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Business reputation management: Your small business advantage

by Rockey Simmons

Close-up on a business owner hanging an open sign on the door of his restaurant - food and drink establishment concepts

As a small business owner, you’re used to the juggling act.

You’re focused on growing your business, attracting new customers, and providing excellent products or services.

But there’s another crucial aspect that can make or break you—one many small business owners often leave out of the recipe for success. It’s business reputation management.

It’s nearly impossible for any business to thrive without it because people need to know, like, and trust you before they buy from you. In other words, you must have a great reputation.

In this article, we’ll explore what business reputation management is all about and why it should be one of your top priorities. We’ll also highlight how to achieve a reputation that keeps leads and customers coming through the door and what you need to consistently focus on when it comes to business reputation management.

Read this carefully.

What is business reputation management?

Business reputation management is the practice of making sure people know, like, and trust you.

If the internet was a party, your business would be the person at that party (the internet) everyone was excited to talk with because that person (your business) made them feel seen and heard and ensured everyone had a great time whenever they came around.

Are online reputation issues hurting your business? Find out with our free Reputation Report Card. Start Your Scan

Ignoring your online business reputation is like putting off doing maintenance on your car because it can leave you stranded without a way to move forward and no understanding of what went wrong.

To avoid this, you need to do a few things to keep your business running at an optimal level. In essence, it’s about taking control of your reputation and shaping it in a positive light.

Importance of business reputation management

Like I mentioned above, there are a few things your business must do for you to stay relevant.

1. Build trust: Your business’s reputation is the foundation that everything else is built on. Customers are more likely to choose a business with a positive reputation, as it signals reliability, credibility, and quality.

By actively managing your reputation, you can build trust with potential customers and increase your chances of converting them into loyal patrons.

2. Attract and retain customers: A positive reputation can help you attract new customers by showcasing your business’s strengths and differentiating yourself from your competitors. It also plays a crucial role in customer retention, as happy customers are more likely to leave positive reviews and recommend your business to others, contributing to a positive cycle of growth.

3. Manage negative feedback: No business is immune to negative feedback or occasional slip-ups.

However, by actively managing your reputation, you can respond to negative feedback in a timely and professional manner, which can help mitigate its impact. Proactive reputation management strategies allow you to address customer concerns, seek resolutions, and even turn negative experiences into positive ones.

In the next sections, we’ll explore specific reputation management strategies to help you effectively manage and enhance your business reputation.

Why is it important for small businesses?

As a small business owner, you’re the visionary, the marketer, and the salesperson.

But one role that often gets overlooked is that of the reputation manager. You might think that reputation management is only for big corporations, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact, it’s even more important for small businesses to actively manage their reputations.

See your business's reputation the way your customers do. Get your free Reputation Report Card. Start Your Scan

This is because your reputation is your calling card. It’s what sets you apart from your competitors and builds trust with potential customers and other stakeholders. And, in the absence of a large marketing department, this online word-of-mouth advertising can make or break you.

Nowadays, first impressions are often made online. So, businesses need to have an impressive online presence.

Imagine you’re a consumer searching for a local restaurant. Which one would you choose: The one with glowing reviews and positive customer feedback or the one with a trail of negative reviews and complaints? It’s a no-brainer, right?

A positive online reputation can influence consumer perception and drive sales.

But it’s not just about attracting new customers. Maintaining a positive reputation can also play a crucial role in customer retention.

That’s why we need to talk more about exactly what online reviews do for your business.

Understanding online reviews

As a small business owner, you need to know three key things about online reviews and their impact on your reputation.

First: Reviews are digital word-of-mouth, which is valuable because potential customers rely on the experiences of others to make buying decisions.

Second: Just one unhappy customer can leave a scathing review that drives potential customers away, so having a process in place to soften the blow is required for long-term success. Because let’s face it. Not everyone will be happy.

Finally:  Actively managing your online reputation allows you to quickly address any issues that arise and protect your business against negative publicity. Monitoring and responding to reviews can help showcase your commitment to customer satisfaction and transform negative experiences into positive ones.

In a world where every potential customer is just one Google search away, how business owners respond to online reviews can highlight those who are clued into their customers’ needs—as well as the ones who don’t have a clue.

Negative reviews and how to handle them

Simply put, don’t ignore them.

Respond to negative reviews promptly and demonstrate your commitment to different paths of managing your business.

That starts with publicly apologizing for the customer’s negative experience and offering a resolution privately.

Are online reputation issues hurting your business? Find out with our free Reputation Report Card. Start Your Scan

Engage in a friendly and empathetic manner, acknowledging their feedback. Provide a contact email or phone number where they can reach you directly.

