Almost every business owner or professional business manager is familiar with the term “reputation management”.
I avoid using this terminology because it connotes passiveness. When I see that phrase, I see a business owner sitting and waiting for something to happen to his business reputation and then taking some action to repair it. An analogy I like to use is fire prevention. There’s a passive way and an active method to prevent fires.
The passive path is to simply fix smoke detectors and sprinklers all over your premises, so that you will be warned of an imminent fire outbreak. When fire indeed breaks out, you still have to dial 911 or kill the flame with your home fire extinguisher or do both. Very passive indeed. You’re just waiting for something to happen before taking any action.
The more active route is to install the smoke detectors and water sprinklers and then to go out everyday throughout your building:
- checking to see combustible material and moving them out of reach of naked flames
- making sure there are no possibilities of naked flames or sources of sparks are able to reach inflammable material
I see reputation marketing as the active method, where you the business owner or the manager, does something to create the good name that you want for your business, rather than waiting for someone to give you one.
And because you are creating the good repute that you desire, you are actually doing reputation marketing.
So now, the million dollar question pops up, “how do I do reputation marketing?”
In order to conduct reputation marketing, you will simply have to ask yourself, what your business should do to give an excellent customer experience.
Of course how will you know what your customers are expecting?
Even before you start your business, you should have conducted a survey of your prospective clients around the location of your business, to find out what they want.
If you are already in operation, then send out surveys or talk to your clients.
That’s the only to give your clients a good to great customer experience. You definitely won’t get 5-star reviews from your customers if you decide, on a whim, what you want them to experience.
Simply put, you have to ask your customers what they want to get from your business in terms of:
- products and services
- payment terms and methods
- opening hours
- delivery terms and installation services
- warranties and guarantees
- whatever else they want.
You can see that I use the phrase,” customer wants”, rather than, “customer needs”.
You will never get a 5-star review because you satisfied a customer’s needs.
You’ll only get it when you have exceeded their wants.
This is where we diverge from the Harvard professors who say that a business must cater to customers’ needs.
Nobody buys anything they need; they only buy what they want.
When you are hungry, you don’t just want food, your mind (and maybe your stomach too) thinks about the type of food you want. When hunger pangs grip your stomach, you don't say, "I need food."
It’ll either be a steak or a burger. And if you decide a burger, will it be a Quarter Pounder (yuks) or Double Whopper (yummy). And if it’s a steak, will it be at Denny’s or Outback.
If you are thinking now that you don’t need to know what your customers want or you don’t know, you will soon be shuttering your operations for good. It’s never too late to find out, even if your business is tanking.
In a nutshell, everything your business does either pumps up your reputation or blows it up.
So you have to keep a keen eye on everything physical about your company, processes and even employee attitude (and this one is the 800-lb gorilla in the equation).
Everything else in your company can be improved except an employee with a bad attitude.
Recently, Google acquired Zagat and other start-ups that reveal a business’ online reputation score.
There are also other online 3rd party sites that customers post reviews.
So today, it’s a company’s online reputation that determines success or closure.
And that’s where your reputation marketing should be focused on.
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