Why reputation is your failsafe marketing strategy

Rob Brown discusses the steps to take for a small business to build an enviable reputation.

This year started with series of headlines making anyone in business nervous. If this state of economic flux is now the new norm, what can businesspeople and SMEs do to maintain resilience? Could it be how people perceive, think and remember you?

Forget everything you’ve been told about what others think of you. Pop psychology tells you not to worry about what others think.

This is true of your personality, individuality, spirit and character, which should always shine though. But this should not come at the expense of shaping your most valuable marketing asset, that which defies any state of the economy: your personal reputation.

What exactly is a reputation, then?

Your current reputation may be good, bad or indifferent, but you’ve got one. Ultimately your reputation is what people say and think and feel about you behind your back. It’s the degree to which you are held in high esteem (or otherwise) by others.

When all that’s left of you is your business card or your latest blog post, it’s the memory, the impact and the impression you leave behind.

Your personal brand is not your reputation, but it shapes it. Your personal brand is what you put out there; the clothes you wear, the car you drive, your website, your tweets, your business card. It’s what people think when they come into contact with all of that which becomes your reputation.

What is the power of your reputation?

  • People call you ‘out of the blue’ looking for your help, advice and expertise.
  • Customers revere you and rave about you.
  • Clients pay you premium rates for your products and services.
  • People approach you with their ideas and offers for collaboration, partnerships and alliances.
  • Influencers recommend you to their contacts, friends and lists.
  • Buyers hunt you down as the ultimate source, because nobody else will do.
  • Prospects buy you, saying ‘where do I sign?’ Instead of ‘who are you?’
  • Stakeholders depend on you, moving quickly from ‘I don’t know you’ to ‘I can’t live without you’.

How to put your reputation to work

There are a few logical steps in building a standout reputation.

1. What do people think right now?

Before you can start shaping your reputation you need to identify what you have to work with: how do people perceive you right now?

Draw up a shortlist of people in your close network whom you trust.

These people could be bosses, colleagues or wider business contacts. Say you’re doing some personal development and ask them for three words that describe you.

Or simply ask them what they think of you in a few sentences. Gather this information and be brave enough to digest the feedback, good or bad.

2. Build a general consensus

With the feedback you’ve acquired, you’ll see what your current reputation is, positive and negative. For example, a well-seasoned accountant known for solid tax advice and an acerbic wit.

Break down technical abilities, career achievements and how people distinguish you on an interpersonal basis.

3. Re-align your reputation

If people are going to meet you, everything needs to join up. It starts with your inner character, values, personality traits and talents.

This comes through with your strengths, skills and knowledge. Make sure all your online and social profiles reflect what clients typically say or think about you.

4. Gain the credibility curve

You may have some negative perceptions to overcome. One of the best reputation builders is reliability and consistency.

Keep your promises and your commitments.

Do exactly what you said you’ll do, when you said you’ll do it.

This is universally the most simple and important act anyone building a reputation or relationship will be judged upon.

5. Associate with the right people

They say you become who you spend time with. In fact, who you associate with says a lot about you. So get around good people. Consider recruiting your own personal board of advisers – a blend of mentors, specialists, door-openers and influencers.

Introduce people, connecting your contacts with others who may need their services. Sell and refer those who have made an indelible impression on you. They will make you look good when they perform for the people with whom you’ve connected them.

It won’t feel like a sell and you will come out the winner for spotting the match. This plays into the mystics of networking karma which delivers in return where and when you least expect it!

6. Go one step further

You’ve played up your strengths having identified them. You’ve gone out of your way to connect other people who might otherwise have beautiful synergies.

Now it’s time to go one step further. Did you deliver a project in half the time you promised? Did you send a hand-written thank you card to a client or service provider?

Have you helped a longstanding contact to a degree they just weren’t expecting? People never forget how you made them feel. This experience will add to your legend status especially as you enhance the lives of others, by giving that little bit extra.

You’re not for everyone and not everyone is for you. But you can influence the way the world views you if you know what people think, play up your strengths and reinforce your values. That’s what builds a world class, formidable and stand out reputation.

Further reading on reputation management:

Ben Lobel

Delphine Hintz

Ben Lobel was the editor of SmallBusiness.co.uk from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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