I would argue that no one goes into business to fail. I would also state that often, in the frenzy of running one’s business, sometimes we tend to make costly mistakes. So, whether by accident or on purpose, those unfortunate “false-moves or missteps” can destroy our reputation.
The question is, once your reputation takes a hit, can you get it back? This conundrum is precisely what this article will be covering — how to save and enhance your good name.
Take a moment to ponder this. Do you think that United Airlines, Target, SeaWorld, Volkswagen, Bank of America, and so many others intended to earn black-eyes and face millions of dollars of adverse financial consequences? Of course not!
Whether you are Volkswagen suffering through an emissions scandal, or British Petroleum Company (BP) attempting to overcome an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, one thing is for sure — business goes on, and you MUST overcome!
No reasonable person would deny that in today’s supersonic world of social media, a minor gaff can be transformed into a significant catastrophe. Some blame must be attributed to the capricious nature of the medium (cyberspace). When you provide people an anonymous forum to vent all sorts of emotional “wrongs,” real or imagined, casualties can be expected. Add in the “pile-on” factor, and the effects can be devastating to your business.
It is important to stress that if indeed, because of your carelessness, misconduct, or malfeasance you hurt people, then absolutely consumers should warn others. However, if you are conscientious but embroiled in a contentious misunderstanding, then it’s not right that you be eviscerated.
CREATE A WINNING GAMEPLAN
Your first move: develop an authoritative, understanding, and compassionate response. The primary ingredients for saving your reputation are to respond quickly, politely, and sincerely. Allow me to take a quarter-step to one side. This is the ideal time to discuss the value that testimonials deliver to your reputation. You must share with the world what other satisfied and happy consumers say about your service(s). If you have them, post them liberally throughout your website, office waiting room(s), and promotional pieces. Bear in mind the old saying, “no one cares nor believes what you say about yourself; but, what others say about you is worth its weight in gold.”
Getting back to the topic, address any points of contention directly and rapidly. If you were in the wrong, own it, take responsibility. Your strength of character should lessen the impact on your reputation. You may even turn around any harmful blows if you offer a suitable opportunity to make the situation “right.” Also, to piggyback on the previous side note, consider signing up for programs like Google Alerts. You will receive regular “alerts” concerning articles, posts, or references mentioning you or your firm.
YOUR NEXT STEP – INTENTIONALITY and PURPOSE
“Reputation building does not just suppress negative information but focuses on building the long-term value in a positive reputation.” — Hersh Davis-Nitzberg
Proceeding with resolve means you are determined to make sure that your organization is consistently “tight and right!” In other words, you need to make sure that those business “misunderstandings” get rectified quickly. Your firm must commit to excellence; this is done through constant organizational introspection, continually shore-up your weak spots (which includes your firm’s billing, quality control, consumer relations, and so on).
I recently read a very interesting article written by Moira Alexander, titled “5 ways to manage your company’s reputation.” Ms. Alexander lays out very logical and comprehensive approaches to getting on top of your reputation management strategy. The principles presented within the article include topics like Establishing financial accountability, Effectively managing all resources, Developing quality assurance parameter, and Ensuring on-time delivery.
The article delivers beneficial and prudent advice when dealing with touchy subjects like cost overruns (for example). The piece provides a “consumer-sensitive” perspective to the delicate topic of coping with higher than expected fees for service. “Cost overruns on projects mean your customers bear the burden in one way or another, likely through higher-priced products or services. Your company does not need to be the lowest-priced option around. Provide customers with assurances that they are only paying as much as necessary; ensure that your company is identifying and keeping in line with comparative costs expectations.
The reality is that most customers may overlook cost, and they may even wait longer for a product or service, but low quality is seldom forgiven. Identifying your customer’s needs and expectations and developing a quality assurance program around this can significantly improve your company’s reputation and help to maintain your place as a provider of quality products or services.”
Positive reputation management relies on financial accountability, effective resource management, quality assurance practices, on-time delivery and above all else, transparency. — Moira Alexander
As you read this piece, you may be thinking, “doesn’t every business owner know this stuff?” Sadly, based on my years of observation, less and less business owners apply tried-and-true business strengthening tactics. Moreover, it is not as if business owners elect to ignore proven growth strategies. Actually, it appears that many owners have simply never learned the building blocks for successful navigation through sometimes perilous waters.
LEAD WITH AUTHENTICITY
Being authentic is not a requirement for business prosperity or developing a sterling reputation, but it is if you want that success to be a lasting. Again, it goes back to WHY. Authenticity is when you say and do the things you actually believe.
