I have a homework assignment for you. It’s easy. Just ask 3 people 1 simple question: How do you know you can trust a business that you’ve never interacted with before to treat you well? To get a variety of answers, I encourage you to ask 1 person who is at least 10 years older than you, 1 person your age and 1 person at least 10 years younger than you. Please comment below with what you learned! Here are my learnings. For starters, I couldn’t ask anyone at work. Since I work at a digital marketing company, I knew the immediate answer from everyone would be “…Google the company and look at reviews/testimonies.” Boring. Hard pass. I wanted to learn more than that. I gathered answers from my youngest sister, a friend who is working on his doctoral degree and a business associate. I found these responses interesting and helpful, even if they are a little predictable. Granted, this isn’t an extensive survey but rather a narrow perspective. Let’s look at what they said.

Younger Sister

My sister said something that I honestly didn’t expect from a high school girl. She said a company builds trust through 1) a professional-looking website (free plug for some of our other blogs here and a look at our work here!) and 2) efficient customer service. Attention small business owners! High school girls pay attention to the way you treat customers to decide if they will do business with you in the future. Maybe I should have seen that coming.

Friend

My learned friend said something that I thought was interesting. He said “Well, you really can’t know, right? You kind of have to take it on faith.” He went on to say that we all have different perspectives of industries based on the advertising we encounter. He used the example of a car dealership ad on the radio that promotes a fantastic deal. It makes the listener think, That can’t be real… We’ll come back to this since I think it’s a great point.

Business Associate

Finally, the business associate said it was a combination of things that came down to reputation. First was word of mouth, next was reviews and public testimonies (online reputation), evidence of awards (again, online reputation) and finally the Better Business Bureau.

The Importance of Reputation Management for Small Businesses

For many of you reading this blog, you realized the importance of a reputation before reading. People talk. And the Internet screams through a megaphone on a quiet night. So I want to focus on the importance of reputation management for small businesses and managing your online reputation. Think about the answer from my sister as an example. She wants effective customer service. Well, how will she find out if a company has what she seeks? This answer will seem obvious but must be said. People will talk about their experience online. Well, that answer begs the question: how do you manage your online reputation? While you cannot control what people decide to say about you, you need to keep managing your online reputation on your radar. At an absolute bare minimum, you need to know what is out there for public consumption. That is one of the fantastic things about the Internet. You can actually know what people are saying about your business! People post on forums and review websites with their experience and opinion of your business. From an information standpoint, this is much more helpful than typical “he said she said” around the water cooler. You get real insight on what people think!

How to Manage Your Online Reputation

Reputation management for small businesses can be as simple as looking up your Google or Yelp reviews. Not a bad place to start. But there are dozens of places people could write reviews on your business. When it comes to managing your online reputation you must gather as much data as possible. Local listings management can help with this. Okay. Maybe you think that people don’t look up your company for reviews. I’ll grant you, maybe in your case that is correct; there are exceptions to every rule. But, if that is the case, business is likely slow. In a 2014 study by BrightLocal it was found that 88% of consumers “have read reviews to determine the quality of a local business.” And don’t think for a second that number is dropping. Reputation management for small businesses is imperative to your success as people are exploring their options.

Final Note

Before signing off, there is another topic I’d like to address quickly that comes up when talking about an online reputation that my learned friend touched. There is a common idea that the Internet will poorly affect my reputation. To quote our President-elect… “Wrong.” Rather, what the Internet does is act as an amplification tool. People have always been able to learn about a company’s results and customer service that ultimately build a reputation. Like the example of the car dealership ad, prospective customers may already have a preconceived notion about your industry or business before they even begin to interact with you. All of this may or may not work to your advantage, but regardless, ultimately your reputation is your responsibility! If you do fantastic work, your online reputation will echo more loudly than just person to person. The same holds true if you provide a bad experience for your clients. Your reputation travels faster with a higher level of transparency for all to see online. Review websites are in the business to provide accurate and helpful information to those doing research. By and large, a business cannot delete a bad review. This puts the burden of proof on you, small business owner/employee. You need to get back to the basics and provide such an excellent experience that people are compelled to write a 5-star review about your incredible company.