What other people think about you is absolutely your business when you’re running or own a business. These days, any brand is always only one click away from having a good or bad reputation. And when it comes to small business reputation management, the stakes are all or nothing; the scales can easily tip toward either being a popular choice or having zero business. Taking care of your reputation from the very beginning will not only increase your chances for success; it will also give you more room to maneuver — with minimal risk of falling flat on your face — while your business goes through its growing pains or when you have to take necessary risks.
Reputation management for small businesses 101
The importance of reputation management for small businesses is simple math: you build a good image from day 1 and you make money; you don’t put any effort into it and very little to zero revenue comes in. According to a survey of US consumers, 90% of respondents claimed that positive reviews influenced their buying decisions, while 86% said that negative reviews also made an impact on how they chose businesses.
Before we dive into the hows of small business reputation management, let’s take a look at its nuts and bolts.
What is reputation management?
Reputation management, also referred to as online reputation management (ORM), is the process of shaping, monitoring, and protecting how stakeholders and the public perceive your business. Nowadays, this largely involves improving a brand’s image by influencing online information and taking other necessary strategic actions to address possibly damaging situations as they occur.
For more established businesses, reputation management is typically handled through a comprehensive PR campaign strategy that requires multi-department participation, including communications, marketing, customer experience, sales and loyalty, and legal. When it comes to small business reputation management, the process is often also smaller in scale and more concerned with social media monitoring, online search analytics, and online PR campaigns.
What is reputational risk?
Investopedia defines reputational risk as “a threat or danger to the good name or standing of a business or entity” which can occur in the following ways:
- As the direct result of the actions of the company
- As a result of the actions of company employee/s
- Through third parties, such as joint venture partners or suppliers
Whether perceived or real, reputational risk can pose a significant threat to even the biggest and well-established companies. While the losses for these businesses are also greater, these companies have more resources and, therefore, better odds of weathering the storm compared to small businesses — this is why small business reputation management is critical during the first few years.
Reputational risk can be minimized or mitigated through strategic reputation management. In today’s digital world, constant monitoring of online information is essential so that any threat to a brand’s image can be promptly and appropriately addressed before lasting or permanent damage occurs.
Online reputation management services for small business
Small business reputation management is a continuous process and can still be time-consuming even if you have a relatively small target market. The work can be made easier and more efficient with the help of online reputation management services for small businesses. Let’s take a look at your options.
Reputation management software for small business
Reputation management software for small businesses is the ideal solution when you have limited resources for a full-scale PR management. These are the top software options available for small- to medium-sized businesses.
- WebiMax is among 2022’s top online reputation management services for small businesses. Their key services include online monitoring, social media management, review management, crisis response, and strategic PR management.
- Podium is ranked by Business News Daily as the best choice for online review management. The software is ideal for more efficient small business online reputation management with its review acquisition, review management, centralized inbox, web chat, feedback, and team chat.
- ReviewTrackers is a cloud-based reviews and reputation management software that collects online reviews from Google, Facebook, TripAdvisor, and 100+ more sites. The software offers a notification feature — so you’ll get a heads up every time a customer leaves a review; a single platform where you can manage all your business listing information across the internet; review widgets that you can prominently display on your website; and competitive market analysis, among many others.
- BirdEye also harnesses data from more than 150 online review sites; allows you to request, monitor, promote, and respond to reviews; lets you manage your social media pages; provides competitor insights; and creates surveys and tickets.
- Yext Reviews software provides a single platform that allows you to manage all your social media accounts; ensures all online information about your business is consistent across the internet; and monitor, analyze, and respond to customer reviews.
PR reputation management
PR reputation management is a more comprehensive strategy for managing the dissemination of information about your business to the public, your employees, your investors and partners, and the media. According to Investopedia, “PR is often thought of as “spin,” with the goal being to present the person, company, or brand in the best light possible.”
PR is different from advertising as its purpose is to represent a brand’s image in a favorable and organic way — usually by generating good press from independent sources — and to recommend business decisions designed to create a positive public perception.
