Create a happy customer and you create your reputation. Flickr image by betsyweber.
If you run your own business or manage someone else's, I'm sure the question of your company's reputation crosses your mind frequently (I hope).
I read an article recently that suggested that you can't build your own reputation and here's the first paragraph of that article...
"Have you ever thought about or tried to create your own reputation? That doesn't make sense, does it? Reputation isn't created. It's attributed to you by the people who know and associate with you. That's the whole point of a reputation: it's based externally and arises from people who recognize something - a quality or a skill or a particular point of view - about you that they identify as you."
Let me right off the bat, state categorically that you indeed can build your business reputation. Don't want to sound arrogant but can't resist this, "been there, done that".
I've done it at a business that I managed and I've helped some businesses boost their reputation as their reputation marketing consultant.
Let me relate the story of the company I worked at, where I experimented with reputation marketing.
This was in 1999 and the division (now known as Sanofi Pasteur) was losing customers (doctors) in droves because they didn't have sufficient stocks and the also the products were causing major side effects for their patients (babies).
By the time I got in, in 2000, the organisation had already lost it's leadership in the pediatric vaccine business to another larger competitor. The doctors were even refusing to see us because we had caused their own reputation to be soiled.
Also the customers switched to the competitor's higher tech vaccine, which we didn't have yet.
We set about revamping every area of our business.
We employed more professional sales reps and trained them and retrained them several times a year.
We set up a professional marketing team that worked well with the newly minted sales management team.
The marketing team developed excellent marketing strategies and campaigns by listening to the customers (including those who abandoned us).
We reconfigured the supply chain system we had and increased the stock holding to a level that made the finance director cry.
We introduced a couple of high tech children's vaccines that made our competitor panic and take notice of us once again.
These efforts were not done in a month or even 6 months. It took us about 24 months before we regained leadership in one segment and bloodied the nose of the competitor in the other.
At each step of the way, we asked our customers what they thought of our strategies and if it made sense, we adjusted them.
Our reputation improved in our customers eyes because we engaged them frequently.
What was the end result?
We took a dwindling MYR9 million organisation (in 1999) to MYR 71 million by end 2008. Many of the customers who left in 1999 were back with us by 2002.
In a nutshell, I can say that you manage your reputation and market it by focusing on all processes, products and people and making corrections to them where needed.
This is the same process I follow with clients I work with and it works always in enhancing their business reputation.