I like to say, “We do business virtually, but we still like to be treated as if we are speaking face to face.”

Here’s an example of how to respond to a bad review. Take it and use it if you think it would help.

“We apologize for your experience and would like to resolve this. Please contact us privately at [contact details].”

This message puts your professional commitment on display, quickly addressing concerns while maintaining a customer-centric image.

Positive reviews and how to leverage them

The right attitude is gratitude. Ever heard that?

When it comes to business reputation management, positive reviews are like gold.

They have the power to boost your online presence and your bottom line.

To make the most of these valuable assets, there are a few key things you need to keep in mind as a small business owner.

Personalize, personalize, personalize.

To get the best responses, include specific questions when you ask for reviews.

For example:

  • What was the best part of your experience?
  • Can you tell me what problem you’re most excited about solving?
  • Is there something else you enjoyed about your experience that was unexpected?

You should definitely be asking questions like these.

Please don’t leave it up to a program that provides a generic review request.

See your business's reputation the way your customers do. Get your free Reputation Report Card. Start Your Scan

Don’t let them just hit the “like” button on your social and call it a day.

Then, within that same request for a review, take a moment to express your gratitude and let the customer know that you truly appreciate his or her feedback.

This simple act of acknowledgment goes a long way in building customer loyalty.

It might sound like a ton of work, but so is digging yourself out of a terrible reputation when you ignore these helpful techniques for small business success.

Now, let’s talk about a secret to boost your reputation even more.

Utilizing online review sites effectively

Utilizing online review sites effectively can be a game changer for your business reputation management.

These third-party platforms like Yelp and Google Business Profiles hold immense power when it comes to influencing potential customers.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Reputation on review sites—Online review sites are the modern version of word-of-mouth marketing.

Customers turn to these platforms to gauge the credibility of your business.

These are also customers at the bottom of the funnel looking for the tipping point to buy what you’re selling.

A positive rating and glowing reviews can instantly build trust, while negative feedback can be detrimental. Monitor these sites as much as you can and respond quickly to all reviews.

2. Impact on search rankingsSearch engines place high importance on online review sites when determining search rankings. Good reviews and high ratings signal to search algorithms that your business is legitimate and trustworthy, boosting your visibility to potential customers.

3. Proactive reputation management—To effectively manage your online reputation on review sites, you need to embrace proactive strategies.

For example, you should encourage satisfied customers to leave positive reviews and respond promptly and professionally to any negative feedback. This shows potential customers that you are attentive and care about their experience.

Remember, in the world of online review sites, your business reputation is at stake. Utilize these platforms effectively to boost your credibility, improve search engine rankings, and ultimately attract more customers to your door.

Now, let’s shift gears and talk about how using the voice of the customer (VOC) can do the heavy lifting when you’re looking to improve the quality of your small business reputation.

Leveraging user-generated content: Letting your customers shape your reputation

The voice of your customer will be stronger than anything you could ever say, and they can be your biggest asset when it comes to building a positive reputation.

Harnessing the power of user-generated content is a smart strategy for small businesses.

By encouraging your customers to leave reviews, and testimonials, and share their experiences on social media, you empower them to shape your reputation in a positive light. We all love being a part of something bigger (usually) and this is a perfect way to extend that gift.

Think about it like this: When potential customers see genuine, heartfelt reviews from satisfied customers, they’re more likely to trust your business and choose you over the competition.

It’s like having a team of cheerleaders spreading the word about how amazing your products or services are.

So, how can you leverage user-generated content effectively?

See your business's reputation the way your customers do. Get your free Reputation Report Card. Start Your Scan

Start by creating simple ways for customers to leave reviews or share their experiences. Offer incentives like exclusive perks to encourage participation.

Your customers are your best advocates.

The brand lululemon is a master at this. All it did was ask customers to wear their clothes and tag them on social. The brand’s clothing is everywhere, and people couldn’t help but think “Wow! This brand must be good.”

By tapping into your customers’ experiences and giving them a platform to share their thoughts, you can let them shape your reputation in a way that’s authentic, powerful, and ultimately, beneficial to your business.

Plus, getting people to interact on social with your product gives you another advantage.

Collecting feedback from customers to monitor reputation

When you get feedback, it helps you keep a pulse on how things are going.

It’s a simple formula:

  • Collect feedback
  • Monitor your reputation
  • Take action

Collecting feedback allows you to gain valuable insights into the customer experience and address any issues promptly.

But how can you effectively gather this feedback?

Start by conducting customer surveys. These can be simple questionnaires emailed to recent customers or embedded on your website. Typeform and other platforms are great for this.

Ask for feedback on your customers’ overall experience, the specific products or services they purchased, and any suggestions they might have for improvement.

