In our socially interactive culture, what other people think of us plays an important role in how successful we are. Career opportunities and promotions come because supervisors see us as competent. Businesses depend on positive customer opinion to sell products and services, and build a loyal clientele. How a person or organisation is seen by others is what defines reputation.
Reputation has always played an important role in business, but in the past, a brand’s image was based on communication in the physical world or by telephone. Today, the internet has replaced the client/employee interaction that businesses depended on to build consumer confidence. Customers go online to compare companies and products and make their decisions based on the information they pull up on a Google search. By the time they come in contact with a company representative, they’ve already formed an opinion about the organisation.
This isn’t just true of companies that sell products to private consumers. Studies have shown that business clients are also conducting research and completing more than half (56 percent) of the buying process ‘engaging with content’, versus 23 percent talking to ‘peers and colleagues’ and only 21 percent interacting with company sales representatives.
Different Types of Online Content
At ReputationDefender, we help brands develop and rank a range of content that will help to build client trust. The SERP (Search Engine Result Page) has become the new company calling card, offering prospective customers a chance to learn more about products and develop a feel for what the company does. The brand’s online image is created through four types of content.
- Brand generated – the company website and any other affiliated pages (professional social media profiles, blogs etc.). These results tell customers about the products you sell and show you are a professional organisation with a large network of followers.
- Advertising – sponsored results on social media platforms help to spark interest and draw in new clients who may not yet have heard of the company.
- Shared testimonials – customers put a lot of faith in reviews and comments left by previous clients. Online feedback can be problematic since it’s not controlled by your reputation team, but sharing and promoting genuine positive testimonials (with permission from the writer of course) helps to get this content seen by more people.
- Third party testimonials – customers will find third party articles and blogs more trustworthy than content created by the company. Again, it’s harder to control these types of results, but networking with industry bloggers and researchers and submitting regular press releases about the company can help to get the ball rolling. Gaining even one or two third party results can be worth the effort, since they add credibility to the entire profile.
7 Pillars of Reputation
Now that we’ve looked at what types of content make up an online profile, let’s talk more about the building blocks of reputation. Today’s consumers have thousands of companies to choose from and they are smarter and more selective than ever. Of course they want a quality product at a good price, but they also want to feel they are investing their money into an organisation or a cause that’s worthwhile. Modern customers feel like they are stakeholders in the entire process, from product creation onward, so they will be evaluating the business at every level.
The pillars of reputation are seven aspects of the business you will need to take into consideration when building the company’s image.
- Quality – to create a positive reputation, it’s important to show you offer a quality product or service.
- Innovation – customers want to see that you’re doing something different. A fresh approach will set you apart from the competition.
- Company culture – almost every consumer is also an employee of someone else, so they will respect companies that provide for their workers and create positive working conditions.
- Transparency and accountability – customers want to know what happens to their money, who makes their products and where they come from.
- Corporate citizenship – today many consumers believe corporate responsibility extends to social and environmental issues as well. They will support companies that offer sustainable products and give money to charity.
- CEO reputation – when customers don’t interact with representatives, leaders become the personal face of the organisation. A name and a story they can relate to make the company more memorable.
- Accomplishments – customers what to know what you’ve achieved so far, whether you’re a new start-up or a company that’s been in business for a few years. Don’t be shy about sharing the company’s financial growth or the size of the customer base. This will give people confidence in your ability to handle problems and grow the business.
To map the company’s reputation, start by assessing current performance levels for each of the seven pillars. Decide how each pillar fits within the context of your organisation; analyse the data and then target the areas that need improvement. Plan a strategy for creating online content that will testify to the company’s work in all seven areas. Don’t fabricate evidence since this will only hurt your image in the long run. It’s fine to add a positive spin, but make sure there are facts to back up the information.
Of course, no one customer will be evaluating your company’s performance in such a thorough way. But by including a broad spectrum of reputation building initiatives, you’ll create an image that appeals to everyone regardless of their personal priorities. Continue to track the company’s reputation using search queries that relate to each of the seven pillars. Plan a schedule to evaluate performance on a regular monthly or bimonthly schedule, and design new initiatives to fill in holes as they emerge.
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