they arise, and because of that utility, building an effective reputation strategy is more than worth the effort.

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