When Marshall McLuhan predicted the global village, a world interconnected by an electronic nervous system, he was far, far ahead of his time. If it weren’t for that global village and its electronic nervous system, the economy we live in would be very different.
The global village works in many ways like any other village, with deep social and economic connections and - that most human of elements - a powerful gossip wheel.
The reputation that you build with your business, both inside and outside of it, can make or break your success. Building a great reputation can be incredibly difficult work, and destroying it can be terrifyingly easy.
While you can’t necessarily control what others say about you, and there are always going to be some people who say awful things for the joy of it, you can build resilience into your reputation, allowing your business to bounce back from errors of judgement, a really bad day, and even an online troll.
Your Reputation with….
The first reputation that every business owner wants to build and grow is the one you have with your customers. Your resilient pipeline is highly dependent on the great things that people say about you and the work you do. But how do you build it?
The best marketing tool in your kit has always been and continues to be great customer service. Sure, back in the bad old days when brands were a bigger deal and the global village was just a dream, you could be kind of not great with customers but as long as you had a strong brand, you were going to be okay. These days, it’s an entirely different story; the experience that your customer has with your business makes or breaks that reputation and customers are not afraid to take their business somewhere else if that experience is negative.
Integral to customer service is communication, and that communication starts not just with the first purchase your customer makes but with the first moment they become aware of your business. Great communication is a combination of both art and science, as you must provide clarity, warmth, and connection every step of the way. It’s why communications has become a profession in itself. If your customer communications are delivering on the promises you make consistently, you are building a foundation for your reputation that cannot easily be shaken.
Your customers, whether they are meeting you on our global village’s electronic nervous system or in the flesh at a bricks and mortar location, are also very, very concerned with security. Part of the service that every single business must offer today is protection of our customers’ privacy and confidential data (and it’s why we wrote about your resilient technology). Even if you get service and communication right, if you put your customers at risk with poor cybersecurity and privacy practices, even the ones who can’t stop talking about how great you are will take their business somewhere else.
If you’re going to keep your promises to your customers, you’re also going to have to keep your promises to your suppliers. Protecting your reputation with the businesses that serve your business pays off in spades. Whether it’s sourcing that thing that you must have, giving you the very last whatzit off their shelf, or even extending credit in bad times, you definitely want the people that help you do your job well to be happy with you.
Back when our CEO had a real job, she would make good friends with the folks in IT, marketing, accounting, and compliance (internal finance police). Why? Because with their support, the only thing that would stop her from winning was herself. The same goes for you, with your suppliers. Treat them well and they will never be the reason you didn’t succeed.
Pay your suppliers’ invoices on time - or even early. Talk to them regularly. Avoid rush orders whenever possible, because that’s stressful for everyone, and make time to appreciate the work they do with you. Words of kindness and talking to people like they are people goes a long, long way.
Just like your suppliers, your team members are vital to the delivery of your services and products. Happy wife = happy life, and happy staff = happy customers.
On top of taking care of your customers, your staff can be a great source of new hires, as good people often know good people. Your reputation with your staff is key to gaining more and greater team members. Remember that sites like Glassdoor have made it possible for employees to anonymously rate their managers and the companies they work for. You want all the available gold stars, whether employees are talking about you in passing to their trusted network, or blasting it out into the world on the internet.
Yes, we know leading teams is hard work, and we have heard that business would be easier if it weren’t for all the people, but of course, if it weren’t for all the people, there wouldn’t be a business. Take your team seriously, treat them exceptionally well, and they will deliver for you and your customers day after day.
Conflict will necessarily arise in all relationships, and the amazing people who support us in good and bad are the ones who often see the worst of us. Learn to embrace and manage conflict, and develop your leadership presence. These skills will help you build trust and confidence with your team - there’s no clearer sign of a great company then dedicated, loyal staff.
Your Peers and Authorities
Most industries are pretty small, when you get down to it. Your peers/competitors/colleagues are often speaking to the same people you are. Where possible, you want them to say nice, or at least neutral, things about you. You don’t want to be known for being the adversarial once, or the one who is simply difficult to be around.
At the same time, you want the regulators, insurers, and other overseers of your industry (including local tax authorities) to think of you as the Golden Child, with the cleanest set of books and the best form filling abilities. If you make their job easier, they’re going to make your life easier.
The Entire Global Village
All these folks are part of the gossip wheel on the global village, but you also have a significant level of control over how you present out there in the world, if you take the right steps.
When you search for your own name in Google, do you dominate the first page of results? Our Chief Marketing Officer spent some time ensuring that when you look for us, you find us - and only us - on that first page. Whether it’s your company name or your personal name, you want to be the one delivering the message about you.
Do you own all available social profiles that could involve your name? Again, you want to own and control the words around your name, and the messages that they are sending. Additionally, regular postings on those profiles as well as regular blogging on your website and with other strategic partners will improve the likelihood that when people are looking for your message, they are finding the one you wrote.
Online review can also be a great reputation builder, whether on Google, Facebook, Yelp, Travelocity, or a site that is focused on your specific industry. Testimonials are powerful motivators for the people who don’t know you yet, but would really like to. Ask your customers to leave you positive reviews and you’ll see an uptick in visits to your site. Negative reviews are of course tricky, especially ones that are made maliciously or in error. Since you’re focused on powerful communication, it’s important to respond to negative reviews professionally, and to flag them for removal where possible.
The gossip wheel never stops turning, because humans will be humans no matter where they are hanging out. Your reputation is everything, so take careful measures to ensure that you are protecting it, and making it more resilient every day.