You only have a tenth of a second to give a good first impression. And that first impression can have a big effect on the reputation for small businesses.
If someone finds a bad review, they may decide to never buy from you. Business reviews are a part of your reputation, so you need to make sure to do whatever you can to get good reviews.
Keep reading for more tips on how to improve your small business reputation.
1. Understand Your Current Reputation
When trying to improve your small business reputation, you should know what your current reputation is. You can research existing business reviews to get an idea of what people think about your business.
If your business is new, it may not have a reputation. However, you may still have a personal reputation if you’ve had other businesses or have been on social media for a while.
Consider asking your followers and people in your professional network about how they view you and your business. In some cases, you may have a good reputation that you need to maintain.
But you might have an average reputation, so you’ll need to figure out how you can make it better. Then, you can work on your small business reputation.
2. Know Your Customers
Another essential part of improving your small business reputation is to know your customers. Know what they expect or want when they work with your business.
If you have a law firm, your clients will probably expect a more professional tone than a graphic designer. You may also need a more professional tone if your audience is older.
Do some market research to learn more about your customers and their needs and wants. Figure out what your competition is doing to fulfill those needs and how you can do so for your customers.
Ask your customers how they feel about your business and if you’re meeting their expectations. Use that when working on your reputation.
3. Protect Your Name
Having control over your business and personal names is essential for your digital business reputation. Whether you have a website or need to build one, you should buy the domain names for your business name and personal name.
You don’t need to create multiple professional websites to use both domains. However, buying them yourself keeps people from buying them and posing as you or your business.
The same applies to social media networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Even if you don’t use the platform much, you should have accounts so that no one else can select that username.
If you don’t control those usernames, someone could set up an account in your name. Then, they could post things that will damage your business reputation.
4. Be Consistent
Another benefit of owning relevant domains and having your business name on different social networks is consistency. When updating your website or posting on social media, you can make sure all updates are consistent with your brand voice.
Whether someone finds you through your website, social media, or elsewhere, they should get a similar experience. Your voice should speak to your ideal customers and be helpful.
If your website content sounds professional while your social posts are more informal, that disconnect can confuse people. Now, you can adjust how you word things to fit the platform, but it should read as if it’s the same person writing it.
Consistency can also apply to the schedule you use when posting online. If your customers know when to expect new posts from you, meeting those expectations can help you maintain a good small business reputation.
5. Differentiate Yourself
Being consistent can help you stand out from your competition, but there’s more to differentiating your business. You should consider what about your business is better than your competitors.
Perhaps you offer a better price or more value for the same price. Maybe your customer service is the best in the industry, or you make review management and responses a daily task.
Whether you have a unique product or provide more value to your customers, use that to help build a positive reputation. If people can’t distinguish between you and your biggest competitor, it will be harder to form a reputation.
6. Get Specific
Consider differentiating your business by choosing a more specific niche. Maybe you offer accounting services for other small businesses. Instead, consider focusing on accounting for businesses in the pet industry or a specific city.
The more specific you can get, the better you can focus on building a reputation with your customers. You don’t have to appeal to as many people, so you can make sure your brand message does appeal to the people you want to work with.
If you choose to help people in a particular city, you can use that city in your messages. Perhaps you empathize with your customers when the weather gets bad.
Or maybe you focus on helping pet owners, so you focus your messaging on what it’s like to have pets. No matter what you do, focusing on a specific group of people means you can understand them better and thus build a better reputation.
Have you ever ordered something online only for it to arrive later than the company said it would? You may have changed your opinion of that company.
Instead of overpromising like that one online store, underpromise and overdeliver. If you know you can ship and deliver an order in two days, promise it in three days. When it gets there early, you can surprise your customer.
Service providers can overdeliver by telling clients they’ll complete an order later but finishing well before the deadline. No matter what you sell, figure out how you can exceed your customers’ expectations.
Then, you won’t have to worry about negative review management. Instead, your customers may decide to leave a positive review on their experience.
8. Connect With the Community
Another excellent way to build a positive reputation for small businesses is to work with the local community. You can partner with a non-profit organization or a company in a related but different industry.
Then, you can help the other organization grow, and they can help you. Not only will that get you more sales, but it can show your customers that you care about more than making a profit.