This will provide you with valuable data points you can use to evaluate your reputation.

Are online reputation issues hurting your business? Find out with our free Reputation Report Card. Start Your Scan

Another strategy is to implement customer feedback tools on your website or social media platforms.

These tools allow customers to quickly and easily leave reviews, ratings, and comments, giving you real-time insights into their satisfaction levels.

Plus, asking for reviews shows potential customers that you value feedback and are transparent about how you operate and what your goals are.

No matter how you choose to do it, getting customer feedback can help ensure you never lose sight of how people using your services feel and what needs to improve or what is going well.

 Now that you know how to manage customers and reviews, let’s talk about search engine optimization (SEO) and how it influences your reputation.

Search engine optimization and business reputation management

In the Wild, Wild West of the digital world, where the rules seem blurred at times, your business’s reputation is the one constant. It’s like your badge of honor. In this new frontier, search engine optimization (SEO) plays a crucial role.

Did you know you can control search engine results so people searching for your brand see what you want them to see?

It’s one way of gaining an advantage in the ever-changing algorithm of search engines. Why? Because they will always work on the premise of showing content that people are searching for. 

When it comes to search engine optimization, it’s all about wrangling those search engine algorithms like a seasoned cowboy taming a wild stallion.

By strategically optimizing your online presence, you can ride high in the search engine results pages (SERPs), gaining the right kind of visibility and attracting potential customers.

From keyword research to on-page optimization, SEO is the lasso that will rope in success for your online reputation.

But enough theory. Let’s talk about some proven ways to do it.

SEO tactics for improved online presence

As a small business owner, you need to find a smarter way to battle the big names in your industry. Your advantage is you have the time now to build the right foundation. So, when you grow your business (if that’s what you want), you won’t have to fix broken processes within the reputation management arena.

See your business's reputation the way your customers do. Get your free Reputation Report Card. Start Your Scan

One example of a broken process is not responding to negative reviews because you’re understaffed and don’t have time to get to them all. Not acknowledging or replying to bad reviews can result in it taking longer to foster trust in new leads.

The first step is to make your website more valuable in Google’s eyes using on-page SEO techniques like keyword research and user-friendly content.

It’s not about the most viewed keywords it’s about relevance and content that actually helps your customers.

By incorporating relevant keywords and providing valuable content, you’ll not only attract potential customers, but you’ll also establish your business as an industry authority, which can positively impact your reputation.

The second step is to focus on building a strong online presence through off-page SEO tactics.

This includes link building and social media management.

By actively participating in these activities, you can enhance your brand’s trust and transparency, which can drive organic traffic to your website and ultimately improve your online reputation.

Lastly, you need to stay engaged with your audience through regular monitoring of customer feedback and sentiment analysis.

This will allow you to address any negative feedback promptly, rectify issues, and provide exceptional customer service, further boosting your reputation.

In short, you should invest in SEO, create quality content, claim business directory pages, and build strong backlinks. Your online reputation will thank you for it.

Working with a professional reputation manager or company

If your head is spinning and you’re wondering how you’ll have the time to manage your online reputation alongside the daily tasks involved in running your business, I get it.

You have all the tools to DIY your brand’s online image. However, managing and improving your business’s reputation can be a daunting task—even for those who have the luxury of being able to dedicate all their time to it.

This is where a professional reputation manager can make all the difference.

Working with a reputation professional means you can tap into their expertise and experience in navigating the complex world of online reputation. ReputationDefender, for example, has been employing cutting-edge technology and strategies to help people and businesses successfully polish their reputations for over 15 years.

When choosing a reputation expert, you want to try and work with a firm that has a deep understanding of the algorithms search engines use to determine rankings. Doing so helps ensure your business gets the visibility it deserves.

Are online reputation issues hurting your business? Find out with our free Reputation Report Card. Start Your Scan

Moreover, the professional you choose must understand how to leverage positive reviews and effectively help you address negative feedback to build and maintain a positive brand reputation, which is what the merry-go-round of business is all about.

But the biggest advantage to outsourcing your reputation management to a professional is that it helps you stay one step ahead of your competitors by monitoring and managing your online image on various platforms.

Whether you want to focus on managing reviews, locking down your privacy, or building your personal brand via a custom website that promotes positive content online, utilizing a small business reputation expert is a great place to start.

Hiring a specialist can help you maintain a strong and positive online presence that can ultimately lead to increased customer trust and loyalty.

Final thoughts

If you looking to go it alone, ReputationDefender has a massive library of free resources to walk you through how to do things the right way. To get started, grab your free Reputation Report Card. It will give you instant access to how you’re being viewed online right now.

This post was contributed by Rockey Simmons, founder of SaaS Marketing Growth.