For small business reputation management, you can learn basic PR functions and techniques to effectively maintain the image of your brand and ensure that customers, employees, investors, and other external parties have a positive disposition to continue their involvement with your business. You can create PR campaigns to increase positive perception of your brand or ease negative opinions. Alternatively, you can hire the services of a PR agency, especially when you need professional damage control to address a possible reputational risk or a developing threat. Keep in mind that to achieve effective PR management, you must forge and maintain connections with key customers, the media, and public officials, to name a few.
How to check business reputation
It bears repeating that continuous monitoring of your online reputation is critical to small business reputation management. Here’s how to check your business reputation and stay on top of your brand’s image.
Monitor online noise
In addition to monitoring comments and mentions on social media, you must also keep an eye on top review sites and forums so you can gauge your “likeability” among customers, influencers, the media, and the general public. You can set up a Google Alert for your business name, use social listening tools, or do both. Make sure you’ve added your business to Google Maps so you can receive and manage Google reviews, and that you’re listed on Yelp and other online review sites. It’s important for small business reputation management that you promptly respond to comments and reviews (a simple “Thank you” goes a long way), and always address customer complaints — even if the negative feedback is not fair or rational. Your goal is to maintain a good brand image by boosting positive word-of-mouth, reducing the visibility of negative feedback, and quickly doing damage control when necessary.
Small business reputation management and monitoring through audience/customer engagement
Direct engagement with your customers, especially on social media and your website, can help you with your small business reputation management and monitoring. Direct engagement with a customer is actually a great opportunity to influence their opinion of you and how they talk about you online. Here are some suggestions for you to consider.
- Encourage your customers to leave reviews. Some customers need a simple nudge — reply to their comment with a request for a review or send the request alongside a message thanking them for their purchase, for example. You can also remind your customers to leave reviews by posting links to your review pages on Google, Yelp, etc. on your website and social media, as well as on printed paraphernalia (menus, brochures, etc.).
- Engage with your customers on social media. Social media engagement plays a critical role in shaping public perception. The more in touch you are with your customers online, the more likely they’ll have a positive perception of your brand. Customers appreciate the “personal touch,” and they’ll be more eager to recommend your business when they feel seen. In other words, by simply reacting with an emoji to their comments or responding to their messages in a timely manner, you can easily tip the scales toward positive feedback.
- Prioritize good customer service. One sure way to ensure effective small business reputation management is by keeping customers happy. Your customer service will not always be perfect, but as long as your employees are courteous, respectful, helpful, and actually make an effort to set things right, almost anyone would be willing to forgive mistakes and they would still have a positive experience overall.
Succeeding in reputation management often necessitates a customer-first mentality — after all, what your customers say about you could easily make or break you. Especially for small businesses, establishing best practices for dealing with customers and the greater public is important from the get-go — as early as when you create your business plan. Over time, you’ll learn which practices work best and you simply have to reinforce these day in and day out; and it’s just as important to figure out which areas you need to improve to put your company in a better light.
Listen to internal sentiments
Small business reputation management also means listening to what your employees have to say. Their perception of your company directly affects how they represent your brand. Make sure they have the means and that they feel comfortable enough to leave feedback about your management and their employee experience. Address their complaints and issues; ensure that they’re in a safe and friendly working environment; take the time to ask for their opinion, especially to find out if there are things that can be improved.
Small business reputation management through a positive virtual experience
Running a business is not just about selling a product/service; it’s also about selling your image. Small business reputation management has to be properly strategized and executed from the outset. Practices that are good for your image should be reinforced, and negative sentiments should be properly addressed.
If you’re looking for a way to improve your customers’ experience and boost your reputation, you should consider enhancing their guest WiFi experience with a WiFi system that best suits your needs and those of your guests. Choose a fully customizable WiFi system, such as Beambox, to ensure that it works to your advantage and provides an enhanced guest WiFi experience exactly the way you want.
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