Restaurants do this very well by working with schools or groups. For one night, the restaurant will send a portion of the profits to the partner school, so the school can pay for necessities.
Other businesses can run similar promotions or sell one or two items where the profits go back to the community. Then, you can build trust with people in your area.
9. Incorporate Your Mission and Vision
If you don’t already, you should write out your mission and vision statements. Your mission statement focuses on your big goals for your business, and your vision statement covers where you want your business to be in the future.
Once you write these statements, make them a part of everything you do. Include them when training new employees and updating current employees.
While you can tell your customers about your mission and vision, you can keep them secret. Using the statements to make decisions and work with people in your company can help you remember where you want to be.
Then, you can think twice before sending a rude reply to a negative review. Instead, you’ll be able to focus on the positive so that you can reach your goals.
10. Outline Your Processes
Whether you offer a product or service, you should use a specific process to develop and manufacture it. Your process can vary based on your offer, but it might include:
- Initial plans
- Product design
- Developing the details
- Launching the product
A process is important for everything from web design to t-shirt production. If you don’t have a process for your business, you may struggle to maintain quality between orders.
When the quality fluctuates, you may start to get more negative reviews. And it will take a lot of work to manage that feedback and get customers to trust and buy from you.
11. Implement a Social Media Policy
As your business grows and you hire employees, you should create and use a social media policy. The policy covers how you expect employees to act when talking about the company online.
If you want to be safe, your policy could prohibit employees from mentioning your company on social media. But you can also be more lenient and ask them to say that their opinions don’t reflect the company.
Consider how comfortable you are with your employees talking about the business online. Then, you can set a policy that makes you feel good and allows you to maintain a good small business reputation.
12. Review Company Social Media Posts
When it comes to posting on your company’s social media accounts, you shouldn’t allow anyone to post at will. If you hire a social media manager, they should obtain permission from you or someone you trust before posting.
Then, you can review the content and make sure it aligns with your company values and brand voice. While your social media manager might understand those things, they could forget them.
Most social platforms let you control who can do what. Set aside time to review social posts before you schedule or publish them, or have an assistant do so.
Delete any posts that sound negative or talk about controversial issues. While you don’t need to always be positive, make sure that any negative content you do post won’t ruin your reputation.
13. Focus on Customer Service
Whether you have no employees or a few dozen, you need to focus on great customer service. Your customer service team should be nice and willing to help customers with small or big problems.
You should also give customers multiple ways to contact you. Then, your customers can resolve their issues before they resort to posting online reviews that make your company look bad.
Consider offering customer service via phone, email, chat, and social media messages. The more options you give customers, the less they’ll have to work to get answers to their questions.
When you can answer questions and solve problems, you can avoid negative reviews, and you may even get a positive review. That way, you can build your reputation.
14. Respond to Reviews
Review management is another important step in building a good reputation. Take time each week to go through reviews on Google, Yelp, your website, and any industry directories that list your business.
Respond to both positive and negative reviews, and make sure your reply is nice. Even if a customer says your business is the worst, avoid calling them names or saying they’re a bad customer.
When responding to negative reviews, encourage them to contact you for more help and state you want to resolve the problem. For positive reviews, you can thank the customer for the review.
If you have a negative review and get emotional, don’t write a response immediately. Take a minute to calm yourself down so that you can write a good response.
15. Ask for Reviews
When you have a happy customer, ask them to write a review on Google or another platform. Asking for reviews doesn’t take much time, and your customers may not think to do it otherwise.
Getting more good reviews provides social proof to help potential customers trust you. And Google reviews play an important role in local SEO, so you may get more organic traffic to your website.
If you struggle to ask for reviews, you can provide a small incentive to customers that write one. Perhaps you offer a coupon for their next purchase, or you do a monthly giveaway for a free product.
Consider what your customers may like, and you can mention the offer on your receipt or invoice. Then, you don’t have to manually ask for reviews.
A Good Reputation for Small Businesses
If you have a hard time getting new customers or keeping existing ones, your reputation may need a makeover. A good reputation for small businesses can help grow your sales and revenue, but it takes work to achieve.
From negative review management to being consistent, you have a lot to consider when building your small business reputation. Once you start, it will get easier, and you can maintain your new reputation.