The notion of leading with what you genuinely believe promotes tremendous anxiety. Most people never really think about the concept. To facilitate that exercise, I often advise clients to think back to a time before they owned their business. At which point, I simply ask, “why did you want to get into this business?” I then follow up that question with, “now that you are in the business, what do you propose to do differently than everyone else?”
I worked with a chiropractor who shared with me that she became a doctor because she felt that the senior community was grossly underserved. She explained that there is much that can be done for seniors that don’t include pharmaceuticals. Her mission is to provide physical strengthening and flexibility to her senior patients and improve their quality of life.
I also helped my own mechanic uncover his “why.” We were speaking one day, and I asked him how he got into the field. He told me that, even as a child, he had always been good with his hands. So, in high school (after hearing many friends and family members complain about their mechanic experiences) he decided would open his own shop — founded upon quality of work, integrity, cleanliness, and a commitment to treat ALL clients with respect.
I advised him to lead with that sentiment (aka mission statement); further, to embrace the fact that most people are skeptical about mechanics (at least early on in the relationship). I suggested that he reassure clients by establishing a triage approach toward mechanical services. In other words, let clients know what needs immediate attention, what could wait a couple of months, and what be addressed further down the line. Merely by committing fully to and promoting his mission, he quickly saw dramatic increases in business.
BUILD UP YOUR EXPERT STATUS
Make your “Why” so superior that your competition cannot keep up. Plus, establish yourself as an expert in your field, and your reputation will thrive.
Use Disneyland as an example of business dominance and excellence. In spite of rising costs (ever year) to enter the park, hot Southern California summers, and crowds-a-plenty. Every year Disney has increased in profitability and market share. The reason for their business success is quite simple. Walt Disney determined they were not in the amusement park industry; they were in the magical experience industry. In a single stroke, Walt Disney became the unequaled and unchallenged ambassador and resident expert of magical experiences. Disney leads with their “why!” Every day, with every opportunity, Disney promotes the idea that they are “the happiest place on earth;” — their guest relations campaigns, cleanliness, atmosphere, ambient sounds, and so on are shining examples of their commitment.
I understand that you are not Disney; but, you too can make a profound impact in your field. Let me illustrate this point by briefly sharing another client’s story. My client is a dentist who specializes in dental implant procedures (we will call him Dr. Jones).
Dr. Jones began by promoting himself as the “go-to” doctor in town. He acknowledges that fear of pain and cost of treatment are his most significant challenges. Hence, he decided to address these concerns head-on in all his promotional pieces.
Further, he began publishing his experience and knowledge regarding treatment and options. Dr. Jones provided these informative pieces to all of his patients. He did this in the form of special reports, booklets, and the book he wrote. Dr. Jones’ reputation began to elevate as he was now a published author as well. From there, he launched an online radio program, one hour per week, and shared it with her current patients. Dr. Jones also plays his excerpts from his podcasts, the MP3, in his waiting room.
Dr. Jones parlayed his new status on social media. The key here is that he posts as the dental implant and oral care specialist.
* The social media exposure is enormous; however, never ignore demographics. Not all vehicles cater to your specific audience.
All advertising should be thought of as a three-legged stool. Every promotional component depends on each leg to be dependable. Your brand [you] tells clients/patients who you are, what you do; most importantly, why you do it. Your content (the valuable information you provide) reinforces your “why.” Your headlines MUST instantly grab the attention of readers. Your promotional pieces SHOULD persuade clients/patients to notice who you are and call you.
Present yourself, your firm/clinic, as the undisputed authority in town. Provide alluring incentives for other dissatisfied clients/patients in town to visit you as the only solution for their needs.
Establishing your brand and reputation also pays vast dividends towards client/patient retention and providing additional services.
To conclude, everything we discussed deals with the proper execution and management of a sullied reputation. Your name/brand is everything in business; and, these things are vital to the lasting appeal of your organization. You always want your clients/patients to feel reassured when choosing your service.
Remember, status quo is choice. If your good-name takes a hit, it’s up you how quickly and decisively you react.
Finally, reading someone else’s suggestions about reputation management sounds easy and is a bit exhilarating. However, not everyone has the same skills. If writing or uncovering your “why” is something that is beyond you; we will gladly help you.
We should speak. Let’s have a casual conversation (about 10-15 minutes or so); we will unearth your most pressing needs. If our suggestions make sense, we move forward — if not, we shake hands and part as friends.
From the desk of Claudio Gormaz of Summit Marketing Strategies