Remember the good old days when advertising your business meant putting out an ad in the local paper, distributing fliers, or hanging out a sign? Even if you are too young to remember such a time, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that running and growing a business has fundamentally changed over the last twenty years.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes is in the way businesses interact with their customers. Now, much of that interaction has moved online- a space where nothing is constant, where a battle rages for attention and action from one second to the next. It’s a place where platforms shift at whim and marketing strategies work great one day, but not the next. Building a business reputation no longer needs to happen in person, yet it includes a whole bunch of extraneous variables that just didn’t exist twenty years ago, like how many followers you have on social media, the quality of your images and video, and if customers mention your products or services online.
These new rules of marketing have sent many businesses big and small scrambling to make sense of it all and to arrive at marketing decisions that actually pay off. How much should you invest in a website? Should you write an SEO guest post, or pay for a Facebook ad? Should you start an Instragram account or make Quora your home?
But, if the thought of online marketing leaves you feeling dizzy, there are some immutable truths, commandments if you will, that persist even when everything else is reeling.
Ten Business Reputation Dos and Don’ts
1. Remember thy audience. Keep your ideal customer in mind at all times. You need to make sure you are speaking their language and that you are in touch with any changing preferences.
2. Thou shall build relationships. No successful business is an island online. Without making an effort to build up a network of online influencers and publications or platforms that will promote your content, you won’t be seen or heard by the people you are trying to reach.
3. Thou shall not make noise. Noise means unwanted or unimportant sights and sounds. The world is getting to noisy as it is; don’t just ad to it hoping that your target audience will tune in. Only send them what they ask for.
4. Thou shall pace thyself. Don’t spread your resources too thin in the pursuit of “being everywhere.” Instead, take the time to analyze which channels and techniques offer your business the greatest ROI, and put your efforts over there.
5. Thou shall spend thy time wisely. Learn how to effectively manage your time so you can spend it where it counts the most.
6. Thou shall test thy assumptions. The time for set-it-and-forget-it marketing is over. Given that platforms and preferences as well as the devices being used to access them are changing at lightning speed, you need to make sure your business is ready to adjust and adapt. At least twice a year, you should be re-evaluating your marketing strategies and considering how they are measuring up to your goals.
7. Thou shall not ignore feedback, good or bad. If you really want to build a business reputation that you can be proud of (and one that will generate plenty of sales), then make this your mantra: customer feedback is your lifeline. What your customers say about your business online is giving you vital information about what is working and what isn’t. Where the feedback is negative, make it a point to examine the issue so you can make potential improvements to your product, your service, or your customer experience in the future. Where possible, you should also try to make amends for any legitimate complaint.
8. Thou shall hire the right people. Your employees are your brand ambassadors. The better suited to your business they are and the more satisfied they are on the job, the better your customer experience will be.
9. Thou shall take the necessary data security precautions. I’ve written countless times about the importance of data security for small businesses. Data security is no joke. If you do business online, then you need to protect your sensitive data and transactions with the right equipment, software, and training.
10. Thou shall invest (and re-invest) in your business. The bottom line to all of this is that today business is a dynamic give and take. You need to make sure you are investing adequate time, energy, money, into the process of running and growing your business, because it won’t happen by itself. Once you do, however, you will be in the best position to capitalize on all that the age of the Internet has to offer, and build a good business reputation as well.
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